The farming village of Mtambula sits in the highland region of Iringa, Tanzania. There is a population of roughly 4,000 people, and like many places in East Africa, this is set to expand rapidly. At the time of writing, more than half of the community is school-aged.
In 2015, the Tanzanian Five Talents partner, Mama Bahati Foundation, identified Mtambula as an area for expansion. After a period of sensitisation, they started a Trust Group with just five members. The programme quickly attracted interest, and membership has spiked as the women begin to recommend the group to their friends and families. At the moment, average savings per person range from as little as Tsh 40,000 (about £12) to Tsh 100,000 (£30), which demonstrates the level of poverty in the area.
Elizabeth Sanga joined the group after being persuaded by her neighbour. When asked why she joined, Elizabeth simply says that she was easily converted “due to the transformation I observed in my neighbours.”
“Before I joined MBF group I suffered from a shortage of capital, [I was] out of stock and was about to close the business. Our village is so far from town that financial institutions feel reluctant to provide financial services. We used to borrow money from money lenders with higher interest rates. But now we thank God for MBF because now we can get a loan with a very affordable interest rate.”
Elizabeth is a 26-year-old mother of three and a savvy businesswoman. Her children Josephine, Bonifas, and Godfrey range from nine months to three years old, and when a member of the MBF team interviewed her, Elizabeth was also looking after her sister’s two children.
Elizabeth’s eldest child, Josephine, has just started primary school. Twenty-odd years ago, Elizabeth was doing the same, but unlike her mother, Josephine will progress well past primary school. Elizabeth said that she doesn’t “have plans for further education” but would rather “make sure” that her children receive higher education levels than she did.
“The main problem I faced before joining the group was a poor living standard; we only manage to get one meal a day… we had our business but all income earned was used to pay back the loan and interest from money lenders. After getting two weeks of pre-loan training I received my first loan in March 2015, It was Tsh 200,000 (£60) The loan was used to purchase stocks for my shop. I even remember what it was, 5 cartons of bar soap, 1bag of sugar, 1 bag of wheat flour, and other small retails stocks.”
After a few years of saving small amounts and taking business loans, the Trust Group has had a tangible impact on Elizabeth’s life. After one meeting, she ticks off on her hand the improvements, which range from the quality of her family’s diet - which now consists of more than two meals a day - to her abilities to pay for all school costs, like uniforms, books, and other school requirements. The improvements are not limited to her domestic situation, business is going well, and Elizabeth is looking to expand her operations:
“My plan in future is to be the wholesaler in our village, I want to be a supplier to all of the retail shops within Mtambula and the nearby villages.”
Special thanks to the MBF team for this interview and the accompanying photos.
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