Comfort Mpiriirwe Tumuhamye is a lecturer at the faculty of business and management in Uganda Christian University and a co-founder of Windel Investment. Through the inspiration of her mother, she developed love for saving when she was a student at the university which has benefitted her family in many ways. The Standard’s Eva Kyomugisha talked to her about this love.
“I learnt to save from my mother,” says Comfort Mpiriirwe Tumuhamye.
In 2004, while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Procurement and Logistics Management at Kyambogo University, Mpiriirwe decided to start up a saving scheme with some of her classmates.
“I was also inspired by one of my lecturers Mr. Elly Kworoba who encouraged us to start saving,” she says.
While some of the students refused to participate in the scheme, 10 colleagues of Mpiriirwe and her husband now, Duncan Tumuhamye, agreed to participate and they formed the Procurement Friends Association (PROFA) where each member was to save Shs500 per week from their pocket money.
“We lent the little we were saving at an interest rate of 5% per month to ourselves and other trusted course-mates plus friends from other programmes,” she recalls.
“I chose to join the first saving group because I was already working and I knew how hard it was to save money,” said Duncan Tumuhamye.
Although the profit they were getting was little given that what they were saving was small with time, the money started to accumulate and by the third year when they were leaving campus, the money had accumulated and they had made a profit.
However, after campus, some of the members decided to take all the capital and the dividends they had made in PROFA because they felt that managing it would be hard after university. The few who kept in the association decided to get other trusted friends to join after university.
“We also changed the group’s name from PROFA to Determined Friends Alliance (DEFA) because the members we added in were not from the procurement profession,” said Mpiriirwe.
As luck would have it, all those from the original group who had stayed in the scheme were able to get jobs after campus and therefore decided to increase the amount of money they saved to Shs10,000 per month in January 2006, to Shs20,000 in July 2006. They later increased to Shs50,000 per month in January 2007, and then to Shs100,000 per member in January 2008 till December 2010. These changes would be made during meetings with the members of the saving scheme.
“We preferred to keep increasing the savings year after year because we had realized that we were lacking enough capital to lend to ourselves and the trusted close friends,” she added.
Between January 2011 and December 2012, each member saved Shs200,000 because they had a target of making Shs100m by December 2012 so that they could invest in real estate. They were able to raise Shs.100m from the savings and interest earned from loans, which they used to buy plots of land in Mukono.
“We chose land in Mukono because the members were from different parts of Uganda and the plots in most of these other areas did not have proper land titles,” she said.
Following this success, the group felt that they needed to pay dividends among themselves and so they agreed in the annual general meeting that they share the plots of land.
“As I write this, Duncan (my husband) and I, like other members in the association, own an 80/100 plot of land in a residential area in Mukono town,” she said.
“This saving scheme has helped us a lot in that almost everything we have done has come from the SACCO.”
Inspiration for saving
Mpiriirwe attributes her love for saving to her mother who often saved with the Mother’s Union of Muguli Church of Uganda and often went to them to get money for school fees to pay for her 10 school-going children.
“It is from her that I learnt that when you save, you can bail someone out,” said Tumuhamye.
Starting the piggery project
In 2013, the Tumuhamyes decided to start a piggery project out of their savings and bought two piglets each at Shs50,000 which they kept on a relative’s land. By June 2014, the two pigs had grown and given birth to 18 piglets.
“That is when we thought of looking for money to purchase our own land where we would rear the pigs,” said Mpiriirwe.
The family started saving money little by little and sold off 16 of the piglets at Shs100,000 each and got ShsI,600,000 from them. They however remained with two female piglets plus their mothers. They all grew together with their mothers and gave birth to 36 piglets. Thus the couple realized that they needed to go for a loan to buy land where they could keep all of them since the space they had was little.
The Tumuhamyes approached a staff savings association at their work place and each was given a loan which they combined with what they had saved and what they got from the piglets sales, and bought two acres of land in Mukono District.
Mpiriirwe adds that the loans that they got were from the the groups they are part of like the Uganda Christian University Staff Savings Associations (USSTA).
“The interest rate in the banks is very high which is why we prefer the group loans,” said Mpiriirwe.
She also adds that the payment for these loans was through their salaries.
“Our security in this savings group was our salaries and therefore we were not worried of paying back,” she said.
This allowed them to transfer the pigs to their plot and as the farm grew, they used what they got to set up other businesses such as mobile money as well as paying for the tuition of their children.
“I can confidently say that we currently sell at least two to five pigs within two to four months in addition to slaughtering and selling pork when clients place orders,” she said.
This family business has not only benefited the Tumuhamyes’ but also other families such as those of their employees. Watson Twesigye, one of the workers at the farm said that working with the Tumuhamyes has been thrilling and he has learnt to do different jobs while at the farm.
“I have learnt the necessary requirements for taking care of the animals and I hope that I can use this in the future,” said Twesigye.
Mr. Tumuhamye on the other hand encourages families to always work together to build the family.
“Some families separate work amongst themselves which makes it unbalanced sometimes,” he said.
He also adds that he is happy working with his wife on the various projects that the family has set up.
Lessons to students
She urges the students to think outside the box especially when it comes to jobs and not rely only on the degree, certificate or masters. Having some money saved in a saving scheme will allow you to at least start up a simple business that will sustain you until you have a proper job.
Students also need to understand that there is a life to live after campus so it is important to start saving from school.
“Some parents feel that when one has graduated from the university, they are able to take care of themselves which is why saving is important because atleast they can be able to do this,” she said.
Mpiriirwe also advises students to learn to develop a positive attitude towards ‘petty jobs’ and never underestimate their potential.
“Always do what you are passionate about, be it farming or something in relation to what you have studied,” said Mpiriirwe.
Lastly, the faculty of business lecturer advised the students to trust in God and depend on him.