An independent and proud Maria Chatheka selling cloth from her shop
An independent and proud Maria Chatheka selling cloth from her shop Nandi Bwanali/One Community

Maria Chatheka's Story: Livelihoods Improved

Feb 01 2018

Village Savings and Loans (VSL) Groups play a crucial role in bringing financial services to rural  areas  where  formal  financial institutions, such as banks, are limited or cannot be afforded by the surrounding populations.

“As a facilitator of these groups, I have seen people transform into independent and financially stable individuals. Most of these people were poor and widowed, raising orphans and/or dealing with the burdens of HIV but now they are a source of inspiration for their community,” shares Community Engagement Facilitator Patricia Makumbi.

Patricia facilitates three VSL groups in Chikwawa, with a membership of about 25 individuals per group. She oversees the saving and lending capacity of the groups and offers financial education to enable her group members to save and invest wisely.

One of the members is 47-year-old Maria Chateka. Maria is a widow living with HIV and currently looking after her son, her late sister’s daughter, and her grandchild. In February 2017, Maria joined Tikondane VSL group after being identified by One Community’s CRP Rose Sadyankhwani. At the time, Maria owned a small stand in the market, selling beans and maize grains. From the stand, she made on average MK 1,500 (USD$2) a day, which was barely enough for her to feed her family, let alone pay MK 50,000 (USD$68) a term to send her son and niece to secondary school.

When she joined the group, she took a MK 6,000 (USD$8) loan with 20% monthly cumulative interest to help diversify her business. She ordered plastic shoes from the nearby city, Blantyre, which she then sold in her community.

VSL meeting in progress“The shoes were on demand at the time, but most shopkeepers did not stock enough of them due to inadequate capital and poor usage of profits. I did things differently. Patricia had taught us how to record what we have invested in the business and to anticipate what we would need to save to grow our businesses,” shares Maria. “I stopped spending my profits and instead gave them to the VSL group for safe keeping."

Maria has continued to grow and diversify her business. She took more loans and started selling cloths, basins, and essentials like soap and sugar. To date, Maria has taken and serviced loans amounting to MK 150,000 ($205); an amount she would have never been able to source on her own. Maria now owns a shop, which brings her a healthy profit of MK 8,000 ($10) a day. She uses this money to pay for school fees, buy her household necessities and reinvest into her VSL group.

The Tikondane VSL group secretary, Abraham Kambewa shares, “Our group started off in February with MK 11,900 ($16). From the borrowings made, we are expecting to make MK 700,000 ($958) by
December 2017, which is a great achievement for our group and we look forward to even bigger returns in the years to come.”

From October 2016 – September 2017, One C facilitated the formation of 236 VSlgroups with 5,104 members of which about 45% are People living with HIV (PLHIV). Of the total loans taken by VSL member MK 21,334,046 (88%) was used for various business activities while the remaining MK 2,976,916 (12%) was used for consumption purpose which included buying foodstuff, paying school fees and other emergency expenditures.

VSL members also contribute towards a social fund which is utilized to cover school fees for children (6%) and expenses for condolences (28%), emergencies (5%) and transportation to health facility (14%).

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