Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Village banking casts glimmer of hope in Machinga

By Elias Banda
Traditional music echoed as big speakers produced loud sound effects and women were clad in traditional chitenje regalia as the excitement was over pouring. And it seemed everybody failed to resist the temptation to dance.  This is how the event marking the ‘share out’ as it is called by the community could be described at Nkata Village in Machinga, where 41 village banking members mostly women, were sharing their bank shares. The members were from two groups and as their constitutions dictate, the banking group should not exceed 25 members.

GVH Nkunda presenting shares to one  of the members

The event takes place twice every year when   members unveil the total amount accumulated through shares and each member receives the dividend according to individual contribution. Each year, when the share out event comes into effect, there is always a new figure unveiled much higher than the previous one. Last year, the group shared out K259, 000 (about $681).
And this year 2013,  Nkata Village Bank accumulated K320,000 (about $842) and was publicly shared  at the  ceremony witnessed by chiefs and hundreds of village members. Before the sharing ceremony, Group Village Head Nkunda said that the event was a landmark activity which was set to reduce poverty and change the community in his area and appealed for more groups to be formed. He told the gathering that village banking had improved women esteem as it empowered them economically. He said that the dependency on marriage as means of survival has been reduced because women were becoming self reliant. He also commended ADRA Malawi for facilitating the establishment of village banking systems in his area.
women carrying gifts ready to exchange
Gedion Kachidowo, Government extension worker in the area echoed the chiefs’ remarks and said that through village banking, food security in the area has improved because instead of selling the food crops, people utilize the shares to buy domestic needs while maintaining the harvests for consumption. He said that the local banking system has improved the culture of saving.
Ndamilire Manesi, who got K26, 000 (about $68) and the largest share, was overwhelmed with joy and said she would use the money to meet her family needs. She said part of the money would be used for buying iron sheets for the house that she is building. She said that her life has changed since she joined the group in August 2012 because she was now economically self reliant and was able to sent her 3 children to school. She said she would save more in the next phase so that she would finish building the house.
Ndamilire also hinted that in wider village context, the village savings and loaning system has reduced prostitution and cheating among married women because they could now easily meet their needs.

According to Dyson Katete, Bank facilitator, their group has big plans. The immediate plan was to buy a maize mill that would help them reduce poverty as long lasting solution. He hinted that their expectation was to raise more than K500, 000 (about $1, 315)  by the end of this year. 

It was really difficult to resist temptation to dance
Apart from shares, village bank members raised K13, 000 (about $34) as an emergency fund in case one of the members fell sick or had a funeral. Apart from cash, members also exchanged gifts such plastic pails, cups and containers to empower each other materially.
ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Program has built the capacity of bank members and in Machinga District, the program is supporting 9 functioning village banking groups.
The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Machinga, Mulanje, Mzimba/Mzuzu and Lilongwe.

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