Reviving Hope in the Last Mile Villages

Aggrey’s daily mission was to secure his family’s needs. Raising four children with his wife, he had to overcome all the hardships that affect most last-mile communities. Sitting on a rift valley on Lake Mutanda in Kisoro District in SouthWest Uganda, Aggrey’s village, Bucece, is distant from social, economic, and even health services.

Like many in his community, securing food was a constant challenge for Aggrey’s family. “Our main problem was that we had bad soil, which could not yield well,” he states. With the lake separating his village from others, there were no economic opportunities in the village for him and his neighbors, nor an alternative source of income or food. To get to Kisoro town, the region’s main market, residents had to cross the lake, a risky option that most feared. The one boat the village initially had, a traditional wooden boat, had worn out, having caused several drowning incidents.

Aggrey and his family at their home in Bucece Village, Kisoro District

On a mission to improve partner communities’ quality of life and help them break out of ultra-poverty, Raising The Village (RTV) introduced its holistic program to Bucece. Today, three years after this community graduated from this program, the people of Bucece are still experiencing its sustainable impacts.

As part of this program, community members received quality seeds and livestock to improve their farming. They also undertook numerous training sessions on agricultural techniques, financial literacy, and mindset change, among others. Following the financial literacy training, 300 members established their own VSLA, Bucece Development Group, to facilitate their access to loans and financial services.

In addition to these activities, which are a core component of RTV’s work with partner villages, RTV included a customized component in Bucece to meet this village’s needs. To help farmers maximize their benefit from their agriculture, RTV provided the community with an engine boat to facilitate their access to the market to sell their surplus crops.

After their first harvest, the farmers started to experience the fruits of these activities.

“RTV trained us on how to apply manure to the soil to make it more nutritious. Now, we have food in abundance. With a safe boat, we became able to sell some of our harvest and earn some money to support our children,” Aggrey says.

After years of using the boat to access services and generate income, community members decided to maximize the benefit of the boat and invest in a newer, bigger one to ensure that their safe access to services was sustained. With the savings of the 300 VSLA members, the community bought a new boat, and even found a new way to turn it into a money-generating asset.

The VSLA’s boat operator taking a ride from Bucece Village to Kisoro town.

“We started renting the boat to tourists! In fact, we just bought paint to make it more attractive,” Richard Bizoza, VSLA Chairperson shares excitedly, reflecting with Aggrey on how far the community has come.

Having secured their most basic needs, the Bucece community had the capacity to think of new ways to address their needs and enhance their life. From the earnings of the boat activities and their VSLA, they bought a piece of land and constructed their own clinic, reducing the long walks they used to take to access health services. The inaccessibility of health services in last-mile communities threatens their health and well-being, especially that of vulnerable groups like women, seniors and children.

“Previously, when someone in our families fell sick, they’d have to walk for hours to cross the whole village. With the boat around, they don’t have to anymore,” Bizoza says.

Over the past six years, the families of Bucece, including Aggrey’s, have improved their lives. Following their partnership with RTV, they used their resources and knowledge to create a transformative, sustainable change in their quality of life.

“Our life is better now. We hope for more opportunities to keep improving it,” expresses Aggrey with a look of hope.