Monday, October 16, 2017

On to Ihemi

The SACCOS at Ihemi was the first one started using the Iringa Hope constitution, training procedures, etc.  That was in 2008, two years before we started the Micro Finance Institute at the University.  Today Ihemi is one of the largest, and arguably one of the best run SACCOS in our network.  

The trees are in bloom along the way
back to Ihemi.
Ihemi is on our way back to Iringa, just south of the highway. We have been coming here since 2001 so we know many, of the people. With three funerals in the parish today, they would have liked to reschedule, but we had to stick with our schedule.

The SACCOS treasurer met us outside the SACOS office and invited us in to look at their records. Ihemi SACCOs now has 130 members – about 85% of whom belong to the Ihemi congregation.   They have made a profit every year since they started in 2008.  Their loan repayment rate is 100%.  Last year they borrowed $30,000 from the IHJS and, together with their capital, they made loans to 101 of their members.  Their average loan last year was $600.  Their average profit was $1,470.  A few other statistics that they provided are –
·        Their members used their profits to send over 320 children to school including 160 to secondary
The Ihemi SACCOS is located in
the building we built for a flour mill.
school, 40 to University or trade school.
·        Their members donated $11,600 to the church.  (This represents well over half of all donations in the parish)
·        Most of the members have now build brick homes with metal roofs.  This is a change from when the SACCOS was started; at that time almost all of the members lived in mud homes with thatched roofs.

Today the general meeting was held in the church since the meeting hall where we normally meet had been invaded by bees.  Along the way we stopped at a long building that was built by the Germans for a training center.  The Germans build this a number of years ago, then seemed to lose interest and never started the school.  Last year Tom had suggested that they re-purpose this building as an AMCOS warehouse.  Today the SACCOS officers wanted to show us that they had indeed “re-purposed” the building.  There are 148 sacks of maize in storage waiting for prices to go up.  They are planning on adding another hundred bags.  They have also started work on registering their AMCOS.


There were only 22 members who made it to the meeting.  Some of them plan to go to the funeral when the meeting is over.  (Funerals last a good part of the day here.)  Today we stayed at the class, so we got to hear (but not understand) Venance’s class. Members were attentive and many were taking a lot of notes.  When Venance invited questions, there were several, and much discussion by the group. When the class was over, Sandy and I were asked to address the members. 

Today our interviews were done after everyone else in the class had left.  The first member we talked to was Isaiah Sanga, 49, married with 4 children.  Since he has been a member here since 2008 Sandy decided to change her questions.  She asked him to tell her what his life was like BEFORE joining the SACCOS and what it was like now.  Here is what he told us –

“I started by saving $50 the first year.  I now have $300 in savings.  The changes are –

When I joined the SACCOS we lived in a three-room mud hut with a thatched roof. I now have a five room brick home with electricity and a metal roof. We used to eat ugali, beans, and vegetables; now we eat ugali, rice, vegetables, fruit, and have meat every week.  Then I farmed one acre, now I own and farm five acres and employ three men part time. My oldest child will be starting college, while my two middle children are in secondary and the youngest is in primary.  Without SACCOS I would have had a hard time paying for their school. Then I walked everywhere or rode a bicycle. Now I own a motorcycle."

He went on to say that his last loan was for $300.  He farmed potatoes and maize.  So far he has sold his potatoes and is storing his maize to sell later.  He expects that he will earn a $1,100 profit this year.

Sandy next talked with Happy Kyamba, 46 and married with 4 children and 4 orphans who are living with them.  She has been a member of the SACCOS since it began in 2008.  She told us that she and her husband originally saved $25.  Her first loan was for $100 which she used to open a door to door clothing business.  Since then she has taken out loans every year to build her business.  She covers a wide area selling clothes and sometimes her son transports her on the family motorcycle.  Soon he will be unable to help, however, because she will be sending him to the university.

Happy told us that she also has used her profits to build a house for her mother.  Her mother had been living in a two-room mud hut so she built her a four-room brick house.  Her plans for future profits include building a 12-room guest that she will be able to rent.

When our interviews were concluded we were invited to the pastor’s house for lunch.  One of the cooks and hostesses today was a friend’s daughter whom we have watched grow up.  She will soon be a first-year theology student at the University of Iringa.    

As we were leaving Mama Mbembe came to say how happy she was that we came.  She is the widow of the pastor who welcomed us here in 2001, and she has been greeting us each time we come to Ihemi.



  1. Once again good news and stories. Thanks.

  2. Absolutely amazing the good outcomes Iringa hope has produced!

  3. Thanks to Tom and Sandy's excellent and common sense economic development plan, Iringa Hope showcases how helping people help themselves is the key to self sustaining prosperity.
    “By giving the poor the power to help themselves, microcredit has offered them something far more valuable than a plate of food . . . security in its most fundamental form.” Jimmy Carter

    Well done good and faithful servants!