By Alick Ponje:
Vulnerable men and women in Mganja Village, Traditional Authority Kachindamoto in Dedza, set aside portions of their Social Cash Transfer (SCT) payouts, pooled them and ventured into various kinds of businesses.
Now, most of them, like 69-year-old Sifoloza Elias, are glorying in their ingenuity which is making their households attractive places to visitors.
The poverty that used to besiege them has been sufficiently thrust into the periphery of their lives.
“This is a rural location, but some of the properties that I have, I know some people in urban locations just dream about,” Elias says.
She belongs to Umodzi Comsip Cluster where they are persistently taught to save and invest with the aim of improving their livelihoods.
With a portfolio of close to K4 million and various developments in individual households, it is easy to think the group, with a membership of 20 men and 34 women, has been in existence for decades.
“We only started in March 2016, from our [SCT] payouts. Comsip [Cooperative Union] then trained us on how to do business. They told us the first business is lending the money among ourselves which we then use to expand our individual businesses,” Elias adds.
Now, she has built a house which she expects to iron-roof any time soon.
Her household is also a symbol of plenty in a rural location that is refusing to stick to poverty.
Modern kitchen utensils and other tools like trolleys tell stories of a woman whose resolve is paying dividends just as do the gloats of goats and grunts of pigs.
“Whenever there is a need like fertiliser, I quickly sell one of the livestock. My three grandchildren are also living comfortable lives because of the returns from the cluster,” Elias boasts.
Several other members of the cluster are sharing similar stories of success which has come about because they belong to a group with a common vision.
One of them is Ignasio Chammagomo who, at 79, wishes he had discovered the advantages of saving and investing at a tender age.
“I know that my life is nearing its end and I will leave these sweet things behind. At least, those coming behind me should consider doing what we are doing because it is a poverty crusher,” he says.
Umodzi Comsip Cluster Community Facilitator, Margret Kudambo, waxes lyrical about the integrity of the group’s members.
She says: “When they obtain the loans, they repay in time. That means the revolving aspect works well and before we realise it, there is a lot of money that has been accumulated.”
Such sentiments are shared by T/A Kachindamoto Community Development Assistant, Feston Paliani, who states that the 31 clusters in the area that he overseas quickly embraced the ideals of belonging to such groups.
“Honesty is key. They also appreciate that they should respect each other and ensure that they do not consume their capitals. These may look like basic things but they are not easily to adhere to,” he says.
According to Paliani, the clusters are also involved in environmental conservation having experienced the effects of climate change including heavy rains and droughts.
Comsip Cooperative Union information, education and communication officer, Emmanuel Muwamba, glories in the fact that savings through Comsip groups are improving people’s livelihoods.
“We train these people in various areas including financial literacy and business management. That is why they are able to progress in their respective businesses,” he says.
He also looks at the approach of encouraging vulnerable households to invest part of their SCT payouts as part of the process of graduating from safety-nets to self-reliance.
“It is important that such people have sustainable means of livelihoods. Their household economic development shows that things are working and that excites us,” Muwamba says.