Reho Travel has a rich history of supporting positive change in Malawi for supporting an individual through university then operating rehope, a microfinance agency more
Everyone at Reho Travel understands what a privilege it is to work for a company and in an industry that provides us with unlimited opportunities for personal and career development. It is essential for our own advancement that we travel widely to gain the experience and it’s through seeing the world that we come to understand how lucky we all are.
In 2014 we partnered with Empower Projects, a grassroots for purpose organisation that ‘enables community self-reliance’. Empower Projects has a strong local team and a positive track record working at the grassroots. Together, are building the capacity of rural communities in Malawi to achieve their vision for self-reliance. To learn more about their grassroots approach, have a look at their website.
Mpamba – Nkhata Bay
Our main collaboration with Empower Projects centres on supporting the Mpamba region.
Mpamba is a community of 38 villages (approx. 10,000 people) that lies between the lake shore district of Nkhata-bay and the City of Mzuzu in the northern region of Malawi. As per Empower Projects’ findings through a baseline study, Mpamba has a low income economic profile with up to 90% of households living on less than US$2/day. This means that households often struggle to purchase basic household needs and pay for the education of their children.
A Lack of Capital for Business and Agriculture
Many villagers in Malawi have a strong desire to improve their livelihoods through the establishment of small businesses or the expansion of their agricultural activities. However this is often a great challenge as they lack the collateral to apply for loans from traditional banks and are often victims of predatory lending practices. Take Elizabeth Phiri from the Mpamba region for instance:
Elizabeth Phiri is a 32 year old married woman. Elizabeth and her husband have been farmers for a long time. One day after hearing about a certain microfinance institution on the radio, she went to Mzuzu, a nearby town, to find out more about getting a loan. She wanted a loan to start business- rearing chickens. Lucky enough she got the loan, a mere MK30, 000 (about US$90). She was told that the interest would be 30%. What she didn’t know was that she had to pay the loan with an interest of 30% per month for 6 months. Yes! That makes it 180% interest. Elizabeth is a disciplined woman. She struggled to pay the loan but with the help of her husband she settled it. Alas her business failed because she used all her income to repay the loan. Back to square one!
We are working with the Mpamba region to ensure that women like Elizabeth never face an ordeal like this.
This is why we are working in partnership with the Mpamba region to address financial inclusion in the area through the establishment of a savings and credit cooperative (SACCO). A SACCO is a financial cooperative regulated by the Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives which is in turn regulated by the Ministry of Trade in Malawi.
These financial cooperatives have been successfully established across a wide range of rural and urban contexts in Malawi and aligns with our collective mission to enable self-reliance. A SACCO enables communities to raise capital through shares in order to provide financial services such as business and agricultural loans. This cooperative structure means that it is community owned and operated with rigorous policies, procedures and reporting standards set by MUSCO.
Ethical banking for the people, by the people. Over the next 5 years, we will be supporting Empower Projects’ efforts to invest in the Mpamba SACCO . We will ensure that local community members have the financial literacy, management capacity and business acumen for it to thrive.
Thus far the response has been overwhelming! Over 300 community members in the region has registered as members to purchase shares and be eligible for loans from the bank. A range of training programs for management staff and entrepreneurs will be run before the SACCO opens for business in October 2015.