It took us about 30 minutes to travel from Mgama to Ifunda. First we went back to the tarmac then turned away from Iringa and drove about ten minutes. Ifunda is more of a town than the other places we have been visiting. While a village may have 100-300 families, Ifunda has perhaps 1,000-1,200. Many of the people in Ifunda work either for the government, the schools, or one of the businesses. Some of our members have shops and stores here. One of our members has a furniture company and another has a bakery here.
As we arrive at Ifunda we find that there is no one here. Peter goes to the parish offices to look for the SACCOS secretary. We went into the church where the meeting was to be held and found two members waiting there. Peter started making calls to find out what was happening. He had talked to the chairman the day before and confirmed our meeting. After about 15 minutes the secretary showed up. By that time there were 7 members here.
Tom and Peter were disgruntled at the poor attendance. They told the secretary that this group needed to do much better than this. He explained that it was a daytime and many members were at work in the schools or at their other jobs. “Then why did you not ask us to change the meeting time?” asked Tom. “If our members do not come to our meetings they will not get the information on loans, planning, agriculture, etc. If they do not learn we will not give them loans.” The secretary clearly understood and started making calls.
We do not expect that everyone will make every meeting, but we do expect to see at least 40% or more at any one session. We also expect that EVERYONE will attend at least one session a year. Members slowly drifted in until we had 18 out of the 54 members.
Venance gave a lesson on the use of fertilizer and herbicide. There were many questions; clearly this is information that these members need to know. He was asked if he might come back for another session on a Saturday or later in the afternoon on a weekday, and he agreed to do this. With the smaller group here we decided to only interview one member.
Stepping outside of the meeting Sandy started visiting with Edita Sanga, 40 years old and married with 2 young children. Edita has been a member of this SACCOS since it began 3 years ago. She has a 3- acre farm near town.
Two years ago Edita took out her first loan for $500. She used it to farm maize and some sunflowers. The maize crop was very good yielding 38 large bags. The sunflowers did not do as well so she had them pressed into oil, of which some was sold and some she kept for herself. Overall, she said that she earned $2,200 in profits from her crop that year. She bought a lot on which to build a brick home and 2 more acres of land which she planted in trees.
Her second loan was for $500 again. This time she used it to plant maize on her full 3 acres, and she has had a good yield. She will wait until February or March to sell when prices are higher, and will earn approximately $2,000 in profit when it is all sold. This year she says she will build a brick home, add to her savings, pay school fees (her oldest just started school), and improve her household.
We asked Edita what she would do without her SACCOS. She told us that without the SACCOS she would earn almost nothing. She could not thank people enough for giving her a chance.
We were done with our meeting so it was time to go. We loaded up and headed back to Iringa. Tomorrow we have a long drive to get to make our visit.