A team of Five Talents' trustees and supporters has just returned from an inspirational week visiting our partner in Tanzania, the Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF). Last Tuesday, they travelled to the village of Kaning'ombe, well over an hour from Iringa where MBF's office is based. MBF began a Centre in Kaning'ombe when it realised that some of the villagers had been walking 20km to join the nearest other MBF microfinance centre. That 20km walk reflects the demand we encountered everywhere for MBF's services, as well as the incredible hard work and spirit of our members who are so determined to access MBF's small loans, savings and business training so that they can secure a better future for their children.
Kaning'ombe village has just under 2,200 inhabitants, of whom over 800 are children and fewer than 500 are deemed fit to work. Many of these are women and have joined MBF to earn a small income. We met some wonderfully entrepreneurial women, such as Telkisia Soko.
It Starts With £20
Telkisia is now on her 6th loan from MBF. Her first loan was Tsh50,000 (around £20) then Tsh100,000, then Tsh200,000 and so on, gradually increasing to her current loan of Tsh350,000 (around £140). She used to sell second hand clothes but recently she has been investing her loans in her farm and now keeps a pig, a rabbit, ducks and turkeys, as well as growing mangos, cassava, guava, mushrooms, potatoes, maize and bamboo. Her bamboo trees yield 40l of juice a day which she sells in 2 20l cans at Tsh8000 each (a little over £3) in Iringa. There is one minibus each day passing through Kaning'ombe to Iringa. She puts the juice on the bus in the morning and collects the proceeds from the bus as it returns in the evening.
Telkisia has been able to send all her 4 children to school and with the profit from her expanded farm, she built a brick house with 2 rooms. She uses her former mud house for storage and her animals. She took a solar loan from MBF so that she has lighting in her house; around 70 MBF clients have taken solar loans and this means that their children can study in proper light in the evenings rather than using dangerous and ineffectual kerosene lamps. One of Telkisia's children wants to go to University and she is saving hard for this although she can't afford the fees yet. We're praying that, with MBF's help, she'll manage it.
The potential of microfinance to achieve intergenerational change - from a mud house to electric solar lighting, selling produce in town and sending a child to university - is hard to capture, especially as most impact studies only have a 3-5 year horizon. But meeting Telkisia, seeing her proudly standing in her brick home with its light bulb and 2 rooms and hearing her talk of her son who wants to go to university, made it completely real to us. It was a privilege to meet such an entrepreneurial lady and to see firsthand the hard realities of village life and how MBF is making a difference every day in the lives of over 5000 women, their children and their futures.
One of the saddest parts of our trip was hearing from women who had heard of MBF's popularity and joined a group, even if it meant walking from a different village for the meetings. Sadly our fundraising in the UK is not keeping pace with MBF's growth and some of these women had not yet been able to take their first loan. Please give generously to Five Talents so that we can make loans to more women like Telkisia. Your gift really can change their children's future. You can donate here.