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Power of Comsip in rural set ups

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Today, five years ago, the social and economic life was tough for Rose Nyambi (46). The mother of six concedes that finding school fees and money to make ends meet at household level was tough.

Nyambi was always a sore to her neighbours due to her begging spirit. Nyambi comes from Group Village Head (GVH) Chimwayi, sub-Traditional Authority (sT/A) Kagula in Nsondole, Zomba.

Lack of funds to engage in small scale business operations to transform her life style was a major setback, considering her poor educational financial backing.

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“I felt that little was done to empower ourselves considering the economic background was not good. Even if we wanted to operate businesses capital was a must before anything else,” Nyambi says.

Similar economic challenges

Another victim of poverty is Dorothy Chindamba. She has faced similar challenges despite that Sakata is rich in fertile soils and business opportunities as the area is close to the main road.

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“With business opportunities in mind, local lending institutions and agricultural entities were not happy to see us face social and economic challenges,” Chindamba states.

She admits life being tough without any business that could have brought some few coins into their pockets to support their families.

“Without money, life is unbearable because you cannot buy sugar, soap and pay school fees for children with money,” she says.

Chindamba adds: “With money you can invest in many businesses and use proceeds to do poultry, cattle and pig farming businesses.

Dawn of Sakata Cooperative

But lives of (Nyambi and Chindamba) changed for the better. This is despite the challenges they faced thanks to the dawn of cooperative services in Sakata, Zomba District.

Cooperative operations in Sakata and the rest of the country are in agriculture, finance, manufacturing, mining and rural livelihoods.

Such operations seek to empower communities to embrace the savings culture and investment to bring positive financial results and food security at household level.

The two say their dream to be financially independent could have hit a blank wall if they had not taken note of advice from some women within the area who championed the setting up of a Sakata Cooperative.

Nyambi says some women—operating the cooperative under Sakata—were financially independent because of businesses they did. This prompted her likewise Chindamba to join.

“Such women operated bakery business own their own. This made me to ask for ideas as to how possible that was in view of some financially hiccups most of them faced,” she says.

Community Savings and Investment Promotion, which to some extent is funded by the World Bank Group, provided training to Sakata Cooperative group members.

 

The idea of the training was to empower them with business and investment skills. The group, which has 34 members, now has skills to save their money, invest in shares and business proposal writing.

In order to achieve its mission, the Union’s activities are drawn based on the following long-term objectives such as to build a culture of savings and investment among rural and peri-urban poor communities, to collaborate with stakeholders in mobilizing domestic savings for sustainable social and economic development and create opportunities for rural and peri-urban communities to access financial and marketing services.

Economic independence in Sakata

Travel to Sakata, which is situated 32 kilometres off Songani Road, you will discover that Nyambi and Chindamba are financially independent based on what is seen at their home and farms.

There are bakery, tailoring and agribusiness ventures carried out either by a group or individually contrary to 2012 when they used to depend on handouts from their husbands.

The two are part of the group that has saved about K3.2 million at the moment. What happens is that the group sells shares and profits gained uplift their poultry, pig, bakery and tailoring businesses.

Such businesses in operation today came into effect after Comsip approved their business proposals.

Nyambi’s joining Sakata Cooperative forced her to do bakery business. Since then, she has built a house with corrugated iron sheets.

Nyambi pays school fees for her children and through the savings culture or buying of shares in Sakata, she has bought four cattle thereby increasing her financial base.

“Before my joining Sakata, I was in dire poverty, and imagine, I, now have what a women and a family requires,” she states, with her hands akimbo pointing at the house she has built.

Nyambi is also more into agribusiness. She is food secure due to the growth of maize and groundnuts having gotten farming skills from Sakata Cooperative championed by Comsip.

For Chindamba, who is also into bakery business that has helped her family to be economically independent, thinks more women should join such groups.

“It is good to work as a team if we are to contribute largely to the country’s economy. In this case, men are instrumental and they have to continue to empower us,” she says.

Currently, Sakata Cooperative has seven men of the 34 members. Prospects are high that the figure is likely to rise following sensitisation meetings by the group in the area for more members.

The take of Comsip on savings and investment

Currently Comsip works with over 400 primary cooperatives and more than 4,500 groups and 116,972 members cumulatively. The affiliated cooperatives buy shares at Union level.

“Comsip champions eight jobs such as togetherness, community Self-help Work, improving Incomes, creation of Assets, improving health status, improving education and literacy, among others,” according to Emmanuel Muwamba, Comsip communications officer.

He says to this day, Comsip has registered an increase in shareholding and profits for the year ending December 2016 following capital injection into cooperatives and grants from international lending institutions.

Currently, the organisation wants to increase the number of shares that members buy so as to grow. Furthermore, government is also in the process of coming up with a cooperative policy and strategy.

According to Assistant Registrar of Cooperative Societies in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Chezani Otaniele, this coincides with the development of a cooperative development strategy.

He said that while government is championing these initiatives, various stakeholders need to join the participatory task so that the policy and strategy conform to their needs.

Malawi and the World Bank Group support cooperatives through grants and loans to members and Comsip established groups.

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