A recent World Bank report ranks Malawi on position four among the poorest countries of the world. A 2016-17 Integrated Household Survey report states that 50.7 percent of Malawi’s population lives below the poverty line and 25 percent are in extreme poverty.
The survey’s findings are not surprising as the country ranks low on the World Human Development Index at 170 out of 188 countries and territories.
However, interventions such as those by Community Savings and Investment Promotion (Comsip), have brought hope in poverty-reduction through initiatives meant to improve the living standards of underprivileged Malawians.
Cluster is an initiative where group members are taught to save and invest in initiatives with the aim of improving their livelihoods.
Nkhata Bay is one of the districts in the country where people have started reaping the fruits of the clusters.
Forty-three-year-old Rose Manda is a book-keeper for Chisimbi Comsip Cluster in Kakhongwe Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mankhambira and she explains how her life has transformed since she bought shares in the group.
Manda states that before she joined the group, it was difficult for her to support her four children with school fees, learning materials and other needs.
“When I joined the group, I got a loan that helped me venture into dried fish business. The business has so far made a difference in my life.
“I am now able to support my household with food and clothes and pay school fees for my secondary school child,” she says.
Manda says she makes a profit of over K30,000 per month and reinvests some of the money by buying more shares in the cluster.
Comsip Chief Executive Officer Tennyson Gondwe says members of Comsip groups are now initiated into the saving culture.
“So far, all Comsip groups have saved K6 billion in all the 28 districts of the country and the impact is huge. Members have built houses, others have started businesses, bought motorcycles and are able to pay school fees for their children,” Gondwe says.
He further says Comsip will continue to transform traditional savings and investment practices to formal savings and investment ventures that can generate enough income to propel the poor out of the poverty cycle.
“The main thrust is on savings mobilisation and capacity building required by the poor communities to make savings decisions and eventually invest from what they save,” Gondwe says.
Chisimbi Cluster Chairperson Musa Phiri hails Comsip for offering capacity building training to the group’s members. He says the training instilled and strengthened a saving culture among members.
Phiri explains that Chisimbi cluster was formed in 2016 with savings of K220,000 from 43 members.
“In 2017, Comsip gave us a grant amounting to K565,000 and, with our savings, it came up to K776,000. As of last year, our savings were at K1,126,600,” he says.
The Comsip programme, which is being financed by World Bank through National Local Government Finance Committee, formerly Local Development Fund, started in February 2015 in all Nkhata Bay’s 13 T/As. – Mana