The Village Savings and Loans Group – Kwatukumbuchire’s community bank – exists to empower people financially to take charge of their lives. Members are able to buy shares priced at 100 Malawian kwacha (MK) for 1 and borrow money which has to be repaid at 20% interest. After 6 months, the money is distributed amongst the members in proportion to the amount of shares bought. Those who have invested more, receive a larger return. Records are kept in each member’s share books.
We observed that VSL’s principles are openness and accountability - the manner in which money is counted in front of all members, the accuracy in which records are kept and the safe being kept separate from the keys to the safe. Gilbert mentioned that there have been some administration hiccups but for a system which has only been running for 4 months, VSL provides a stepping stone for those who want to start or develop their businesses, like Emily Ntalika aged 45. The money that she borrowed two weeks ago was used to help her establish her shop which stocks nuts, oil etc.
The group also have a Social Fund – all members are to contribute 20 MK which is used for members or their relatives who have fallen ill.
However receiving a loan is not a magic solution and sometimes there can be clashes between personal business and volunteering activities, like for Alice Thuthukwa aged 46. She took out a loan to start a business of selling fish but due to her volunteering commitments at Kwatukumbuchire’s Community Based Child Care Centre she does not have enough time to concentrate on the growth of her business.
The purpose of the village savings and loans is simple – providing the community with a means of investing their money and sustaining their businesses, thereby empowering people and causing a ‘paradigm shift’ from being from being ‘victims to victors’ – fulfilling Kwatukumbuchire’s mission.
Barbara Eze writes for ICS volunteers Liwonde Lions.
ICS volunteer Aimee interviewing Alice Thuthukwa at a Village Savings & Loans meeting on Saturday 22nd October.