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INVESTMENT —A shop of members for Ching’amba Comsip Cluster

A group of locals in Ntchisi is riding a wave of success by circulating hard cash among community members towards improving their businesses and fighting food insecurity in homes.

Deep in Njirambo Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chilooko, James Chijalo, 31, does not have to worry where to get capital investment for boosting his retail shop business.

He has been a member of Chamnjaye Club since 2011 before it merged with two more clubs, Umodzi and Kankhoko, to form Ching’amba Community Savings and Investment Promotion (Comsip) Cluster in 2016.

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The cluster is an umbrella body that is at the centre of circulating money among community members through savings and loans and boosting investments.

“Getting loans to invest in my business and other activities such as farming is not a problem for me. Being part of the club and the cluster has helped in boosting my business,” says Chijalo, who started his business with K100,000 borrowed from the cluster.

He boasts that the value of his retail shop now fluctuates between K500,000 and K600,000 depending on seasonal demand of commodities. The most items on demand between November and December are clothes and shoes because of the festive season.

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Chijalo looks back at the past six years of his membership in both the club and the cluster with pride.

In 2014, he received his share amounting K375,000 after three years of savings.

“At first, we started with a weekly contribution of K500 each member before it was raised to K1,000.

“I used to grow and sell banana and the profits from this business were used for contributing my shares into community savings,” Chijalo says.

Through economic activities enhanced by his membership in Chinga’mba Comsip Cluster, Chijalo is also a proud owner of a modern and decent house roofed with corrugated iron sheets and its floor is correctly done with cement.

He also owns eight pigs whose current market price hovers between K50,000 and K70,000 each.

Possession of such wealth is no mean achievement in a country where the majority of the population lives on $1.90 (around K1,300), according to a UN Commission of Trade and Development report titled “Development and Globalisation: Facts and Figures”.

Community savings are really saving the day among the majority of rural population involved in this activity.

Another local, Ernest Kandokole, 48, says his life and that of his entire family has transformed for the better.

“Before I joined the cluster, I had no house and had problems in generating income to support my family,” says Kandokole, a father of seven and a resident of Kafupika Village in the same T/A Chilooko.

But today, he has a standard house whose project took off with money amounting K270,000 he received in 2014 as his dividends.

“I also borrowed K100,000 for finishing construction works of the house,” he says.

Both Chijalo and Kandokole are pioneer members of Ching’amba Cluster, which has a membership of 47 people: 17 women and 30 men.

One interesting thing is that the benefits of this cluster are not limited to members only.

Ching’amba Cluster Chairperson Laston Kagalu says they also serve non-members and that, currently, they have 120 clients who borrow money from the cluster with 30 percent interest.

“These people do not just borrow but they also save their money with us,” Kagalu says.

The interest that this money generates is shared between the client and the cluster at the rates of five and 20 percent respectively.

With four shares at Comsip Cooperative Union worth K400,000 plus money in loans and cash amounting K14 million, Ching’amba Cluster has high ambitions of growth and expansion of its services.

Already, the cluster is doing livestock production for commercial purposes and is currently rearing four pigs and 10 goats.

But this is not enough, according to Kagalu.

“We want to extend our agribusiness by buying crop yields and resell them to farmers just like formal markets do,” he says.

The group also harbours the ambition to graduate into a cooperative. But it is the idea of expanding their borrowing and lending services that puts the icing on the cake of their vision.

“We are thinking of expanding our services by operating at the level of a big lending institution such as a bank,” Kagalu says.

With the capital investment that is still growing and flowing through loans and savings, there is no doubt that Ching’amba Cluster’s journey to a brighter future is more of a guarantee than a prospect

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