Village Savings and Loan Association Brings Hope to Mary

Originally published on February 12, 2016.

Village Savings and Loan Association trainings have helped me improve my household economic status by cultivating the spirit of savings, which I never knew before.

Mary Chinthu (Livestock for Resilience Client)

Mary Chinthu became a widow and single mother in 2009 when her husband died suddenly from a short illness leaving her with three children and a baby on the way.  Missing the sole breadwinner of the family, Mary and her children went through a vicious cycle of poverty – going to sleep on empty stomachs and lacking nutritional benefits that come from dietary diversity.
Living in the Ntchisi District of Malawi, Mary’s family is susceptible to cyclical drought, inconsistent precipitation patterns and floods. Without resources, these realities made it difficult for Mary to have a reliable income. Despite these conditions, Mary never lost hope for a better life. She had a few chickens and goats on her small farm, a willingness to learn and the determination to provide for her family. With support from Malawi Livestock for Resilience (L4R), a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, Mary’s life took a turn for the better in 2015.

L4R is helping vulnerable communities to diversify their livelihoods and maintain productive assets. Part of this is development of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), which are groups of people who save together and take small loans to help mitigate risk and allow people to plan for household expenses. Mary and others in her community began participating in their local VSLA in 2015, shortly after L4R’s arrival. “They say the universe conspires to meet a burning need of a soul, well am a believer of that since Land O’Lakes came in our area,” says Mary.

Mary was able to afford the construction of housing for her goats by taking out a VSLA loan.
Prior to joining the VSLA, Mary participated in L4R trainings on the village savings and loan concept, business management, enterprise development and livestock husbandry practices. “VSLA trainings has helped me improve my household economic status by cultivating the spirit of savings, which I never knew before. As such, my household is now in a better position to withstand and mitigate shocks,” says Mary. She attributes her changed mindset and newfound vision to these concepts that Land O’ Lakes staff have taught to her through the L4R trainings.  

Mary is able to count a number of achievements since joining her group. She used her first VSLA loan for two small investments: constructing an improved animal house for her goats and starting up a petty trading business (selling basic households items i.e. matches, soap, cooking oil, etc.). “Through my trading profits, I  am able to feed my family three times a day, pay school fees for my son who is now finishing his secondary school, and am also able to save a little something for future use repay my loan,” says Mary.

After repaying the loan to her group, she managed to secure a second loan to set up a backyard garden, which is now producing enough vegetables to feed her family a more diverse diet. She then sells the surplus produce for additional income. Mary misses her husband every day, but she is proud that she has found a way to diversify her earnings and provide for her family. She continues to participate in the VSLA and saves her extra earnings for future business investments.

By helping people like Mary diversify their livelihoods in this harsh region of Malawi, L4R is strengthening communities’ resilience again external shocks and enabling them to enhance their productive potential.