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Reaping from smaller savings

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INVESTMENT—Ngulube’s goats

Dreams for a happy family and economic emancipation were cut short when her husband unceremoniously ended their marriage in 2009.

At the time, Ida Ngulube, 46, was living in Mzuzu where, until the marriage collapsed, she depended on her husband for literally everything she needed in life.

She was not doing any business that could contribute to the economic wellbeing of her family.

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“My husband was an answer to everything my children and I needed. But the reality of life finally dawned on me when he told me about his decision to divorce me,” Ngulube says. “I couldn’t believe it. But I had to accept it.”

The fall of the marriage forced the woman to go back to her village – Jailosi Mhlanga Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mtwalo in Mzimba – where, faced with no source of income, let alone access to credit ignore! to set up a business of her own, she went into farming.

Global studies have shown that economic dependence of wives on their husbands is among leading factors for intimate partner violence (IPV).

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IPV includes all verbal expressions, manners and actions that violate one’s physical body, sense of self-esteem, or sense of trust and happens regardless of age, ethnicity and country of origin.

BMC Women’s Health reports that IPV against women is encouraged due to the male dominance social system, which discriminates against women and is also connected to cultural factors that limit women’s choices to leave a violent marriage.

In some instances, it is associated with certain characteristics of males, such as young age, low level of education, witnessing or experiencing violence as a child, harmful use of alcohol and drugs, personality disorders, and acceptance of violence.

To address deep-rooted economic dependence of women on their husbands, the Malawi Government, through Financial Access for Rural Markets, Smallholders and Enterprises (Farmse), devised long-term strategies to increase access to, and use of, a range of sustainable financial services by rural households and micro, small and medium enterprises.

The programme, which commenced in July 2018, is financed by the Government of Malawi, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), and private sector participants; and is implemented nationwide targeting 432, 774 rural households, with at least 45 percent being women and 20 percent youth.

To achieve its objectives, Farmse is providing support to community based financial organisations (CBFOs), which are leveraging the proven success of Savings and Loans Groups (SLGs) and working to support their expanded outreach to rural masses by strengthening the technical and financial capacity of existing groups.

In so doing, the programme is building new and innovative informal savings and loans products; establishing SLG linkages to formal financial services; and providing support for value chain development to enhance smallholder income.

Implementing partners under this component include Heifer International, Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (Muscco), Community Savings and Investment Promotion (Comsip), ActionAid Malawi, Malawi Milk Producers Association (MMPA), Development Aid from People to People (Dapp) and Opportunity International Malawi (OIM).

CBFO specialist Kumbukani Rashi said, so far, the programme has reached out to 18,517 existing groups and 7,722 newly formed groups with various capacity building interventions raging from trainings in VSL methodology, business management, and also linked them to various micro-finance institutions and high value markets.

Rashid added that a total of 11,991 have already been supported to develop groups and businesses ranging from piggery, poultry, fruit tree seedlings, vegetable farming, cassava flour processing, sugar growing, rice, fish farming and banana.

“Of these, 5,090 groups have already benefitted from linkages in terms of access of loans, secure group savings platforms, and its associated bundled insurance products. To date, VSL groups have accessed loans in excess of 1.5 Billion from such institutions as Vision Fund, Cumo, and NBS,” she explained.

In Mzimba, said Rashid, the programme has linked Chigandaganda VSLG to Vision Fund, which recently lent the group K600,000 to increase and enhance its poultry farming.

The group identified Mpamba Trading Centre as a high value market and recently struck a deal with Shoprite Shop in Mzuzu to supply 1, 000 chickens per week.

In Mzimba, the programme is working with Heifer International to graduate ultra-poor households from extreme poverty to economically self-reliant livelihoods.

Farmse Ultra-Poor Programmes Specialist Obrien Mandala said under this component, they are targeting individuals under the Malawi Government Social Cash Transfer programme who are taken through a chain of interventions.

The interventions include consumption support, which is covered by the monthly cash transfers that they receive from the government, savings and technical skills transfer through various need-based trainings to build their technical capacity to run an income generating activity.

In addition, every member is trained in basic business management.

In the rural areas of Mzimba, access to credit is limited, the banking sector is not supportive of agriculture, and nature punishes with recurrent extreme weather conditions that result in poor yields.

But with a membership of less than 15 men and women, the story has started to change in Jailosi Mhlanga Village and Ngulube is part of the change that is creeping in to the area.

Ngulube, who could only dream about having a decent house for her and children, now boasts of a spacious house roofed with iron sheets.

“These are proceeds of the shares I bought at our local VSLG. I also have goats and I am planning to buy a dairy cow next year,” she told dumbfounded journalists.

Ngulube has set targets rather too high for herself. She said she wants to venture into transportation business in two years’ time.

“I know some people may not believe me, but I can assure you that I will achieve my dream. Most importantly, I will educate all the children my ex-husband left when our married ended,” she said.

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