Five Talents has been operating microfinance programmes in Tanzania since 2007. We provide financial infrastructure to areas which commercial banks cannot reach, allowing our clients to pool their savings into community funds which can then be loaned out to help establish or grow small businesses.
The Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF)
The Anglican Church of Tanzania (particularly the Diocese of Ruaha)
Group-based microfinance serving women only
THE STORY OF THE FIVE THOUSAND
Established in 2007, the Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF) now serves over 5,000 women across Iringa and Kilolo regions in the southern highlands of central Tanzania. Iringa is some 8 hours west of Dar es Salaam by road but many of the clients served by MBF live in remote, rural villages which are an hour or two from Iringa, often on very poor roads.
Because of the distances involved, the groups of women meet together in 'clusters' or 'Centres' numbering anywhere from 50 - 150 women or 10-30 cell groups. This enables our Loan and Training Officers to meet with the several groups of women at once to deliver training, make new loans and receive repayments.
This is a credit-led programme, which means that the loan capital fund lent to our women members is held by MBF, as a result of grants from Five Talents over the years. Repayment rates are very high so the loan capital fund recycles again and again as loans are repaid and lent out to new members. Uniquely, MBF also offers a voluntary savings product alongside its loans. This is particularly popular in rural areas where access to banks and safe places to save is almost impossible. As with all of our programmes, training for members and group leaders is key.
MBF has a team of Training and Loan Officers who travel each day from the office in Iringa town to meet with groups of women in their villages. Most microfinance programmes expect clients to come to their office in town but at Five Talents, we recognise that the poorest members can’t afford to travel to town to take a loan or deposit savings and that there often isn’t even any public transport in their remote villages. Because of this, the MBF officers travel to the villages themselves to make loans to women, collect savings and repayments, and deliver training.
MAMA BAHATI Foundation
MBF was founded by the former Archbishop of Tanzania, Donald Mtetemela, after he met a lady called Mama Bahati who was struggling to make a living selling bananas in Iringa. The extortionate interest rates she was forced to pay to buy the bananas wholesale on credit meant that making ends meet was nearly impossible. The Archbishop lent her a small sum at a much fairer rate of interest so that she was able to increase her profits, feed her family and repay the loan. Soon after this encounter, the Archbishop appealed to Five Talents, asking for support in establishing a microfinance project in Iringa, and MBF was born.
The Archbishop was keen to focus MBF's services on women who were typically even more marginalised in rural society than the men. Since the women typically bear responsibility for feeding, educating and caring for children, supporting women through microfinance means supporting the whole family. Enabling women to become financially literate income-earners can also empower them within the family and community. Of course, gender and empowerment are complex matters and microfinance is not the only answer, but MBF has plenty of evidence of women who say themselves that they feel more empowered now that they are running their own businesses successfully and able to support their families.
We're proud that the number of women taking up training and loans with MBF is increasing week by week as more people hear about our work. We began in urban and rural districts in Irgina but have now reached the more remote districts of Kilolo and Mufindi, opening a branch office in the latter last year so that we can serve the most remote communities better.
musoni mobile money
It can be risky for our staff to travel long distances to remote communities carrying cash to serve our members. Following the introduction of mobile money technology (in the form of our Musoni system), women are increasingly depositing savings, making loan repayments, and receiving their loans through their mobile phones.
The improvements in efficiency and reduction in the risk of cash handling are hard to overstress. All of our Training and Loans officers are now equipped with hand-held tablets which store the women’s savings and loans records. Prior to the introduction of Musoni, Trust Group meetings lasted several hours as small amounts of cash were counted and recorded manually, but meetings can now take place without the lengthy paper-based record-keeping processes
Find out more about Musoni here.
We come across powerful stories on a near daily basis, and whilst trends and big picture statistics are important, we also want to show you how your donations make a difference on an individual level.
Read all about Hamida, one of our earliest clients in Tanzania, by clicking on the image to the right.
As the table below shows, MBF has achieved impressive growth over the last 5 years. Because Five Talents was unable to provide the full amount of loan capital funding requested by MBF the growth in 2014 was slightly lower than that of 2013, but the overall trend remains strongly positive:
- Client numbers have almost trebled over 5 years
- The number of loans have increased 5-fold
- And the loan portfolio 6-fold
Furthermore, MBF has been operationally sustainable (able to cover all of its costs from the interest it charges on loans) since 2013 and its Portfolio at Risk 30+ has always been under 4%.
Five Talents UK has invested £412,721 in MBF since 2007, and during that period MBF has disbursed a total of £2.8 million in almost 30,000 small loans to 9,737 women in Iringa region. This is a massive return on investment. The average loan size overall is £105.
Five Talents' Future in Tanzania
Your donations to MBF helps to increase our Loan Capital Fund so that more women can take loans. Loans are often as little as £50 and the capital can be lent again and again, so it’s a very efficient way to give. The interest paid by our members on the loans help to fund the operating costs of MBF, which ensures long-term sustainability.
MBF is very successful in Iringa and faces massive demand – sadly, we sometimes have to turn women away because we do not have sufficient capital to give them a loan. This is painful; women members bring their friends to share the benefits but we don’t have the capacity to allow them to join. We urgently need more loan capital; please give if you can. We are currently also exploring a social impact bond that would allow our donors to make an investment in MBF’s loan capital fund, which could earn you a small rate of return. Please contact us for more information on this.
MBF has recently expanded, until now all of our programmes had been focused around Iringa, but our Morogoro branch is now open for business. It's an exciting time for our staff in Tanzania and the UK, but most importantly the generosity of our donors has already reached a further 500 women.