Boomu Women’s Group was formed in 1999, in the village of Kihaguzi, with the aim of fighting poverty in the area by creating economic and social development. So far we have done this through raising the incomes of our members.
All our members are subsistence farmers meaning that most food that is grown is for domestic consumption and what is left is taken to the market. However in order to raise incomes, some families increase the amount they take to the market leaving themselves hungry.
The lives of our members and the surrounding community is typical of Uganda as a whole as 82% of the population are in the agricultural sector and the GDP per person is $249 (2003). The largest source of expenditure is on education costs such as secondary school fees, textbooks, and uniforms. Other items of expenditure include soap, paraffin, clothes once a year and occasionally meat. However our members’ income from farming, due to the low amount produced and lack of access to markets, rarely cover all these items. Therefore raising member’s income creates development not only by reducing household poverty and the inadequacy of the diet, but also through increasing educational levels. For our members’ there are few alternate livelihoods in particular for women so the group was formed to provide another income stream through weaving baskets. By working together training and advice can be shared and our products sold together through one outlet.
The Tourism Project
The number of baskets we sale is very variable. Therefore, we decided to diversify our activities in order to generate more income.
We decided to try to benefit from on our location next to a major tourism route by setting up a small tourism project. This would also hopefully increase the market for our products.
The group bought land in the village of Kigaragara, next to Murchison Falls National Park, 3 miles away from their current location. We put aside initially, 10% and then 15% of our income from baskets towards this project. We managed to start building accommodation in 2004 with assistance from UCOTA. We received further seed funding from UCOTA in 2006 to furnish the bandas. UCOTA has also sent volunteers to work with us over the years to bring the site up to standard and to provide marketing assistance. Recent years has seen further expansion by building more bandas and creating a vegetable garden and installing solar powered lighting.
The project has taken a long time to develop as we had to overcome many constraints in order to build the physical infrastructure and the skills capacity required to offer a tourism product with high enough standards for visitors. These constraints occurred due to the fact we are a low income, low skilled group located in a rural area with no public transport.
As well as bringing economic and social development directly to our members and the local communities we also wish to create economic development indirectly. We hope that if the project becomes successful we can inspire other people to come together and also work towards economic and social development.Our objective for this tourism project is for it to be a participatory experience: for our group, the local community and for the visitor. The surrounding community have been involved in the development of the project and would be happy to have people visiting them, seeing their everyday life and their needs such as education that our project is trying to address. Our chairperson will be delighted to share with you everything she knows about local life, history, culture, traditions and the issues that affect us.
This means visitors will directly engage with the recipients of their tourism spend and can see exactly what the impact of their stay will be.
As part of our diversification activities we have also trained in additional handcrafts such as weaving bedcovers and we have a henhouse and carry out beekeeping on site. Many years ago we created a nursery off-site for local children which is run by our members and we hope to re-locate this to the Boomu site in the future.
In order to support our members in their primary activity, farming, we have registered the group with the local farmers’ association using our project funds. This will enable us to receive training, advice on what crops to grow and give us access to markets for our crops. We also carry out a laundry service for a local guesthouse which helps to provide finance to the operation.
Watch a short documentary about us here...