By CHEELO MULOONGO
WITH government’s emphasis on the unique role of small and medium scale enterprises in turning around the deteriorating economy, smallholder farmers in Mulobezi District in Southern province are contributing to this noble cause with the help of the Savings for Change initiative. This is an initiative by the Strengthening Climate Resilience of Agricultural Livelihoods in Agro-Ecological Regions I and II in Zambia (SCRALA) Project.
In this project component, smallholder farmers create groups where they save their own money, which they loan out to the membership. The creditors then return that money with interest after an agreed period. These groups then share out the accumulated money at the end of the saving cycle, which is usually nine months.
In an interview, some farmers indicated that this initiative opened up their minds in financial literacy and encouraged them to start enterprising. Those who were already enterprising noted that the initiative had helped them to grow their business.
Sepo group in Mulobezi Camp, Chabala Ntambwa of said that his poultry was not doing well until he joined the Savings Group from which he first got a loan of K600 to buy a 50kilogramme (kg) bag of chicken feed.
“I used this feed on my 200 chickens which gave me about 500 chicks. I then sold these chicks at K20 per chick after three weeks, which gave me around K10, 000,” he narrated.
Mr Ntambwa further said that he has continued to access credit from his group to upscale his business interests. As of August, Sepo Savings Group had saved K11, 975 from the time they started saving in February.
He has advised more people to consider forming and joining such groups so as for them to have access to cheaper credit and to enhance their knowledge on the benefits of saving.
“Before joining this group, I did not have the capacity to buy certified feed and properly take care of my chickens through purchase of vaccines. I am now able to do all these things. This is why I encourage more farmers to join such groups,” Mr Ntambwa said.
He said that when he makes chicken sales, he buys goats noting that since May, 2021, he has acquired 19 goats.
“My dream is to move on and become a big farmer and inspire a next generation of farmers that will think bigger,” he concluded.
Another farmer, who is a member of the Faith Savings group in Mulobezi Camp, Moto Sikabongo, noted that the credit he acquires from his Savings Group is helping him to grow his piggery and pig selling business.
“My business has been that of buying pigs locally and selling them in better markets such as Livingstone. I was just keeping a few pigs and after joining the Savings Group, I have increased the number of pigs I am keeping to 17 with three of those expecting,” he said.
Previously, Mr Sikabongo inability to provide feed for his pigs affected pig production and management. But after joining the Savings Group, he was able to borrow K300 on average per month to acquire feed for his pigs.
“My pigs are now healthy as they are no longer free range pigs. With the way things are going, I am likely to sell about 10 pigs by November and make more than K4,000,” Mr. Sikabongo said.
Another beneficiary, Gertrude Lungowe Mazala who saves with Tumelo Savings Group within Mulobezi Camp said that the group had helped her acquire credit to start a bed making business.
“With the business idea of bed making in mind, I firstly accessed K200 from the group which I used to buy planks for making three beds. After seeing the profit, I made, I went ahead and borrowed another K400 to make five beds, making a profit of over K1,600,” she explained.
Ms Mazala noted that from the profit that she made, she bought maize that she intends to resale in Mwandi District. She said that her aim was to make more profit so that she could buy cattle for draught power.
All these beneficiaries indicated that their increased incomes had enabled them to provide more for their families. They were able to take their children to school and provide better nutrition for their families.
Meanwhile, Mulobezi District Marketing Development Officer, Soneni Kafwamba Munsaka predicted that poverty is likely to significantly reduce in the district in the next three to five years due to the empowerment realised from Savings Groups.
“The District has 53 Savings Groups and there are amazing stories on how these groups are transforming the lives of members through the businesses that they are able to do due to ease of access to credit,” she noted.
Ms Munsaka said that other members of society have seen how Savings Group members’ lives are changing and they are now encouraged to join these groups, is a positive stride.
The SCRALA Project is funded under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Programme, with the Savings for Change aspect of the project being funded by the World Food Programme. The Ministry of Agriculture is the implementing partner for this project that is running in 16 Zambian Districts, including Mulobezi. -NAIS
By CHEELO MULOONGO