By Pauline Mbukwa, Self Help Africa
The beautiful and jovial women are clad in white tops and wearing same cloth wrapper locally called ‘Chitenje’ sit in a circle not gossiping but discussing how they can better their lives. This is not a choir, but this is Tipindule farmer field school which has a common goal to end hunger and poverty.
Women in rural areas of Malawi struggle to have access to finance yet make up 70% of the Agriculture force. The formal lending institutions normally require a collateral for one to access loans. To address this problem, smallholder farmers are now turning to Village Saving and Loans commonly known as ‘Banki Khonde’
Tipindule Farmer Field School situated in Chikuli section, Thuchila EPA in Mulanje is one of the successful groups that has embraced the VS&L and changing lives of farming families. For Callista Mthiramanja from Awali Village in Mulanje, life was difficult as even her friends would not borrow her money. Especially when the crop did not do well, she needed to buy food to sustain her through the year. The money she got from her produce was not enough to last even a week.
She joined Tipindule FFS an exclusive women’s group in 2019.The group started with K454,900.00 and has grown its savings to K1,340,600.00.
Mthiramanja got a loan and managed to buy 6 bags of cement, and fertiliser in readiness for the farming season. She hopes to build her house as this is part of her vision.
Chairperson of the group, Margaret Paipi goat a loan of K30,000 and with this she is moulding bricks which she plans to sell and make a fortune of over K1,000,000.00.
“We thank EU and KULIMA BETTER for training us in the new farming technologies and for empowering us with knowledge on village saving and loans, my life will not be the same,” Paipi said
“Tipindule FFS is one of the groups that is doing very well not only in VS&L but even in terms of adoption of farming technologies such as one to one planting, making of Mbeya manure and conservation agriculture, “ Charles Evans Tembo the Master Trainer says.
The VSL approach has improved access to finance for most of the project beneficiaries. A total of 2,562 VSLs are established with a total membership of 40,455 (10,338 males and 30,117 females).