Assistance Project (Asap) is working with T/A Makata communities to cultivate a culture of saving and lending among people who have no access to banking despite living about 25 kilometres from the centre of the country’s commercial capital—Blantyre.
During the launch of the initiative last week, village heads and area development committee (ADC) leaders envisaged the establishment of village saving and lending groups boosting access to low-interest loans for small-scale businesses, gender equality and environmental conservation.
Makata ADC member Chrissie Yasin said: “Apart from low income levels in most households, most of us, rural dwellers, usually spend our earnings on useless things because banks are far away and concentrated in urban areas.
“The village banks will help women to start putting together their savings, lending each other funds for business and immediate needs as well as weaning themselves from men who sometimes turn violent because they feel we depend too much on their wallets.”
Funded by Swedish Organisation for Individual Relief (Soir), the savings and lending intervention targets about 700 people and train 10 agents in six cutaway clusters—group village heads Kadewere, Chilipa, Makata—who were nominated by the traditional leaders themselves.
“I am grateful for this creative initiative which will make our economic rights real. If people start saving part of their income, nothing can stop them from uplifting themselves from poverty and wanton spending. The lack of banking left us at the mercy of microfinance institutions and other lending institutions which impoverish us with high interest rates,” said Group Village Head Makata.
According to a 2008 Finscope study, 80 percent of Malawians, especially the rural poor who constitute a majority of the country’s population, have no access to brick-and-mortar banks.
Asap executive director Tusuwile Mwayighogha says apart from supporting government’s efforts towards making financial inclusion a reality, the group’s discussions will also zero in on practices which fuel gender-based violence in the area as well as how to stop charcoal making which have left several hills deforested.