Opportunities are everywhere but only those who have perfect senses identify them and do things that can change their lives.
Elizabeth Zambezi of Therere Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Ngabu, in Chikwakwa perfectly used her senses to distinguish opportunity pull from opportunity push within her area.
Zambezi is a member of Mtematherere Comsip Cluster, a grouping of 65 people doing joint businesses other than the usual savings and investment.
Born in 1966 in of Senior Chief Therere in Chikwawa, Zambezi dropped out of school while in Standard Five. She says lack of support and long distances to school were some of the obstacles that led to her drop out.
“My family was too poor to support my education and we could not afford basic necessities like food and clothing. So I quit school,” she says.
After quitting school in 1984, Zambezi made a bold decision to get married to a man who is now her husband. She thought marriage would be a safe haven from poverty. But things never changed as she drowned into yet another ocean of challenges.
Just as was the case at her parents’ home, life was tough in marriage. The new couple had no meaningful source of income.
“My husband is a bicycle repairer and he rarely has customers because the place is remote. Our small piece of land does not provide enough in terms of crop yield,” says Zambezi, a mother of seven.
I t was because of the situation that the couple decided to explore other avenues of generating income.
Zambezi borrowed money from lending institutions to start small businesses. It never worked as the interest rates were too high to the extent that all the profits made disappeared into repayment of loans.
In 2011, lady luck smiled at Zambezi when she joined Mtematherere Comsip Cluster. She was inducted on the core functions and purpose of the cluster and this marked the beginning of a happy life.
She explains: “I never hesitated when I was told that I needed to buy more shares to increase my chances of getting a loan. What impressed me most was the interest rate which was very low and affordable.”
Today, Zambezi is the happiest person in Therere Village. Her family owns a modern and decent house powered by solar energy, runs a video show business and acquired a big piece of land for crop production.
Apart from that, she is also into livestock farming through rearing of chickens, guinea-fowls and goats.
“These businesses are generating enough money to support my family. For instance, I make more than K5,000 per day through the video show business, which is enough considering the geographical location of the place,” she says.
Through the cluster, she has further managed to educate three of her children, something she is proud of.
Senior Chief There reshowers praises on Comsip for supporting cooperatives in the area, saying lives of many people have improved.
“Some ordinary people have become respectable individuals in our society after joining cooperatives. I ask Comsip management to facilitate the formation of more cooperatives for the betterment of our people,” says the chief
Comsip Chief Executive Officer, Tenson Gondwe, says it is the wish of the organisation to reach out to many people in order to address the challenges Malawians face.
“Currently, we have about 150,000 cooperatives but we want this figure to grow to about 500,000,” Gondwe explains.
He describes Zambezi’s story as one of the achievements of the organisation.
“We are very proud of the fruits from the cooperatives and this is a plus to our efforts,” he says.
Gondwe appeals to government to adopt the concept of cooperatives, saying it is a viable way of alleviating poverty.
He says: “Our friends in Rwanda have developed because of cooperatives. We can do the same in Malawi. As I speak, millions of kwacha are with people in rural areas and this is why we are also lobbying for the establishment of a cooperative bank.”
Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Wiskes Mkombezi says it is the role of both government and private sectors to develop and enhance the cooperative movement.
“Cooperatives are specialised small and medium enterprises and this is why we, in the ministry, have an office that specifically addresses their issues,” Mkombezi says.
He applauds Comsip for its tireless efforts in ensuring that lives of Malawians are improved.
Just like Zambezi, many Malawians have the chance to get out of the poverty trap. What is required is for them to identify the opportunities around them and utilise them before it is too late.
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