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Local Loans in Malawi

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

At the end of last year, Canaan Gondwe, a SIA partner living in rural Malawi, gathered together forty-one other people to form the Manyamula Village Savings and Loans group (MAVISALO). They applied for and received a small grant from SIA to start a poultry house that would serve as the start-up capital for their loan fund. Members also bought member shares of about USD$6.50 each to join the group.

Since their start in 2010, MAVISALO has generated USD$950 from three rounds of broiler chickens and has given out 40 loans, totaling over USD$8,000. Their repayment rate is 98.8%.

Also, because the program is community-based, the interest generated from the loans (at the rate of 5% per month) goes back into the loan fund so that more people have the opportunity to borrow and expand their businesses. “Members of MAVISALO are able to save through shares given to their local-based institution and also they are able to access loans for their economic empowerment,” explains Gondwe.

Building Community

When I visited Manyamula this past July, I saw that MAVISALO was about more than just economic empowerment and loans. The whole group meets once a month to review their constitution and address any concerns. At these meetings, they work entirely through consensus agreement so that everyone is included in the discussion. Also, since they work together in the poultry house, sharing shifts to watch over the baby chicks, they are building a strong team where everyone contributes.

Hear testimonies from the members and encouragement from the leaders, in this video, featuring the MAVISALO group!

The Value of Local Leadership

As an outsider and a visitor, I know that I only got to see a presentation about the program, rather than live with that program. Indeed, since this was my first time to Malawi, I was learning about the culture as I was there. However, rather than be overwhelmed by my uncertainties, I surrendered to the experience and, in the end, came away so grateful for the local leadership of the project. I appreciated that SIA is built on trust of the local leadership, relying on their knowledge of the village context of business and credit.

During the visit, I built a stronger relationship with Canaan Gondwe and I came away so grateful for his leadership and community involvement. He is able to make this savings and loans group successful by adapting it to fit local realities, especially as the program continues to grow, expand, and face challenges. I also saw how much time and effort he was giving to the program. Before, I pushed aside his requests for funds to cover administrative costs, but now I am working with him to define the administrative responsibilities and explore how SIA and MAVISALO might adequately compensate him and others for their energy and expertise, so that the program can continue to thrive.

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