A BETTER life for Alice

Self Help AfricaCase Studies, Cooperatives, Enterprise Development, Featured, Malawi, News

Alice Mtope and her husband began caring for her late brother’s children when they were orphaned.

It put a huge burden on her, a burden that she struggled to carry before she joined a village savings and loans group (VSLA) being supported by BETTER, a EU-backed multi-agency project that Self Help Africa coordinates in Malawi.

Nominated to be the VSLA coordinator in her village, Alice soon had 70 people involved in the group. She took a small loan herself, and used it to build a piggery and buy a breeding sow. Soon, she had five piglets that she could fatten and sell.

Trained in savings and loans group management and provided with business skills, Alice says that her activities have enabled her to provide better food for herself and her family. She has also started saving, so that she can afford to pay the kids school fees in the future.

Village Savings and Loans groups are a key component to the BETTER programme, which is providing rural poor communities with skills training in different farming practices, promotion of new crops, and other activities designed to help poor households to increase their farm production and their incomes.

“By promoting VSLA groups and helping people like Alice improve their livelihoods, we are helping families to accumulate assets and savings, so that they are better able to cope with future shocks that may occur,” explains Self Help Africa’s Ulemu Chiluzi.

In 2018, the project trained more than 400 village based ‘community agents’ to lead on the recruitment and delivery of village savings groups. Alice and the other agents received bicycles to help them with transport. By year-end the new VSL network had grown to over 4,000 members. In 2019 the project will recruit and train an additional 365 agents, but ultimately, aims to form more than 1,000 groups and bring more than 14,000 people into the savings and loans network – 80% of whom are women.