From Kitowo Pommerini is another 20-minute drive down a red-orange dirt road. Our meeting was scheduled for 1:00 meeting but we didn’t arrive until after 1:30. This would hardly be noticed at many villages, but we know from experience that at Pommerini they would be early and waiting for us to arrive, and they didn’t disappoint.
When we arrived, the the chairman, secretary, and treasurer were waiting for us. We could see that the meeting room was full. The pastor invited us to come for chai first, but since the members were waiting, we thanked the Pastor and decided to hold the meeting first. It was a hard choice since breakfast had been a long time ago, and some hadn’t eaten at all, but meeting with the members was top priority.
The Pommerini SACCOS and AMCOS is quite large. There are 142 members in the two organizations, coming from 5 surrounding villages. There are also 20 more people hoping to join. The room we always meet in is small so they tell people that not all of them can attend at once. Today there are 48 people packed into a room that should really hold about 30.
Between the sales of shares, savings accounts, and a loan from Iringa Hope; this SACCOS was able to make $38,500 in loans last year. Still, with 142 members, it did not go around and many did not get their loans or got less than they requested. However, they are not complaining. In fact, they tell us over and over how happy they are with Iringa Hope.
The group here has immediately recognized Sandy and me. Although this is often the case, (we have been coming here for many years now), this group is especially vocal in their recognition. I reminded them that we are only visitors since they own and run everything in Iringa Hope. This always brings out smiles – there is a lot of pride at work here.
When Venance started his lesson Sandy, Itiweni, and I left for our interviews – always our favorite thing to do. First we met Marina Kisoma, a 62 year old widow with 7 children and 12 grandchildren. Marina was a public school teacher for 21 years, retiring recently. Her children are all gone but she has 4 neighborhood children living with her. She tells us that in her neighborhood there are many families that cannot feed and clothe their children so the neighbors take them in. She has taken in 4 that are in primary school. She farms 5 acres, growing maize and peas.
Her first loan was for $250. She used this to fertilize her fields, selling “fresh corn” from the fields (This is a young cob that is used for roasting and eating. It is sold at a premium price.) and keeping the rest to feed herself and her family. She had a pretty good year so she wound up making a $600 profit in addition to the maize she kept. She used her profits to send her youngest child to college, and paid school fees for the 4 neighborhood children.
Her second loan was for $500. That year she tried to grow some wheat along with her maize and peas. The wheat did very poorly while the maize was good. She earned a profit of only $400 but she kept much of the wheat crop along with maize for her family and donated 10 sacks of maize (worth about $250) to the school. That year her daughter had finished college, so she only had to pay for the 4 neighborhood children’s fees.
Her most recent loan was for $300. She took this loan out in the form of fertilizer “on credit” – something new we are offering members through our AMCOS. She planted maize, wheat, millet, and peas! We asked why she borrowed less this year so she explained that she had some fertilizer left from last year and she had gotten her seed free from another program. So far, her harvest is very good and she expects to earn $1,500 in profits. She said that she plans on saving some and donating some of her crop to the school. She said that one of the neighborhood children she supports is starting secondary school this year so she will need money for her fees as well as the 3 that are still in primary school. All in all a very impressive lady!
We then talked with Prosper Mushi, 40 and married with 4 children. Prosper has 3 children in primary school and 1 just entering secondary school at Pommerini.
Prosper told us he has taken out two loans since joining Iringa Hope. His first loan was for $200. He used the loan to buy fertilizer for the maize and peas he is growing on his 6 acre farm. That year the crop was OK but not good. He earned $110 from his fields. He saved $15 of this and used the rest to send his children to school.
He realized that he had not used enough fertilizer on his fields the prior year so this year he borrowed $380 to fertilize his crop. He said that his fields have not done as well as some so he is expecting that he will earn only $300 – just enough for his son to go to Pommerini Secondary School.
Tom suggested that Prosper should talk to Venance about his fields and what he might do to get a better crop. He seemed pleased to learn that Venance is available to help when he needs it.
It was almost 4 o’clock when we went with Duma, Peter, Gideon and Venance to the Pastor’s house for chai. When we got there we found Itiweni with a full plate, eating away. “I was so hungry that I thought I might faint,” she told us. We all had a delicious Tanzanian meal, said our “thank-yous” and left for home.
|The Jacaranda tree by the old church was in beautiful boom!|