Empowering Youth through Village Savings and Loans Clubs

Articles
Taona in his maize field (CADECOM, 2020)

40% of Malawi’s population is aged 10 to 35 years old but lacks basic opportunities to develop their potential. Recognizing the Importance of the youth to the country’s development, there is need to empower and develop the youth of Malawi to reach their potential. A vast majority of youth living in marginalized communities has little or no access to financial services. Mzuzu Diocese CADECOM takes an initiative to empower the youth of Rumphi district, TA Chisovya in Lukali VDC.

CADECOM Mzuzu with support from Caritas Australia through A+ project conducted trainings on Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs). The youth of Lukali and Chisyemba VDCS in Rumphi district were trained on how they can set up and maximize VSLAs to improve their financial stability. This initiative focuses on achieving sustainable income development of marginalized communities with main focus on the youth. During the training the youth were provided with guidelines on how to set up an effective VSLA and materials such as handbooks to help them in setting and operating their VSLAS. One of the participating youth clubs was Khomawekha Youth club from Lukali.

Taona Mhango born in 1992 from Lukali, village headman Mkoweka is a member of Khomawekha youth club. The youth club has 22 members; 13{1} males and 8{0} females. He is one of the members that have greatly benefited from the VSLA that is being operated among the youth club members. Taona is married and has two kids whom he failed to support as a result of being financially incapable. He owns 2.2 acres of land where he mostly grows maize. Before the project, Taona always had poor harvests due to inability of funds to purchase fertilizer which led to low crop production hence contributing to food insecurity in his household. With no stable source of income, Taona’s household could not afford to purchase food and other basic needs such as clothes and children’s school necessities.

After being trained on VSLAs, Taona and his fellow members of Khomawekha youth club set up a VSLA which had maximum shares of 2.2 million Kwacha ($2,983.05) at the end of their first year. Taona had a share of two hundred and seventy-five thousand MK275,000 ($372.88) which he used to purchase 4 bags of fertilizer and iron sheets for his house. He explains “before joining the VSLA of our youth club, I did not have means of buying fertilizer for my maize field or iron sheets for my grass thatched house nor sending my kids to school. VSLA has taught me the act and benefits of saving and has bared me fruits as this year I have been able to purchase fertilizer and buy iron sheets and school uniforms for my two kids. I would also get loans in between the shares which helped sustain my Irish potato business which acts as a source of income for my family all year round”.

Khomawekha youth club involves both males and females; Eliza Ngwira is one of the females who has benefitted from Khomawekha Youth club. Eliza is 24 years and has a three-year-old child. She is a single mother still living with her parents. Before joining Khomawekha youth club, Eliza had problems taking care of her child as she solely depended on her parents for both her basic needs and that of her child. She was impregnated when she was in form four and this contributed to her poor results in the Malawi School Leaving Certificate exams (MSCE). Since her child was born, her parents provided for all the child’s needs hence did not have enough

Eliza in her maize field (CADECOM, 2020)

money to send her back to school. When Eliza heard about Khomawekha Youth club and its deeds, she decided to join. She says ‘Joining Khomawekha youth club was the best thing I did for myself. Being among my fellow youth has helped me hope and plan for a brighter future. I also joined the VSLA and just last year I leaped a sum of MK147,000 ($199.32) from my shares. This money helped me buy maize seeds, groundnut seeds and 4 bags of fertilizer’. Eliza has grown maize on one acre of land and groundnuts about half an acre. She plans to sell the yield from groundnuts so as to source funds for her school fees. Eliza explains that she has access to loans in between her shares that have enabled her to buy 2 goats. ‘I can see myself going back to school and being able to have enough food for my child thanks to Khomawekha Youth club VSLA and CADECOM for their trainings and support’ Eliza says in her remarks.

Eliza in her groundnut field (CADECOM, 2020)

Khomawekha youth club VSLA also has a component of social welfare which aims at supporting vulnerable groups in Lukali VDC. The group members share a minimum of K200 ($0.27) fare every week which is channeled to their social welfare activities. Their last year’s welfare shares amounted to MK195,000 ($264.41) and part of this money was used to purchase school uniforms, books and pens for six vulnerable children; three boys and three girls.

When asked about their vision, Khomawekha youth club plans to venture into soya biscuit production come 2021 using the Soya they have produced this year. Chimwemwe Mzumara, treasure of Khomawekha youth club further explains about their future plans, ‘using the Strength Based approach that we have learnt from CADECOM through the A+ project we have realized we can use water from south Rukuru river that is close to our village to engage into irrigation farming and currently we have grown Soya about one acre. we do not plan to sell our produce to vendors but make Soya biscuits as one way of sourcing funds for sustainability of our club and practicing value addition techniques. We believe we can change our lives for the better and also help develop our community all thanks to Caritas Australia for the help they have rendered to us through the A+ project’.

 


Prepared by; Tereza W. Ng’ambi