By Grace Kapatuka:
Blessings Nyoni from Chinkhombwe Village in Traditional Authority Mwase in Kasungu dropped out of school in 2015 when he was 18.
Then in Form Two at Mwalawanyenje Secondary School, his parents could hardly raise K8, 500 for fees.
Life became tough for Blessings who could not even figure out how to help his parents raise the money.
“I was not happy to see my parents fail to pay school fees for me. But there was nothing I could do to stay in school.
“I wished I remained in school but it was not possible; I just resigned myself to staying at home,” he says.Advertisement
Fourth born in a family of seven children, Blessings later started piecework to make ends meet because his parents even struggled to provide basic needs of the family.
The situation made him realise that it was high time he started generating his own money.
“In 2016, a friend introduced me to study circles by Malawi Lake Basin Programme (MLBP) and how some people from our village were benefiting from the initiative.
“I was impressed with what he told me and I made up my mind to join them.
“But my challenge was where to get money from for me to join the study circles,” Blessings narrates.
He then started doing piecework to realise money that enabled him to join one of the village savings and loans (VSL) groups (popularly known as village banks) that operate through the study circles.
A study circle gives people an opportunity to identify their challenges and work on solutions to achieve good life in all aspects including health, education, economic empowerment and farming.
“I joined the group in 2016 and, that time, we used to contribute K100 per week as shares.
“I kept on working hard in people’s farms to get more money so that I could deposit more into the village bank to realise more profits at the end of the season,” he says.
The first season of the village bank ended after six months of saving. Blessings realised K30, 000.
He reinvested the whole amount by depositing it into the village bank in the second season.
“I later realised K50,000 and decided to diversify into agriculture in 2016.
“I grew one acre of soya beans and realised about K150,000 from the sales,” he says.
The money gave Blessings hope that, one day, he would realise his dream of becoming a landlord.
He diversified further into animal production.
“I bought three sizeable pigs and three goats,” he says.
After a year, the pigs multiplied to 30 because each sow gave birth to nine piglets.
“I sold 20 piglets in 2017 and realised over K400,000 which I used to buy a plot at Kasungu Boma for K200,000 and spent the remainder on fertiliser for maize farming,” Blessings explains.
But the maize outlook in the field was not rosy due to dry spells; he made a loss. He harvested 70 bags of maize only against the expected 200.
“I sold the maize and bought two more pigs and three goats,” he says.
Blessings’ success through the VSL group was not without challenges. He persevered mocking from his peers.
“My friends used to mock me to say I belonged to a group that is supposed to be for women.
“When we started the group, there were about 50 young men. But, as I am speaking, only five of us have remained; the others left, arguing village banks are for women,” he says.
He adds that, however, those that quit the village banks “have nothing to show because they spend most of their time drinking and smoking”.
MLBP is being implemented by We Effect, Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives, National Smallholder Farmers Association, Farmers Union of Malawi and Vi Agroforestry.
In Salima, MLBP study circle initiative saw some young men and women gain vocational skills which they now impart to fellow youths.
Mathias Molosi, 21, of Kalambe Youth Club under Mthawaluba Cluster honed tailoring skills and is now financially independent.
“It is through the study circles that I together with a friend was identified and sent to Stephano’s Tailoring for training.
“I have already trained more than 15 people in tailoring and I am making a lot of money from this job,” Molosi says.
His sales in a week range from K15,000 to K20,000 translating to about K60,000 a month.
Molosi says, through tailoring, he bought a pig which after giving birth gave him piglets that he sold and bought a cow.
“I want to buy another cow this year using money realised from tailoring,” he says.
He also saves and multiplies his money in a village bank.
“I am grateful to Malawi Lake Basin Programme for shaping me into what I’m today.
“Before I joined study circles, I had nothing to do and spent most of my time taking alcohol,” Molosi says.
Salima MLBP District Manager Mwabi Sichinga says the study circle initiative has helped to empower many families including young people in Salima, Kasungu, Mangochi and Dedza to become financially independent.
“We include the youth in our programmes bearing in mind that they are the future of the country. If young people are empowered today, it means the future has also been empowered.
“As you have seen, we engage them in several skills trainings like tailoring, carpentry and joinery and electrical appliance maintenance as a way of empowering them,” Sichinga says. – Mana
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