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Uganda’s large rural population (38 million out of 53 million total inhabitants) largely lacks access to financial services. The huge lending gap poses a limit for farmers and people in rural areas wanting to invest in their business, education, housing, and health.

PROFIRA is a project launched in 2014 by the Government of Uganda and the International Fund for Agricultural Development which aims at widening access to financial services to Uganda’s rural population as a means of combating poverty. The project is implemented by the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development (MFPED), and partners such as IIRR.

PROFIRA facilitates access to credit to rural people through Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOS) and the smaller Community Savings and Credit Groups (CSCGs). CSCGs are groups of 25 people who voluntarily come together to save and take loans from those savings on a regular basis. The activities of a CSCG run in “cycles” of about one year, after which the accumulated savings and profits are shared among the members according to the amount each of them saved.

IIRR has worked closely with communities in consortium with Aridland Development and Caritas-Gulu to establish 311 new CSCGs. Actions taken to consolidate new groups included linking them to formal financial institutions and to the government and training 9,160 CSCG members on financial literacy and basic business development in 2018 alone. Furthermore, IIRR has been instrumental in training and supporting 260 mature CSCGs composed by women to form clusters and cooperatives to boost their agricultural productivity and sales.

Notably, IIRR has played a role in incorporating the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) approach into the project to improve access to credit for women. This method emphasizes the gender-balanced road to economic development goals and the role of gender justice in economic interventions.

As of 2020, PROFIRA and IIRR have helped 358,430 members to save in 12,453 newly established CSCGs with 76% being women and 43% being youth, while supporting 100,515 members in 3,529 matured CSCGs.