A group photo of members of Tingathe Village Savings and Loans group at their sharing ceremony outside Nsaka Full Primary School. The event was graced by Ward Councillor, Mr Bulirani (front center)
A group photo of members of Tingathe Village Savings and Loans group at their sharing ceremony outside Nsaka Full Primary School. The event was graced by Ward Councillor, Mr Bulirani (front center)

Tingathe Village Savings and Loans Group: Changing Community Norms and Perspectives

May 10 2018

Community Engagement Facilitator (CEF) Joseph Phiri beams with pride as he shares the success of his Village Savings and Loans (VSL) group, Tingathe, which translates to “we can.” Tingathe VSL group is from Msaka, a small village in Mangochi located on the shores of Lake Malawi. The group, which comprises 25 people living with HIV, outshined most One Community VSL groups in December 2017 when group members saved MK 2,132,330 ($2,901.12), an amount they never thought they could amass.

The group started in March 2017 with a collective savings of MK 30,000 ($40. 81). Members continued to add to their savings during their weekly meetings, and members of the group at a 20% interest rate then borrowed the money collected.

The group also collectively saved MK 5,000 ($6.80) every week which they used for emergencies such as members’ transport costs when going to the hospital and funeral costs.

During the initial stages of the group’s formation, members were pessimistic and lacked self-confidence in their abilities to save and grow their money. Most members had tried to join VSL groups before becoming One Community beneficiaries but were denied membership due to their HIV status. Deputy Chairperson of the group, Kelson Yafwamu, shares, “We were not considered as people with equal abilities; most people looked down on us and some even said we were already dead.”

CEF Joseph explains, “They really had looked down on themselves. We [at One Community], however, assured them of their capabilities and provided them with financial literacy training, which encouraged members to save at least 10% of what they made from the menial labor they undertook and to invest a portion of what was left into a business they were comfortable with.”

Almost all members went into the fish selling business, where they have experienced much success. Emma Theu, VSL group member affirms, “We started off by selling fish at our local market. But, as our businesses grew, we began to seek markets in neighboring districts, which have no access to the lake. Here, we are able to sell more fish at lucrative prices.”

The primary challenges that members previously faced are now things of the past. The negative attitudes that community members had towards people living with HIV have slowly disappeared as a result of the group’s success. The VSL group has proven that they too can be productive and dependable members of the community. In addition, people who secretly lived with HIV in the community have disclosed their statuses and sought mentorship and support from Tingathe VSL members. To offer this guidance and support, the VSL members have formed a second VSL group (Tingathe 2) with a membership of an additional 25 people living with HIV.

Food is another area members are no longer struggling with. Previously, they relied on handouts and coupons from the chief to buy essentials, such as fertilizer. One fertilizer coupon was worth one bag of fertilizer which had to be shared among 4 families. This year, members planned ahead and took a loan to buy their own fertilizer. On average, each member bought 4 bags of fertilizers, securing the possibility of a fruitful harvest if weather conditions are favorable.

The group is now enjoying its second cycle with MK 400,000 ($544.21) already saved in two months. Greater returns can be expected by December 2018. Tingathe’s inspirational success is one to be not only admired but replicated!

IMAGES OF THE MEMBERS' SUCCESS

Aisha Ali, who walked away with MK 105,000 ($ 142.85), lost her house when it fell due to bad weather conditions. With her savings from the VSL she had bricks made and is waiting for the rains to stop to reconstruct a better house.  3 

Aisha Ali, who walked away with MK 105,000 ($ 142.85), lost her house when it fell due to bad weather conditions. With her savings from the  VSL she had bricks made and is waiting for the rains to stop to reconstruct a better house.

Dorah Chirwa was one of the members with low savings, MK 51,100 ($69.52). Still she sits proudly on her brand new mattress. Dorah had low returns because she did not believe she could ever own a meaningful business as such did not save or invest a lot of money. Group members have promised to assist her with growing her business this cycle.
 Emma Theu sent money to her home village in northern Malawi where she plans on building her house. She also bought uniforms for her children and reinvested in her fish selling business. Emma saved MK 127,750 ($173.80)   New owner of 14 ducks, Edward Mwase beams with joy as he celebrates his MK 96,360 ( $131.10) savings. He also sent some money to his home village and bought his family a mattress
Emma Theu sent money to her home village in northern Malawi where she plans on building her house. She also bought uniforms for her children and reinvested in her fish selling business. Emma saved MK 127,750 ($173.80)  New owner of 14 ducks, Edward Mwase beams with joy as he celebrates his MK 96,360 ( $131.10) savings. He also sent some money to his home village and bought his family a mattress
Tingathe 2 VSL meeting in progress Jane Mboya was initially going to build a thatched hut but through her VSL earnings of MK 114,610 ($ 155.93) she is now a proud owner of an iron sheet roofed house. She has some money left which she will use to pay for her children’s school fees
Tingathe 2 VSL meeting in progress Jane Mboya was initially going to build a thatched hut but through her VSL earnings of MK 114,610 ($ 155.93) she is now a proud owner of an iron sheet roofed house. She has some money left which she will use to pay for her children’s school fees
Levison Phiri was heavily in debt when he joined Tingathe VSL group. His CEF, Joseph Phiri, taught him how he can save and grow his money as well as pay off all his debts. Now a debt free man, Levision walked away with MK 58,400 ($79.45)  ma
Levison Phiri was heavily in debt when he joined Tingathe VSL group. His CEF, Joseph Phiri, taught him how he can save and grow his money as well as pay off all his debts. Now a debt free man, Levision walked away with MK 58,400 ($79.45) Maria Chirwa receiving her MK 134,320 ($ 182.74) during the sharing ceremony. Maria had the second highest earnings. Maria used to cut grass for a living but she grasped and practiced everything she learned and has now delved into commercial farming.
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