By Chawanangwa Nyirenda,  Plan Malawi International

Darius, 28 , was forced to go out of the country in search for greener pastures. A journey that was meant to be a break through turned into a heart break as he was not able to find the economic opportunities he was longing for. He decided to come back to Malawi in 2017 to find his way through. The savings he had made while in foreign country were used to join a  village savings and lending group. The interest rate was high so prospects were minimal.

Fortunately for Darius, when  European Union funded KULIMA BETTER through Plan International Malawi started in Traditional Authority Kampingo Sibande in Mzimba district, he was selected to be part of Chankhomi Farmer Field School (FFS).  The FFS was established with the aim of identifying solutions to challenges that farmer were experiencing in the community as well as strengthening their livelihood. In order to increase resilience of farmers, the group also engaged in village savings and loans where members buy shares and lend money at an interest. With the training support that the project provided to the group, Darius and his colleagues have been able to make profits from the shares they bought.

“We have experienced a great change with this new approach” he says. We learnt of ways of controlling loan limits and calculation of interest. We also improved on our cash security through the use of cash boxes which significantly improved our trust in our “local bank”, a thing that resulted in more people mobilising their savings.” explains Darius.

Plan International stresses that while financial exclusion is a direct impediment to youth and female empowerment, but evidence-based accessible, collective credit and savings mechanisms such as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) can help to generate assets at community level.

Prior to joining FFS, Darius had limited access to economic assets to sustain his family. After being equipped with knowledge on planting improved variety crops that are drought resistant to improve gains he decided to invest MWK120, 000 he gained from the VSL in Paprika and maize production.

“The VSL group helps us to find means of producing the crops that can assist our livelihoods. With the lessons learnt from the FFS groups, we were encouraged to try out improved  varieties, so I decided to grow paprika and maize in the last growing season. It was one the best decisions that I have ever done as I was able to make MWK270, 000.00 after selling my produce.”

“From that money I managed to roof my house and buy pigs. I want to intensify livestock husbandry as well to provide me with an alternative source of income” says Darius.

A focused Darius will not stop there, his eyes are now focusing on poultry production. He is planning to use his savings from VSL on poultry farming as he has established that it is more marketable in the nearest markets of his community.