The opportunity to save money in a village savings and loans group means that the rural poor in Kenya and Uganda can look forward to Christmas just as much as we do in the UK. It is a time for family get-togethers, for giving and receiving gifts, for dressing up and for letting your hair down.
For many families it’s also the only time of year where meat and matoke (a dish of steam-cooked bananas) are on the menu:
“Families in the rural communities do with at most two meals a day, with many homes having only one meal. The food isn’t the best, normally a combination of starch food and boiled vegetables. But Christmas makes everything unique as every family will struggle to save money to the end of the year and buy good things.”
Joseph is a member of a savings group that Build Africa helped set up in Kahara village, Uganda. He told us just how important the savings scheme is to communities at the end of the year:
“In my own community, as early as January, people begin to form groups of 40 to 50 people. They then save money, usually 20000UGX to 30000UGX per member, which they use to buy a cow in November. The cow is then slaughtered and shared amongst the group members, around 4 to 7kg of meat for each family. This will last until the New Year.
It is around this period that the poorest families spend their savings to please their family. The wives and children would not be very happy if the head of the house did not buy anything for them. Celebrations differ according to the cultures and communities. In my own community, a married girl will take to her parents flour and rice, the behind thigh of a cow and a cock two days before Christmas.
There are no house decorations in the village except the children buy balloons for playing with.
Food is prepared in the night of the 24th and early on the 25th families go to church in their new clothes. It does not matter whether they put on shoes, they will be glad to put on their new clothes even if they are cheap.
After 1st January, life goes back to normal. The daily meal goes on and savings begin for the next Christmas.”