By Gloria J.
Since its conception in 2010, Manyamula Community Savings and Investment Promotion (COMSIP), in partnership with Spirit In Action (SIA), has made significant strides in changing the lives of its community members in Malawi. This project has encouraged members to expand and explore crop cultivation practices, making it simpler and more economical for farmers. There have been plenty of positive impacts through farming and business projects supported by SIA.
Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative members sing welcome in 2019.
Economic Empowerment and Training
The introduction of various businesses among members and loan programs have been the steppingstones in ensuring economic empowerment among members. With these loans, low-income earners have been able to get capital to open their businesses. Proceeds have enabled them to build houses, pay school fees and manage medical bills. This has encouraged and sustained financial independence.
Members and non-members have been able to profit through educational programs rolled out by COMSIP that have covered financial literacy, poultry management, farming as a business, and business management. The community, through this, has broadened its scope of thinking. By training on nutritional health and practices, the people’s health has also improved. Low-interest loans have been made accessible to the members to help by ensuring they have enough money for food and medical bills.
We cannot say all this without highlighting the direct impact the cooperative and its efforts have had on its members. One of the stars of COMSIP is Mestina Tembo, who joined the cooperative at its inception. She is the co-breadwinner in her household and got a loan to start her Mandazi (fried dough) business to support her family. Mestina has been able to be food secure and earn a profit that has, in turn, improved her farm input and built a house. She has also been able to pay school fees for her son and improve her living standards.
Julius and Mestina in front of the home they constructed with income from their business. Manyamula, Malawi, 2014.
Christopher Nkosi is another star and successful graduate of the cooperative. When Christopher joined in 2011, he already had a small business but required a boost to expand. He was able to get loans over time that helped grow and improve his business. Now Christopher is a landlord and a successful businessman. He has been able to build and rent houses and buy a car. Since his establishment has become self-sufficient, he no longer gets loans, but he still holds his shares as savings with the cooperative.
Christopher in his shop in the market. He has been a co-op member since 2010. “I run a shop and a souvenir shop; it is the best shop in Manyamula,” Christopher told me in 2017. “I was a beggar; I’ve built a couple of houses now. I am stable now.”
The Oil Press project for the community by COMSIP and SIA is a highly anticipated development. The cooperative has acquired an oil press machine to produce vegetable oil. The projected impact includes employment opportunities, reduced malnutrition, increased money circulation, improved soil structure, and reduced money-related violence.
Social service organizations in the area will also positively impact the genesis of the Oil Press project. The Farmers Association and seed companies will experience a steady market for oil crops, increased customer base, and high-yielding varieties. Retail traders will get a local supply of oil and its by-products which would be much cheaper and reach customers from the cooperative. With the collection of cooking oil, there would be an enriched diet in homes to help improve and bridge the gap in malnutrition. The Electrical Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), which supplies electricity, would get a new customer and profit from providing power.
In conclusion, alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. That is the perfect statement to describe what we are currently seeing in Manyamula.