Tuesday, October 24, 2017

We are done!

Our visits are done for another year.  It is always good to come and see our members.  It is also very instructive to go to the villages and see what everyone is doing. 

At the end of our visits I generally try to compile a few numbers that summarize what we have done.  So, here goes-

·         We traveled 2,460 miles in our visits this year.  (This is more than it seems since much of it was traveled at 30 mph over rutted roads.)

·        We met with over 1,000 members – about 40% of our SACCOS members here

·        We interviewed and took information on 55 members – a good cross section of our membership

·        We visited 26 of our villages (there are 40)

·        We learned that our SACCOS and AMCOS members are only overlapping about 50% - that is, on average only about half of the members of the AMCOS also belong to our SACCOS.  This is different than what we were expecting.  We had thought that the two memberships would overlap almost 100%.  It may change yet, but for now it seems that 50% is what we are seeing.

·        Using this number (ie-50% overlap) it seems that we are seriously underestimating our total membership.  Instead of the 15-16,000 people we thought were involved in one or the other or both; it is much closer to 20,000!

·        Based on our interviews we are finding that someone who has been a member of Iringa Hope for three or more years has seen their income rise from $300/year to over $1,000 (we estimate about $1,200).  This is over the average family income in Tanzania ($926/year according to the World Bank)

·        It looks like our members who received loans collectively earned $1,125,000 this year.  It also looks like 85% of our members belong to a Diocese of Iringa parish.  So, assuming they all tithe (we are told they do), the Diocese received almost $100,000 from our member’s profits this year!

Overall we can construct what a donation of loan funds to Iringa Hope is doing.  Based on our interviews and the Joint SACCOS audited report we have found that over a five-year period a $400 donation to Iringa Hope

·        Generates $3,980 in family income
o   This pays for 7 years of secondary education
o   This results in $398 in donations to DIRA
o   This either upgrades a home or pays for a brick house for the family

·        At the end of the five years
o   Iringa Hope now has $510 in loan capital due to the accumulated interest
o   The interest the member pays has paid for $180 in training programs
o   The member now has $150 in savings

WOW!  Our members never fail to impress us with what they will do if we just give them a chance.

Monday, October 23, 2017


The trip to Ugesa from Iringa town takes 2 hours, the first half on good, smooth pavement, and the last hour on a dirt road heading south. The road travels through pine forests and piles of sawdust.  This is lumber country. 

We remember this road as a deeply rutted, muddy wallow.  It was just a few years ago when we found ourselves driving through water past the floor boards, wondering if we would stall out and have to wade to high ground. But in October it is dry, the road has been completely regraded, and is in very good condition.

Yesterday our car developed a leak in the power steering and this morning we had an additional problem in that the hood latch broke so we couldn’t get the hood up.  Luckily our friend Enock Ugulumu from the University was willing to lend us his car.

Once we were on our way, Peter received a call from the chairman of the Ugesa SACCOS, wondering where we were and when we would be there. The members were already waiting for us.  This is really unusual since normally we are on time and everyone else is late. 

When we arrived at Ugesa the pastor and the SACCOS chairman greeted us.  The pastor served the Ihemi parish from 2011 until 2014, so we have worshiped with him several times.  The chairman and the treasurer are also familiar to us from many prior visits and from the training sessions. Looking around it also seems that we know many of the members here from our other visits.

We quickly had chai and then went into our meeting.  About 60 members have waited to see us, and stood and sang as we entered the church. This SACCOS is one of the better run and more active locations that we have.  They have steadily increased their capital and membership to where they now have 127 families.  (They have also started an AMCOS here – but it is only one week old.)

Last year they made loans to 89 people.  Once again they had a 100% on time and in full payment record.  They are expecting to make a $3,000 profit this year and they are asking for a $10,000 loan from the Joint SACCOS so they will be better able to meet the needs of their members.

We complemented them on their excellent work and their great track record, then turned the meeting over to Venance.  Today he is planning on talking about growing potatoes.  Potatoes are the main crop here and are relatively profitable if done correctly.  Venance wants to inform the members of some new strains of seed and how to better make use of fertilizer.

While Venance was doing this we went outside to talk with some members.  The first person we talked with is Judson Mgyekwa, the chairman of the recently formed AMCOS.  Judson is 35, married, and has 3 children.  He has been a member of the SACCOS since 2013 and has taken out about 10 loans. Many loans here are for 3-6 months so members often will take out two or more loans in a year. Thinking that after taking out so many loans it would be difficult and confusing trying to recall the details of his various loans, Sandy decided to take a different approach with him.

“Tell us how things were for you and your family before you joined the SACCOS,” she said.  “Before I joined the SACCOS we had no house, no farm, no real income.  We just barely got along.” He replied.

Judson explained that a friend had told him he should join the SACCOS-so he did.  He first took out a loan for $150 which he used to rent land and grow potatoes.  That year he earned $710.  They started a house, invested some of the money in a business, and saved some.  Since then he has continued to take out loans; using them to buy seed and fertilizer or invest in his lumber business.  Over the past four years he and his wife have completed a brick home in the country, bought a lot in town where they plan to build another 7-room brick home, bought the family a motorcycle, started and grown a lumber business, bought five acres of land, planting three with trees and two with potatoes.  This year he plans to borrow $550 to plant his crop and improve his lumber yard.  He tells us that between the lumber business, some trees, and his farm his family will have an income of $4-5,000.  He firmly believes that without the SACCOS they would probably still be just getting by.

Next Sandy talked to Anzetye Longo, a 52-year old widow with 6 children and 10 grandchildren.  She too has been a member of this SACCOS since 2013 and has taken out many loans.  Her first loan was for $75 which she used to buy some kangas (a type of cloth) in Iringa to resell here in Ugesa.  She did well at this and has since borrowed to increase her stock, gradually building up her business.  She now has a duka where she sells kangas, pots and pans, and general household goods.  She has bought some land and is starting to build herself a larger shop.  So far she has invested $1,500 of her profits in her business which continues to grow.  This year she will probably earn over $1,000 from her shop.

When Sandy asked her to tell us how her life has changed she paused a minute then said, “My life was not good.  We had no food.  My husband had no regular income.  The whole village knew that we were struggling.  It was bad.”  She went on to tell us, “I will never leave the SACCOS because the SACCOS has saved my life.”  She told us that her husband died two years ago, but her life has still improved because of the SACCOS. None of the five older children could afford to attend secondary school, but she has one child left in primary, whom she plans to send to secondary school. 

Both of these members’ lives have been profoundly changed by this SACCOS.  It is truly a privilege to meet them and hear their story

Following the interviews and class, we had lunch at the pastor’s.  Tom asked the pastor if the SACCOS had made any changes that he could see.  He told us there have been many, many changes.  In just the last three years, church offerings have increased 30-45%.  The SACCOS members’ incomes have gone up 60-70-80% or more and there are many new homes in the parish.  Many, many more children are going to secondary school.  He said he can’t imagine not having the SACCOS in Ugesa.

We are always impressed by the people here at Ugesa.  They are amazing examples of what can happen when someone gets a chance!

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Today we had an easy day – we are going to visit Ipogolo!  Ipogolo (also known as ipogoro) lies at the bottom of the hill from Iringa town.  It took us less than 20 minutes to drive there.

Since Ipogolo is a SACCOS that lies on the edge of town, many of the members are engaged in business pursuits or have “town jobs” in addition to their farm activities.  This means that a week-day meeting doesn’t work well, but unfortunately, Saturday meetings are not always good either, since most members will be at their shambas (farms) working. 

When we arrived at Ipogolo the SACCOS and AMCOS chairmen were waiting for us.  Ipogolo was the site of our first IDC building and was one of the first villages to have both a SACCOS and an AMCOS.  We went to the SACCOS office to collect some information.  The Ipogolo SACCOS now has 87 members and the AMCOS has 58.  There is only a 50% overlap between the membership so overall this location is now serving 116 families or about 740 people.  Last year the SACCOS borrowed $16,000 from the Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS.  Combining this with their own capital they made 48 loans.  Unfortunately, there was very little rainfall last year so the crops for some of the members were exceedingly poor.  As a result there are 12 members that have not repaid their loans in full.  The SACCOS officers and loan committee met with all of the people involved and are collecting most of the funds.  There are a few who remain troubled, but they are getting the village officials involved and are taking the right steps.

Tom saw some children from the school that Ipogolo runs.
As soon as they saw him and his camera they all came running.
When the chairman was asked why there was so much trouble with repayment this year he explained that the SACCOS decided to give all of the loans in terms of fertilizer, not cash.  As a result, many people did not diversify like they have other years (they often raise chickens, pigs, or do other things as well as farming).  Then, when the rains did not come, there was a group of members who got almost no crop.  Without other avenues of income they were really struggling.  In the future the SACCOS leaders will be emphasizing the importance of diversification.

We went next door to the AMCOS portion of the
IDC building.  Here they have stacked up some bags of maize which they are storing, waiting for prices to go up.  Unlike Nduli and a few other locations, there are only 70 or 100 bags here; not the 300 or so that we have found elsewhere.  The chairman explained that most of the members could not store maize here since they needed to sell right away to pay bills. Tom explained how the other IDCs are using the bags of maize to offset loans so the members do not have to sell to repay their loans.  The chairman seemed to like this approach and thought they would use it another year.

We kicked off our meeting with introductions.  There were very few members here today so Tom gave then a talk about how important it is to attend the meetings.  He suggested that they needed to take attendance and ensure that members are participating.  There are so few people here that we
interviewed two men today instead of the usual man and woman.

Venance was with us today and held his class on herbicide use.  We went over to the SACCOS office and began our interviews.  Sandy began by talking to Gideon Ndegela.

Gideon is 70 years old, married and the father of nine children and grandfather to 13.  He lives with his wife and three of his grandchildren who are going to school here in Iringa.  He belongs to both the SACCOS and the AMCOS and serves as the AMCOS chairman.  He recently borrowed $450 in fertilizer for his three acre farm.  He told us that he used to get at most 30 bags of maize.  This year he harvested 68 bags, and he would have done better had the rains come on time.  So far he has sold 20 bags but he is waiting to sell the rest when the prices rise.  He expects that when he has sold all of his bags he will have increased his income by $1,500, making his income from his farm about $3,000 this year.  So far he has used the income from the 20 bags to lay the foundation for a new home.  When he finishes selling his crop he plans to complete his house, pay school fees for his grandchildren, and save some more.

Gideon went off to get his picture taken and Sandy started talking to Batwel Kahemela.  Batwel is 52, married, and the father of six and grandfather of one.  There are five people living in his home.  Two of his children are now going to government secondary school and two are going to private schools.

When Batwel got his first loan from the SACCOS he was farming two acres.  He borrowed $200 and bought fertilizer for his fields.  It was a bad year that year, but still he harvested 30 bags of maize.  Prices were good, however, so he sold his crop for $1,500 giving him a $1,200 profit.  He started to build a five-room brick home for his family and added to his savings.

His second loan was for $300.  He bought more fertilizer to use on his two acres.  When he harvested his maize he got 45 bags!  Although his crop was larger the prices were much lower that year so he only earned a $1,150 profit.  He used this to send his children to school and to buy another acre of land.  He also increased his savings a little and finished his new house to the roof line.

Last year he borrowed $400 in fertilizer for his three acres of maize.  The weather at his farm was not good, but he managed to harvest 55 bags of maize.  He has sold 10 bags so far and is waiting to sell the rest when the price rises.  He thinks he will have earned a $1,700 profit when he is done selling his crop.  He plans to finish his house, pay school fees, and maybe save a little more.

When were leaving the children came over to see Sandy.  She counted with them
in English and then Swahili. 
When Venance had finished his class he told us that the members here are very interested in using herbicides on their fields next year.  They have seen others use them and realize it will help their yields, while saving on labor cost.  Gideon, the AMCOS chair, told us that he expects that this year
the AMCOS will be able to provide herbicides and seed in addition to fertilizer.

Friday, October 20, 2017


The fifth and final visit in Njombe was to Kidugala.  We hadn’t been to Kidugala before and were eager to see their SACCOS.  We have met and talked with their leaders at training sessions, but it is always good to go and see the village.

After breakfast and checking out of our hotel, we headed off to Kidugala.  Unlike yesterday, this morning was bright and shiny.  The road we took was dry, dusty, and rutted.  After about an hour of driving we were at Kidugala.

Kidugala is actually six villages that have grown up close to each other.  The total population here is

about 600 families or almost 4,000 people.  The SACCOS here has 133 members – so it touches almost 25% of the residents.  They also have an AMCOS here with 73 families in it.  Unlike most places where 60% of the AMCOS members are also in the SACCOS, at Kidugala only 10 members are also in the SACCOS.  This means that 193 families or about 1/3 of all the people living here belong to an Iringa Hope co-op!

As we pulled in we saw a large group of people sitting and waiting under a tree; this would be our meeting place. It was really a beautiful setting for the meeting. The chair of the SACCOS and the chair of the AMCOS came over to greet us.  They remembered us from last year’s training session and told us how glad they were that we made it to Kiduagla. 

Before the general meeting we met in the SACCOS office with the officers to go over a few records. The chairman of the SACCOS told us that the last crop here was very bad.  Many of the members who are farming barely broke even with their crops.   He assured us, however, that the farmers have taken the advice of Peter and Itiweni to diversify their incomes.  Most have chickens or pigs or trees or other things so they will still have

some income.  When asked what sort of profit he thought the members will make this year, the chairman told us that he estimates that it will be around $33,000.  In a better year they will earn $40,000 or more; but this year is bad so he has lowered his estimate $33,000.   Using a $15,000 loan from Iringa Hope they made 100 loans this year.  Next year they hope to borrow $20,000 or more from Iringa Hope.

The outdoor meeting got underway, introductions were made, and we asked for

volunteers to be interviewed. There are almost 60 members here today, but no one seemed very eager to volunteer.  After some coaxing by the chairman, we got our volunteers.

Gideon started giving his class and we went back to the SACCOS office for interviews. 

Atwitye Mbuduln was up first.  She is 60 years old and married with 6 children and two grandchildren.  She has her two grandchildren living with her so there are 3 in her household. Atwitye is a young looking 60-year old with hardly a wrinkle on her face.  She has beautiful features, but lack of dental care, something we take for granted, has left her with half of her teeth missing.

Atwitye has been a member of the SACCOS for 3 years.  The first loan she took was for $150.  She used this to buy fertilizer for her 1.5 acres of maize.  The crop was good that year so she harvested 10 extra-large bags.  With prices at $50 per bag she made a $350 profit.  She used her profit to buy 2 chickens and a pig.  She saved some money and used the rest to improve her household.

The next year she again borrowed $150.  She used it to buy fertilizer through the SACCOS (we sold Yara fertilizer through SACCOS last year) and another pig.  This year she only farmed 1 acre of maize and planted the other half acre in sunflowers.  The sunflowers did not do well, but the maize crop was 12 bags.  When asked why she got 12 bags from 1 acre this year and only 10 from 1.5 acres last year.  She told us that the fertilizer she bought from the SACCOS was good fertilizer and what she bought the previous year was not.  (This is a common problem.  Dealers tend to “cut” their fertilizer with worthless additives so they make more money.)  The prices were good that year so she earned about $400 from her crop.  She bought 5 more chickens and feed for her pigs.  Her pigs had piglets which she sold, and she is also selling eggs in the market.  It was hard to estimate her overall profit from the piglets, chickens, and maize – but as far as we could tell she earned about $1,100 that year.

Her third loan was for $150 again.  The rains were poor this year she is thinking that she will only get 5 bags of maize.  Prices are low as well so she thinks that she will only break even on her maize.  However, she has her ongoing egg business, and some more pigs to sell, so she will still be able to repay her loan and make a small profit.

Paulo Kasiani was our next “volunteer.”  Paulo is 37, married and has 2 children.  He has been a member of the SACCOS for two years.  Paulo tells us he used to be a conductor on the bus from Iringa to Zambia.  He earned about $100-120 per month but was gone most of the time.  He decided to quit this so he could be home with his family.  He had saved some money from his job and wanted to start his own transit service. 

He joined the SACCOS, put $600 in a savings account, and borrowed $1,800.  (This was the largest loan that the SACCOS gave.  We advise our leaders to keep their average loans to $500-600.)  He used his loan plus some of his savings to buy a used 10-passenger van and went into the transit business.

Paulo explained that he would pick up people in Kidugala at 6 AM and drive them into Njombe Town.  At noon his van would make the return trip.  He did not know how much profit he was making, but it was enough to repay his loan, build a new home, and increase his savings.

After the first year he decided he wanted to do trucking instead.  He went to the SACCOS but found that they would not do a large enough loan for him to buy a truck. So he decided that he would start a motorcycle taxi service instead.  He bought four motorcycles and hired drivers.  To diversify his earnings he also bought a wholesale beverage business.  The beverage business is doing well and he seems to like it.  He said that he is also making good money from the taxi service, but it has presented him with challenges he hadn’t anticipated. His drivers sometimes go drinking instead of working, and they sometimes drink and drive. Then, if they have accidents, it’s his responsibility. Still, based on the numbers he gave us, we estimate that he will earn over $2,800 this year after he repays his loan – and of course he will still have his motorcycles and shop.

The SACCOS officers served us lunch and we headed down the road to Iringa.  

At Kanikelele

We arrived at Kanikelele at about 3:00.  The people here had been waiting for us for the past two hours.  We had been working as fast as we could, but there were a lot of questions at our two prior meetings and travel on the rough roads is slow.  When we finally arrived we were greeted warmly.

This is the first time that Sandy and I have been to Kanikelele.  Of course, Peter has been here many times and we have read his reports and discussed his visits with him.  Seeing the village ourselves gives us a new perspective. 

The SACCOS here is called Ituli.  They have 111 members – 53 men, 54 women, and 3 smal
l groups.  They have added 70 new members over the past year and there are still 3 more waiting to get in.  They are a member of the Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS.  Last year they borrowed $13,000 from Iringa Hope.  Using this, together with the capital they already had, they made 80 loans totaling $20,000.  We were told by the SACCOS chairman that the members are very entrepreneurial and that they earned a lot this year. He thinks that they earned at least $60,000; maybe as much as $70,000 or $80,000.  This would mean that the members of this SACCOS earned over $1,000 each.

The pastor opened the meeting with a prayer and the chairman welcomed everyone and introduced the officers, board members, and visitors.  When he gave his greeting Tom once again emphasized how the members here own and operate everything about their SACCOS.  He also reminded them that as members of Iringa Hope they also owned the Joint SACCOS and its property, including the car we were driving. 

Gideon gave a class on the use of herbicides.  The people here are very interested in this topic because using herbicides means reducing their labor costs. 

Since this village has gone through three loan cycles, we held interviews with two of the members. The first of these was with Jane Nyagawa, 52 and married with 6 children and 2 grandchildren.  She and her husband have 11 people living in their home.  They are working together to support them all and to send 4 of the children to secondary school.

Before Jane joined Iringa Hope she and her husband were not able to farm using fertilizer.  As a result they could only grow 3 bags of maize (in Njombe they use extra-large bags).  They worked as day laborers wherever they could find work, and in that way they managed to feed their family and send their children to school, but they could never make a profit and never get ahead.

After joining the SACCOS Jan borrowed $250.  With this she bought fertilizer and hybrid seeds.  Her yield jumped from 3 bags to 13 bags of maize. At $45 per bag this is equal to an increase in income of $450. This was enough to feed everyone and have a little left to sell.  The family still worked day jobs, but now they had enough income from farming to feed the family, so their day labor went to school fees and to increase savings, plus they had a little left for other things.

Jane took out a second loan for $500.  She used this loan to buy a second acre of land along with fertilizer and seeds, and in addition she bought 15 chickens and a rooster.  She started selling eggs and raising chickens along with her farming.  Eventually she had 300 chickens, a steady egg business, and a good crop.  She didn’t know how much she earned that year, but the profits were very big. In an attempt to calculate her income, we learned that by the time she sold off 200 of her chickens, she had been selling 6-8 trays of 30 eggs a month, at $4 per tray.  Her 200 chickens sold for $5 per chicken, and her two acres of land produced 26 bags of maize, 13 of which were kept for food, and 13 were sold for $32 per each extra-large bag. Our rough estimate of her gross income was $1,550, so her net income was approximately $1,100 for that year. 

Her most recent loan was for $750.  She used some of it to buy a third acre.  She also bought seeds and fertilizer.  She has harvested 39 bags of maize which, at current prices, is worth $1,480.  She is also selling eggs from her remaining 100 laying hens.  Finally, she has started a wholesale fish business.  She told us that once every other week she goes to Njombe and buys $100 worth of fish.  She brings these to the village where she sells them for $200.  Between all of these activities Tom estimated that she and her family will earn over $1,900 this year. We were impressed by her entrepreneurial skill.

Next up was Gibson Kyelula.  Gibson is 69 and a widower with 4 children and 14 grandchildren.  His son died a few years ago so he has some of his children and grandchildren living with him, making 10 in his household.  He joined this SACCOS two years ago and has taken out two loans.

The first year after he joined he borrowed $100 from the SACCOS. He used this loan to fertilize his 1 acre of land and buy two pigs.  He also used the manure from the pigs on his fields.  That year he harvested 10 large bags of maize worth $450 – giving him a profit of $300 plus two pigs!  He sent two of his grandchildren to secondary school (the others are still in primary school), increased his savings, bought 2 acres of land to plant pine trees on, and one more acre to farm.

The second year he again borrowed $100 to farm his two acres of maize.  The crop looks good so he thinks he will get more than 20 large bags of maize – earning at least $1,000.  With his profits he will again send his grandchildren to secondary school.  He will also buy some seedlings and plant avocado trees on another acre of land.  In a few years his avocado trees should be producing enough fruit to earn $2,000 a year.  His pine trees will mature in eight to ten years and will be worth at least $30,000!  Tom points out that he and his family are on the way to being rich!  He smiles.

Sandy asked him what he would have done had he not joined the SACCOS.  “I would be dead.”  He said.  Tom wanted to know why he said this.  He explained that when he joined the SACCOS his son had just died and he had no money to work with.  He really believed that he would have just had to give all of his crop to his grandchildren and he would have died. 

This turned out to be a very long, busy day, with several hours spent on some very bumpy roads.  It was 7:00 before we got back to our hotel.   

Day two in Njombe Region - Ukalawa and Idamba

This morning we woke to a nice crisp and foggy dawn.  No, we are not back in Minnesota enjoying the fall; we are in Njombe where the morning temperature is about 49!  Today we visited three locations here in Njombe.  The first one is still getting organized, the second one has submitted their paperwork for registration, and the third has gone through two loan cycles.

We drove off into the mist at 7:30 sharp, stopping first to pick up Pastor Gabriel Nduye from the Njombe Center for Agricultural Development (CAD).  Pastor Nduye spent the day with us.

After picking up Pastor Nduye we headed for Ukalawa.  This is a new village for us.  The SACCOS here is just forming so Peter gave a class on how to organize your SACCOS. 

Arrivng at Ukalawa we found a group waiting for us.  This group is very excited to get their SACCOS going and it shows.  The group originally had 45 members, but when they started collecting entrance fees the number quickly dropped to 31; they were all here today.  There is always some attrition when people realize that Iringa Hope is not giving money away, and that membership has obligations as well as benefits.

We had an opening song and prayer.  There were introductions and then I got up to talk to the group.  Since this is a new group I decided to talk a little about why Iringa Hope is different than other groups.  I told them that Iringa Hope is different in many ways.  First, our members own everything – no one else owns anything. Second, our members make all of the decisions and are responsible for their SACCOS.  Third, we train our members and give them help and support. At one point I told them they would own the car I was in and asked them please to let me keep using it until I got back home. This was humor that actually passed the “translation test;” fortunately they allowed us to keep the car.
I always like giving candy to the
children.  This little girl had such a pretty

Peter gave a long class about what they need to do to finish forming and registering.  So far they have collected 1,080,000 TZS.  They need to complete some forms and collect 720,000 TZS more.  They told Peter they would have this done by November 30.  Peter will be back after they have accomplished it.  There were lots of questions and Peter spent almost two hours on his class. 

We went over to a small chai house for a break and then headed to Idamba – we were on a tight schedule today.  To get to Idamba we went back the way we had come, then took a right and continued down the rutted road.  It took us about an hour to make the drive.  As we went along the fog burned off and the view cleared.  It is truly a beautiful view up here in tea country.  The tea leaves are full and the colors are truly vibrant.
The fog lifted.  It is very pretty here in tea country.

We pulled into Idamba at one o’clock.  Once again, the group was waiting for us.  We went right into our meeting.  Idamba parish has a new pastor. He is very interested in having a SACCOS here.  He thinks it will help his parish and he wants to see the people prosper.

As the pastor talked to the gathering we took attendance.  There were 38 of the 52 members here, which we think was very good.  The pastor preached to the gathering about the need to be faithful and  work diligently.  Pastor Nduye tells us that there are NO financial institutions here or at Ukalawa.  They have no micro lenders, farm programs or NGOs.   The people living here are very anxious to get a SACCOS that can help them.
It was a tight fit but everyone was excited.

Once again, I talked to the group about how Iringa Hope is different than other SACCOS.  I always think that it is important that our new villages clearly understand our starting principles and appreciate what is expected of them as “owners and operators.”  Peter of course covers this in detail, but I like to start by emphasizing the overall ideas. There was laughter when I tell them that Peter works for them and please do not fire him! 

The class that Peter gave here was a little different than his earlier one.  This group has already collected 1,800,000 TZS and filled in their paperwork.  They have had their initial election and are waiting on the co-op office to take action.  Everyone here is hopeful that their registration will be completed by the end of next month.  We hope so, but we have no control over this.

We waited while Peter finished his instructions.  Once again there were a lot of questions.  The people here are anxious to get started.  As we wait I talked with the chairman of the group, with the translation help of Pastor Nduye.   The chairman wanted to know how they join Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS and what that means. He is also very interested in getting some help with marketing of crops, but I explained that marketing is done with an AMCOS, which will be the next step after the SACCOS has had a few successful loan cycles. The group served us lunch after Peter finished his class and we headed for  Kanikelele for our third meeting of the day!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On to Uhambule

Today we were off to the Njombe region to visit our locations there.  The Njombe SACCOS are being funded by the Western Iowa Synod (WIS) of the ELCA.  We currently have three locations for WIS and are opening a fourth.  We have been to Njombe before, but we have not visited all of these locations. 

The Njombe Region is adjacent to the Iringa Region, and is usually  a fairly smooth four-hour drive on the paved road heading southwest of Iringa Town. This summer, however, the road is under construction so we drove on dusty, rough diversions for much of the way. Uhambule is located another 30 minutes beyond the main road, again on a dry and dusty dirt road.

Uhambule is an old congregation.  It was started in 1943 by a German missionary.  It was perhaps the first Lutheran church in this area.  The parish itself has about 1,100 members with 600 or so at the main church.  The pastor here is new, having been ordained about a year ago.  He is very interested in learning about Iringa Hope and our work.

We arrived in Uhambule about 1 PM.  We were surprised at how hot it was (about 90).  We had
The chairman greeted Sandy.  We have not been here before
but we know the officers from training classes in Iringa.
checked the weather forecast for Njombe and found that the high was supposed to be about 63.  We learned that Uhambule is much lower than the city of Njombe and therefore much hotter.  The main crops here are maize and sunflowers, but they often have spotty rains and uneven yields.  The area today was very dry and windy.  The dust was blowing and it was hard to see very far.

The first thing we did was have tea with the officers.  The Uhambule SACCOS currently has 61 members.  It was just registered and started making loans with a 1-year term at 2.5% per month.  Their members all pay five- months’ worth of interest “upfront.”  This allows them to make more loans.  Tom suggested that they shorten their lengths to nine or ten months so they have time to collect their loans, do their book keeping and get ready for their next loan cycle.  They thought this might be a good idea.

Last year they borrowed $7,500 from Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS (IHJS).  Putting these funds together with their own savings, share sales, etc. they made 44 loans for a total of $13,000.  It looks like they will get 100% repayment this year so, after repaying Iringa Hope plus their expenses their SACCOS should add about $2,800 to their capital.  This year more of their members want loans so they are hoping to borrow $15,000 from the IHJS.

Following chai we went over to the meeting room to talk with our members.

There were about 34 people at our meeting – a good turnout for this size membership.  They
Today Gideon gave the lesson on agronomy.
introduced their board, their officers and committee members.  The Village government chair was at the meeting.  He is very interested in learning more about Iringa Hope.  Peter greeted the members on behalf of the Micro Finance Institute (MFI), then one by one we introduced ourselves.  Tom gave a short talk about how Iringa Hope belongs 100% to its members.  He went on to emphasize that they run their SACCOS and they make their own decisions.  There were a lot of smiles and proud faces here. 

Today Gideon, the MFI’s agronomy intern, gave the lesson.  Venance, our main agronomist, had to stay in Iringa to have his tooth pulled and needs to take a few days to recuperate.

As Gideon started his lesson we went next door to talk with Mynesta Lulenga, the assistant chair. 
Mynesta is 37, married and the mother of two.  Her oldest is just starting secondary school and her youngest is in primary school.  Mynesta farms 2 acres of maize.  Last year she borrowed $110 to fertilize her fields.  She told us that her fields did not get much rain this year so she only harvested 15 bags.  The prices here in Njombe are much lower than in Iringa, which, as you may recall are also quite low.  She will only get $15 a bag instead of the $25 in Iringa.  Still, there are tariffs and shipping costs to send her crop to Iringa so it is better to sell it here than send it elsewhere.  She is starting to sell her crop now, and thinks she may wind up with a profit of $120 or so.

Sandy asked her what the SACCOS meant for her and her family.  She told us that two years ago she could not plant at all.  Before that, she had only occasional harvests and never made much of a profit.  This year the $120 that she has earned will allow her to send her son to secondary school and pay her youngest son’s fees. 

She went on to tell us that she also thinks that she did not use enough fertilizer. This is a common problem.  People try to save money by using less fertilizer, not realizing that they lose more in yield than they save in fertilizer.  This coming year she plans to borrow $150 and use it all on her fields.  She has a great laugh and seems very happy. 

Elisha Mbeni was our next volunteer to be interviewed. He is 67 and married, with 7 children and 11 grandchildren. Elisha has 3 children in college, and he and his wife are helping them with their college fees.  Last year he borrowed $450 to farm his 5 acres of maize.  He too says that the rain he had was not good – but he still got 105 bags of maize.   He is selling his cop now and thinks he will have a $1,100 profit when he has paid all of his expenses.  He smiles as he tells us that he will be able to pay for all of his children’s expenses this year.  One of his children completed college, so he will have only two left to pay for.

How has Iringa Hope helped him?  He was able to buy all of his ag-inputs ahead of time, so he had them on hand when the rains came.  In a season of little rainfall, being able to plant at the most favorable time made a big difference in yield. 

Elisha thanked us for helping his family.  We told him that thanks are due to the people of the WIS.
When we went back to the meeting, Gideon was just finishing his class.  This is the first time we have seen Gideon present a class and he seems to connect well with the people in the class.  
Before we left everyone went outside for a picture.
The chairman asked us to be seated for the presentation of a gift.  Mynesta started beating a drum and the women started to dance and sing.  “Thanks for the SACCOS.  We will grow our SACCOS,” were the words that were repeated while they danced.  When the drumming stopped and the women brought us a gift of eggs and a special type of salt that is from here (it has minerals in it and is supposed to be good for your heart.).

We had lunch at the pastor’s house, then loaded up the car and went to our hotel in the town of Njombe.