Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mwanza woman finds gold in VS&L initiative

By Grey Sagawa and Kingsley Namizinga

Catherine Makungwa, 29 and mother of 4 boys hails from Sudala Village, Traditional Authority Kanduku in Mwanza District. In 2012, Catherine was divorced and life for her became unbearable as it was difficult to cope with responsibilities that go with a single parent. She struggled to find food and sending children to school. All hopes were shattered and in desperate situations, she spent most of her time doing ganyu (casual labor) in other people’s fields. Ganyu sapped all her energy that could have been used in her own field, thereby creating a vicious circle of food insecurity in her household. It never rained on Catherine but poured on her when she only could afford one meal in a day and eventually, her children started showing signs of malnutrition. Meanwhile, the grass-thatched house she lived in was dilapidated and was on a verge of collapsing.

 But in a dramatic turn of events as though she was dreaming, Catherine breathed a sigh of relief when in October 2012 she got the news that the Village Savings and Loan program (VSL) was introduced by ADRA Malawi through the DFID supported Enhanced Community Resilience Program (ECRP). At first, Catherine felt that she was not the right candidate because she was too poor to meet the requirements of the VSL initiative. But she gathered courage and joined the group called Tiyese (let’s try). The name depicts the doubts the members of the group had, whether their lives would improve after joining the group.

Upon joining VSL, she was happy to discover that her needs were met. She was happy when for the first time in her life, she got her first loan of K10, 000 (about $25) and she used the loan to set up a business selling doughnuts and bananas. A few months later, her life started changing and the more she repaid the loan the higher were her dreams for her household. At the first sharing out, she bought 24 iron sheets for her new house. Apart from the improved livelihood, Catherine’s self esteem has also been raised because she is now economically independent.

And Catherine could not hide her excitement when she said, “ I would like to thank ADRA Malawi for introducing VSL in our village. The most marginalized members of our village have now changed for the better and VSL is indeed the weapon for defeating poverty”

 The ECRP project is being supported by DFID, Irish aid and the Royal Norwegian Embassy to reach out to 4000 households with climate change mitigation initiatives in Mwanza District.