Friday, October 13, 2017

On Friday we went to Mwatasi

Yesterday we spent much of the day at the University.  We visited with the Bishop, the VC, several of the University officials, some faculty, . . .  a lot of people that we know from years past.  In the evening the Bishop and his wife stopped by to greet us and to learn more about the work of the Micro Finance Institute.

Today we were off to Mwatasi and Bomalang’ombe.  Mwatasi is located in the mountains, 48 miles
We met two of our members coming to the meeting at Mwatasi.
southwest of Iringa.  Bomalang’ombe lies another 6 miles beyond that. The road is rutted and dusty nearly the entire way. As we drove down the road we found it not too bad in stretches followed by sections with deep holes and lots of rocks.  It took us a little over 2 hours to travel the 48 miles to our meeting.

About half of the members were waiting for us.
Mwatasi has a SACCOS but no AMCOS.  They want to wait and get their SACCOS working well before they form an AMCOS.  Right now Mwatasi has 40 members – 17 men and 23 women.  Between their capital and a loan from the Joint SACCOS they have $8,000 to loan.  Last year they made 23 loans and then ran out of capital.  They decided that they wanted to raise more of their own capital so they charged 5% per month on their loans (Individual villages can set their own rates.  We suggest 2-3% but they are free to charge more or less than this).  With loans that last 6 months they are paying 30% interest!  Still, they seem happy and very appreciative that they have a SACCOS here, and are repaying their loans on time.

Following the customary introductions and greetings, we went to conduct interviews during Venance’s class.  Our first interview was with Naomi Kagine, 40 and married with 4 children.  She has been a member of the SACCOS since it first started three years ago.  Her first loan was for $100.  She used it to fertilize her 1 acre of potatoes.  The harvest that year was very good so she earned a $250 profit.  She used her profits to send her children to school.

The next year she borrowed $250 and expanded her fields to two acres of beans and potatoes.  In addition to buying fertilizer for her fields she also tried using a herbicide.  When the harvest was done she had earned a profit of $1,200.  She had gone from not being able to afford to send her children to school, to earning $1,200 in two years!  That year in addition to sending her children to school she bought a brick house, improved her farm and saved some money.

Last year she borrowed $300.  She used her loan to buy potato stock and fertilizer.  The harvest is OK but prices are down.  She thinks she will earn a profit of $500 or more, but she is not yet sure.

Next we spoke with Yairo Chuma, 33 and married with two young children.  Yairo has taken out two loans since joining the SACCOS.  His first loan was for $60.  He used this to buy fertilizer for his 1 acre of maize.  He harvested 6 bags of maize which he sold for $180, leaving him with just under $120 after repayment of his loan with interest.  He used his profit to increase his shares and increase his farm to two acres. 

His second loan was for $200, which he used for raising an acre of peas and one of potatoes.  His crop was very poor, and he earned only $100 selling his crops.  He used $90 of this to pay on his loan and used the remaining $10 to become a bean broker.  So far he has earned $175 trading beans, and he’s still working at it.  He thinks that he will make over $200.  With his profit from trading beans he paid the rest of his loan, bought two piglets to raise and sell, and bought another acre of land.  He hopes to borrow from the SACCOS again and will use the loan for bean trading.
Mwatasi lies in the low hills outside of Iringa

We went over to the pastor’s home for chai.  Venance and the others joined us after the meeting ended.   We thanked the pastor and headed down the road to Bomalang’ombe.  

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