Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We are at Kihesa!

Yesterday we started our spring training session.  What a lot of energy!  Our training sessions have always gone well, this is our 4th year of them, but for some reason everyone is really pumped up this year.  There are about 105 people in attendance here and we expect some more to show up.  The rooms at Kihesa are getting too full and we will have to move next year, maybe to the University, but it would have to be at a slightly different time so classes were not in session. 

The attendees were split up according to the office they hold. There is a training session by the government auditor for the treasurer and loan committee chairs on how to keep correct books and records.  This group spread out and did practice sessions.  Each group had one of the members of the Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS board coaching them.  We made a run with Duma, the Iringa Hope treasurer, to get more forms and paperwork for the group.  There were lots of smiles as people got things right and lots of coaching when they didn’t.

The SACCOS chairmen and secretaries went off to a different room to talk about how to form an AMCOS.  We had been planning on forming 6 AMCOS this year but a grant from NAFAKA has changed this.  We now expect to form 20 or more this year.  This session was packed with people standing outside the room in the hallway to listen and take notes.  There was a lot of excitement.  If our AMCOS go as well as the SACCOS there will be a huge surge in our member villages this year.

Finally there was a class on the constitution and the various committees and groups that it requires.  This room was also packed.  This year we have a number of new SACCOS teams.  There are two new teams from Njombe and a few from the Kilolo and Iringa rural districts.  They were busy taking notes and listening intently.

Many of these leaders have been coming to these training sessions for several years now.  They have made friends with other leaders and are busy exchanging thoughts and ideas.  The new attendees seem to be mixing in well and meeting some of their cohorts.

Tom requested an opportunity to meet with the Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS (IHJS) board.  He wanted to talk with them about the coming changes.  By the end of this year the IHJS will be funding all of the activities here including the MFI employees and their work.  The IHJS will be making all of the decisions for the network including loan policies, interest rates, training requirements, etc.  This is a change for them, but one which they have known is coming.  We are very comfortable having them do this and they are looking forward to it as well.

We always serve chai, lunch, and afternoon tea at these meetings.  It is a time for everyone to visit, make calls, and talk over the sessions.  It is very satisfying to see how the leaders have grown together.  The new leaders seem to be comfortable and are making good connections.  We are very proud to be associated with this group of talented people!

Sandy greeted Malila.  Malila is the Kilolo Coop Officer.  We have known him for many years now.  He has been promoted to a district wide job.

The Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS chairman, Absalem, opened the session.  It is very impressive how he has taken charge since he was elected chairman.

When the meeting broke up into different sessions, the Treasurers and the chairs of the loan committees practiced filling out forms and booklets.

The session on how to start an AMCOS was absolutely full.  People stood outside in the hallway to listen.

Finally there was a class on the constitution and the various committees and groups that it requires.  This room was also packed. 

Lunch, chai, and tea were times to mix and talk about the lessons.

We took photos of all of the leaders from the SACCOS.  Tom made faces to get them to smile.  Most of then wound up laughing like this group.

Tom met with the IHJS board.  A very dedicated, talented group.

At the end of the day everyone was discussing the lessons and comparing notes.  We counted over 100 attendees today.  There will be a few more tomorrow - so maybe we will have 120 or so altogether?

Monday, March 16, 2015

An Iringa Hope Update

This morning we were at the University to give a report on what we have found during our village visits this year.  Every year we go to as many village locations as possible to check on what is happening at our SACCOS.  In prior years we have been able to make it to all of our locations.  But this year marks a turning point.  We have worked in a total of 42 villages, but we didn’t have time to visit all of them this time.  There are 37 nearing the point where they will be able to give loans, and 31 that should be registered soon .  Three of our SACCOS are in the Southern Diocese, which is in the Njombe region.  A visit to those three SACCOS would have required three days, which our schedule didn’t allow.  Our schedule allowed us to visit 27 of the SACCOS, but we made it to 25, due to a last minute conflict at Idete and Kidabaga.

Our meeting was held at Blomquist Hall, where we started out with chia so that we could “meet and greet” our guests.  This year there were about 40 people in attendance, including government officials, cooperative officers, NGOs, University officials, representatives of BKB and DIRA, and future suppliers (in this case for our new AMCOS).  This meeting was a good opportunity to let everyone know where we are at and where we are going. 

Our Director, Dean Enoch Ugulumu, gave an opening statement followed by Itiweni Luhwago, our senior coordinator, who introduced a number of the people present.  Then Tom stepped up to give a status update.  He covered a little about the background of Iringa Hope, how the Micro Finance Institute (MFI) came about, and what our status review was based on.  This year we visited with over 1,200 members; interviewed over 70 of our elected leaders, interviewed members, looked at loan documents, etc.  Our overall comments and estimates are based on these visits and the data we gathered.  You can see the entire presentation in PDF form here 

One thing that we announced at this meeting was that, starting this year, all of the costs of the Iringa Hope network and all of the management will be done by the members of the SACCOS.  This means that the Iringa Hope network is now 100% self-sustaining!  This is the 5th year of operation of the Iringa Hope sponsored MFI.  Among our 5 year goals were starting 30 SACCOS; forming a network from them; and getting the network to be self-sustaining, all of which have been reached.

Following the presentation Prof. Ugumulu welcomed questions from the audience.  The first question, “What is your biggest problem?” was easily answered.  Our biggest problem has always been, and continues to be, raising the necessary capital needed by our SACCOS’s.  We have over 600 families qualified and waiting for a loan.  That is 3,600 people who have made a good plan, saved their 1/3 of the loan value, gotten 2 friends to cosign their loans, and are waiting.  The hardest thing we have to do is tell these people that we will do the best we can and they will have to wait. 

A second question, “What is most rewarding?” was again easy to answer.   The most rewarding part of what we do is visiting with our members and hearing their stories of changed lives and improved living conditions.   A more specific question dealt with the occupations of the people who are getting loans.  “Will you be expanding to support fishermen, cattlemen and various other occupations?”  Our answer,  “We go where there is a group of people who can organize and are willing to do the work to form and run a SACCOS.  It just happens that most of our members are farmers, but we have supported fish farmers, and lumbermen, dairymen and egg producers, shop owners and bakers.”

The questions lasted almost an hour – it was great to have so many interested people at this meeting.  Enock closed the meeting by inviting a few members of the audience to give some brief statements.  One man in particular gave a very interesting statement.  He told us how proud he was that Iringa Hope was managed and supported by its Tanzanian members.  He thanked all of us for realizing that this is the way things should be and for working to make it happen. 

After the meeting broke up we had the opportunity to talk some more with the folks from USAID, Yara, and Syngenta.  USAID is the funding source for our recent grant.  Its representatives were very positive and wanted a copy of the presentation.  They told us to expect many more grants in the future if this one went well.  The Yara representative told Tom that he would be pushing as much as he could to get us the support we have asked for from Yara.  He also asked for a copy of the presentation so that he could send it to their headquarters in Dar Es Salaam.  He asked if we could meet with Yara representatives in Dar in two weeks, but unfortunately we will be gone by then.  The Syngenta representative listed for us all of the many things that they would like to do with us, such as giving courses, sending out samples, doing demonstrations, etc.  He promised that they too would have a good package for us to look at.

It is hard to know what might come of this meeting.  We think it serves a very good purpose in giving us an opportunity to let people know what we are doing and where we are at.  The questions were also very helpful in identifying things we should be thinking about or things we may have forgotten. 

Tomorrow our leader training sessions begin. 

We started off our meeting with chai - coffee, tea, mandazi, chapati, eggs, and samosas.

There were a little over 40 people attending the meeting.

People paid close attention to our presentation.  Everyone seemed very interested.

There were lots of good questions at the end of the meeting.  This gentleman rose to give a very eloquent speech.  "It makes me very proud that Iringa Hope is supported by its members and managed by the people here.  This is the way it should be."  He told us.

As things broke up Joan Mayers of USAID stopped to talk with Tom.

To see a PDF of the presentation, click here Status 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Mkimbize – On their way to give relief to Mtera

Today we went to Mkimbizi and then visited the local fertilizer company’s manager.  Mkimbizi is located right here in town.  We generally try to visit on a Saturday since most of the members are at work on the weekdays.  Even on Saturdays it is hard to have a meeting since many of the members go out of town to work on their farms. 

When we got to Mkimibzi we saw a group of people packing clothing into large bags.  Some members of the Mkimbizi parish were packing up clothing and food to take to Mtera.  Things at Mtera are never good, but this year is especially bad.  The crops have largely failed and many people are having a very hard time.  Some of the members of this SACCOS are among those who will be bringing aid to the area. 

Attendance at the meeting was low, as it often is on a Saturday.  Additionally, the group going to Mtera is eager to get started, as it will be a long bus ride.  We decided that it would be best to shorten the meeting.  Tom gave an abbreviated version of his usual talk about how Iringa Hope works. Being in town, most of the members have visited our offices and are already aware of much of the information.  We gave them their calendars and then  Peter gave a brief class. 

This SACCOS now has 82 members and they gave 87 loans last year (many are for 3 months so they can take 2 or 3 loans a year).  Their average loan was for 450,000 TZS (about $280) – with 100% of all loans being paid on time and in full.  Overall they made a profit of almost 4,000,000 TZs last year (about $2500).

Mkimbizi was one of the winners of the business plan competition last year.  They had planned to go into the concrete brick business.  When we visited them last year they had made a lot of bricks but they were having trouble selling them.

About the time they started making these bricks a lot of other folks decided to do the same thing.  As a result the market got flooded and what started out as a good idea turned into a marketing problem.  After trying to sell bricks at the going rate for a few months they decided to start lowering the price just to sell off their inventory.  As they lowered their price so did everyone else.  Finally they got to where they were selling very close to cost.  They did sell all of the bricks, but after accounting for all of their costs they only earned 23,800 TZS from 5,000,000 TZS in sales – not enough to bother with.  They have of course recovered their capital so they are now thinking about what else they might do.  One interesting side effect was that when they lowered the price so they could sell off their bricks they lowered the market price of bricks.  Even several months later the price remains low and shows no sign of increasing.

After leaving this meeting we went to meet with the local manager of Yara, the fertilizer company.  Yara  is currently the largest fertilizer company in this area.  They also make the best product.  We are interested in doing a deal with them so that our villages can buy their products in bulk for their members.  We also want the AMCOS (Farmer’s Coops) we are forming to get a good price from the company.

We met with the Yara manager at a restaurant in town.  We described what we are working on and what we want from Yara (good prices, credit for our SACCOS, free delivery, etc.).  He thinks that he can do some of what we ask but he will have to go to the headquarters to see about other things.  If we go ahead with Yara we will sell over 12,000 bags of fertilizer this year.  This will make us the 3rd or 4th largest customer in this area.  It will be interesting to see what Yara will offer.

When we got ot Mkimbizi the members were busy filling bags with clothes and food items.

The chairwoman explained that they were hurrying to get ready to take a bus to deliver aid to the village of Mtera.  Mtera is normally very poor but this year is especially bad since they had very poor crops.

Sandy gave the leaders calendars and pointed some things out.  Our calendars are very popular here.

Last year they went into the cement brick business.  Unfortunately several other people did the same thing.  In order to sell all of their bricks they dropped the price to just a little bit above their costs.  They sold all of their bricks, but the price of these bricks remains very low.

We headed to a restaurant to meet with the Yara fertilizer manager.

We had a good meeting with him.  We will be his 3rd largest customer in this region if we decide to go ahead and buy from him.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Then there was Bomalang'ombe

After our visit at Ng'ang'ange we headed further down the road to Bomalang'ombe.  Bomalang'ombe is the home village of Itiweni, our senior SACCOS Coordinator.  We had heard about this village before, but had never been there.  As we continued on our drive we again saw many scattered, small villages.  Many of these are built along the road, which often hugs the crest of the hills. 

Bomalang'ombe is very spread out.  About 6,000 people or approximately 1,000 families live here. However, right in the middle of the village, where the church is located, the buildings are so spread out along the ridge that we seem to be in the country.

When we got to the church, the pastor and about 40 of the new SACCOS members were waiting for us – so went into the church for our meeting.  The pastor welcomed us and introduced their SACCOS chair (he is technically not yet the chair because they aren't registered).  The chair introduced the other officers and we started our meeting.

Everyone here seems to be aware of the problems with government and privately owned SACCOS and wants to know why we are different.  Tom gave his talk on what makes Iringa Hope different and why our SACCOS succeed while others don’t.  After Sandy gave her Kiswahili greeting she asked “How many of you are related to Itiweni?”  Immediately the room was full of raised hands.  At least half of all of the people here are relatives of Itiweni.  The entire leadership of this SACCOS is related to her.

As the hands were raised we once again were reminded of how different it is here.  For one thing, in this country the women and the men still sit on separate sides of a meeting.  Sandy went back to take a shot of the room and it is almost comical.  All of the men are way off to one side while all of the women are way off to the other.  In addition, you never see a man and woman holding hands – but men hold hands with each other and women hold hands with each other.  There are so many similarities, but sometimes the differences jump out.

As Peter started to talk he asked a few questions.  One question he had for the group was regarding other lending groups that might be in Bomalang'ombe?  We were told that there are, but they charge 15% a month and only lend for 2-3 months, similar to our previous village visit.

Peter gave a class on shares, loans, interest and repayment to a very interested group.  They just started to organize last September, and then contacted Peter in January asking for assistance in getting set up.  They told us that they had heard about us from our program on radio Furaha and from Itiweni’s last visit.  Right now they have 45 members with 5 more working on joining.  They have collected 700,000 TZS so far, but they will need 5,000,000 TZS (about $3,000) in order to register. 

When we left the meeting it had started raining.  The members continued on meeting so they could make some plans on how to increase their capital.  We wish them great success!  

We went through many small villages that were spread along the roadside.

If you look carefully you can see how the villages follow the road along the ridges.

Bomalang'ombe is so spread out that even when you are in the village it seems more like the countryside.

There is a very pretty view of the city from the church.

There are 45 members of this group.  Most of them were here today.

When Sandy asked how many were relatives of Itiweni most of the hands went up.

All of the leaders are related to Itiweni.

This chubby little girl was so cute.  She kept peaking at us until we gave her some candy.  Then she made a mess - but her did not seem to mind.

It is interesting how the men always sit on one side and the women on the other side!

The chairman decided that they would make a plan to collect funds.  We left the meeting for a quick chai and then home.

It was raining as we left for the drive back to Iringa.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Today we are at Ng'ang'ange

When we first arrived in Iringa (it seems like a long, long time ago – but it has only been four weeks) we discovered that there were a few new villages that wanted us to come and talk with them.  One which was very eager to talk with us was Ng'ang'ange.  Ng'ang'ange lies in the highlands about a 2 hour drive from Iringa.  It is on the road to Bomalang'ombe, another new village for us.  So this morning we were off to visit both villages.  Professor Gilman Nyambi, from the University of Iringa accompanied us today.

The drive to Ng'ang'ange is very pretty.  The day started off clear and bright.  We headed towards Kilolo, a road we have been on several times recently.  We stopped in Kidabaga to ask directions, then noticed a sign right next to where we had stopped that pointed the way. 

Down another rutted, dirt road; past a number of small villages; over a few hills; past a few trucks (some of them stalled in the road); and finally up a hill on a walking path – and we were there.  It really is pretty here, but there were many people wanting to greet us, so we didn’t have much time to take in the views. 
The pastor, Nebu Mgugile, here is new here, having been assigned to this parish only 2 months ago.  He was ordained a few years ago and this is his second congregation.  He told us that he is very excited about having an Iringa Hope SACCOS here.  He was the treasurer at the SACCOS at Ipogolo when he was an evangelist there and saw what their SACCOS did for the members and the community.  His congregation here has an average income of about $400/year (just a little above average for this area) and he wants to see them have a chance at improving their futures.

The general meeting began shortly after our arrival and they were very anxious to get started.  There were over 50 people in attendance today and they were a very serious group.

We went through our introductions and explanations.  When Tom told the group that a generous donor has sent them 2,000,000 TZS to help them get started there was lots of applause and ululating.  He told them that it is up to them to raise 3,000,000 TZS (about $2,000) more to reach the required capital for register. 
Peter presented a class on how to organize their SACCOS and how to handle their money and their loans.  There were a lot of questions about interest and length of loans, and everyone wonders about where the money goes when they buy shares. 
We learned that there is a privately owned lending group in the village but loans are for very short periods and have an interest rate of 15% per month. 

The pastor then shared his experiences with the Iringa Hope SACCOS in Ipogolo and told them it is the best thing he has seen and that it is for everyone in their village, not only the Lutherans. 

Finally the Ward Executive came to the front of the room and spoke to the group.  He told everyone that he has been asking about Iringa Hope and has been told that it is the best program in the region.  He is planning on joining and is ready to put his money in.

We invited them to send 3 leaders for training at our session in a few weeks.  The meeting continued as we were leaving.  They were going to choose 3 leaders and start making a plans for how to raise the 3,000,000 TZS they need.

We left Ng'ang'ange and headed towards Bomalang'ombe.  We are confident that this group will work at raising their funds.  

We passed through many picturesque villages.

Then we turned onto a foot path for a drive up the hill.

Tom loved the scenery and started taking pictures while Sandy and Peter greeted people.

It is a truly beautiful view from up here.

The hills this time of year are very green and the huts blend in beautifully.

There was a large group gathered.  Currently the only option in town is a Catholic agency that charges 15% a month.  What?  That's right 15% a month.

Peter went thorough how to raise money and finish organizing.  We invited them to send 3 leaders to training later on this month.  (After we left the meeting they stayed to choose three leaders to go to training and make a plan to start raising funds.)

There were lots of questions about what happens to their savings and the interest they pay on loans.  Currently the Catholic group takes the money out of the village and no one here gets any benefit.  Everyone was very excited when we told them it all stayed here in their SACCOS which they own!

The Ward Executive is joining this group.  He told them that this is the best thing he has seen anywhere in his region.  He went on to tell them that they were foolish if they did not start raising money right now.  (He waived his fees and said he was ready to put money in.)

As we were leaving we waved good bye to the women working in the garden.  They had already made their pledges to help fund the SACCOS.

It was down the road to Bomalang'ombe.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

And the rains came (at Ifunda)

Yesterday, after we finished at Mgama, we went over to Ifunda, which meant a short drive back to the main highway and heading a little further southwest.  Ifunda is right off the highway, so no worries of bad roads getting there.  The sky was very dark and rain clouds were looming as we got there. 

Arriving at Ifunda we found that the members were just gathering.  We talked briefly with the chairman, who then opened the meeting.  Ifunda is a new SACCOS.  It was just starting when we visited them with their partner parish, House of Prayer, last year.  At that time they had 34 people in the group that wanted to get started.  Now they have 60 members, but they are not yet registered.  Peter explained that they have been very slow to get their paperwork done.  He thinks that it is due to concerns over the prior failed SACCOS here in town.  It has now been finished and is at the office of the co-op officer waiting to be registered.
We started the meeting with Tom’s remarks on Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS followed by Sandy’s talk.  Both Peter and Tom wore their new shirts given to them by Kitasengwa.  Peter joked that now no one could tell them apart (we think that they still can).  Peter gave a class on the basics of membership.  He explained their constitution, their rights, and their obligations.  As he was doing this the rains came.

At first it was a gentle rain.  Then it got harder and harder.  Pretty soon we really couldn’t hear anything.  The chairman asked if we should stop and wait, but the members wanted to keep talking.  There were only 23 of the members here but they were very focused on what Peter was saying.  He finished up about the time the rain quieted down, and asked for questions from the group.

Their biggest worry here is that Iringa Hope will be like the government SACCOS.  They were reassured that with Iringa Hope, everything belongs to the members.  Many people in Ifunda have been stung by a government SACCOS and a private SACCOS.  Both of these took in savings then folded up with everyone’s money.

Some of the members who had visited with other Iringa Hope SACCOS members started speaking up.  One woman began talking loudly.  We didn’t understand what she was saying, but she sounded angry!  Peter was laughing so we decided it couldn’t be too bad.  He explained that she was scolding the other members and asking them why it is that Ihemi and Mgama have managed to get a SACCOS and Ifunda hasn’t.  She said that this is the best thing to happen here in a long time and they need to get going NOW.  Peter went on to say that others in the group were also scolding the chairman, pastor, and others for being so slow.  They all want to have their SACCOS working as soon as possible.

Peter told us that he had been to Ifunda three times this last year and every time there were only two or three members meeting with him.  He said that there have been delays in getting things registered because they have been slow to do their paperwork. He smiled and said that the type of enthusiasm he saw at this meeting is what he has been looking for.  He thinks that the members are going to push and things will start happening now.  It will be good to see what has happened when we come next year.

Back down the road to the pavement.  Lots of foot traffic along the way.

Looking out from Ifunda it looks like rain.

There was lots of interest in Peter's explanations.

As it started to rain it got harder and harder to hear.

Tom and Peter wore their shirts from Kitasengwa.  Peter thought that people would have trouble telling them apart.  What do you think?

When it started to pour it got nearly impossible to hear.  But everyone wanted Peter to continue - so he did!

In order to be heard he had to walk into the aisle and everyone moved closer.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Off to Mgama

We drove back down the road towards Ugesa today.  We are not going as far however since we will stop in Mgama.  Mgama is an hour drive from Iringa.  It is a medium sized village of about 1,500 households.  Our meeting today is at the church.  Last year we met in a community building – but we were told that that building is not large enough anymore.

Our first stop was at the pastor’s house.  The chairman of the SACCOS was waiting to talk to us.  He knew that Tom would have questions for him.  He told us that last year they made over 80 loans to their members.  Since many of their loans go to buy fertilizer they voted to buy fertilizer in bulk and give it to their members directly instead of cash.  They told us that they did this for two reasons – first, they thought that they would get a better price and delivery schedule this way (they did, getting a 10% lower price and a timely delivery), and second they were afraid that some of the newer members might not buy fertilizer but spend some of their money instead.  When Tom asked how much profit they made on their loans the chairman hesitated a bit.  “We made a $400 profit for the year.”  “The year before you made fewer loans yet made a profit of over $2,000.  What happened?”

The chairman seemed a bit concerned, and then told us that the crop prices were so low that people were afraid that they would not be able to repay their loans.  There were over half of the members in this situation (remember what happened at Kitowo?  There was a similar problem here.)  So what did they do?  The chairman told us that they called a general meeting to discuss the problem.  They all voted to allow the loans to be stretched out as much as an additional 3 months with no penalty and lowered the interest rate from 2.5% per month to 1% per month.  And did everyone pay?  Yes he told us, after they voted for this plan everyone paid 100% on time and in full!  He seemed to think that we might not like this, but we thought this was another excellent example of how good local leadership can solve a bad problem.

When we went to the general meeting, the chairman apologized for the poor turnout (there were 38 members there), but there is another village meeting going on and he would like to end our meeting in time to join the village meeting.  Tom discussed the Joint SACCOS and Sandy gave her Swahili greeting.  As usual, Sandy got lots of laughs and applause while Tom got close attention, but no laughs, except when he makes an embarrassing blunder.  Peter then went over what Tom had told them.  He thinks that everyone understands it better if it is explained both Tom’s way and his way.  Afterwards there were lots of questions.   These members are very involved in their SACCOS.  The chairman has prepared a good report on the SACCOS. Everyone listened closely.

When he finished his report he gave us a long thank you.  He told us that there are many changes among the members; there are many more children in school and many new homes being built.  Despite this year’s poor prices, Mgama can tell that things are getting much better here.  The pastor told us that he sees many good things among the congregation.  Smiling, he also mentioned that the church offering plate has more in it than there used to be.

After the meeting Sandy interviewed Betty Mwikamalo, 46 and married with 5 chldren and 2 grandchildren.  Betty and her husband are supporting 4 people in their household.  She has borrowed three years in a row from the SACCOS.  She has borrowed $200, $200, and most recently $170 (She wanted to borrow $200 again, but their capital is being stretched by the increasing members so she got less this time).  She made very good profits on the first two loans, but this time she only made $100.  She explains that the prices for maize here are very low (about $14/bag while last year it was over $30/bag) so she barely broke even this year.  There has been a company here urging people to switch to beans and offering to pay big prices.  She is thinking of switching her crop all to beans.  Tom suggested that maybe she should think about having more diversity in her crops and plant both beans and maize.  It is dangerous to have only one crop.  What will she do if next year the bean prices crash because everyone switched to beans?

Next Sandy spoke with Aidan Kisinga.  Aidan is 48, married, and has 5 children and 3 grandchildren.  He currently supports 9 people – himself and his wife, 4 of his younger children, and 3 grandchildren.  He has been a member of this SACCOS for 2 years and has taken out two loans.  His first loan was for $100 to buy fertilizer for his maize.  He has paid his loan back from his tomato sales (he also grows tomatoes and sells them in a small shop), but he has decided to keep his maize.  He tells us that it costs him about $300/acre to plant maize and, at the current price, he will net about this amount from his crop.  He has decided to keep all of his maize to feed his family.  He also has sent some of the crop to his younger brother in Dar Es Salaam.  And what about next year?  He was one of the members that got fertilizer instead of cash (about $150 in fertilizer).  He has again planted maize but this year he thinks that he will get a good profit.  “Look at the SACCOS member’s crop,” he told us. “We received good fertilizer at the right time and at a good price.” Our plants are twice as tall as those who waited for the government to supply fertilizer. 

We left while the meeting was still in progress.  They were talking about increasing savings and the possibility of having the SACCOS buy fertilizer again.  We are very impressed by the way that these leaders have addressed the price problem.  This is another SACCOS that was faced with a large problem because of no market for their crops, and once again we found that they were able to find a creative way to help their members.

Mgama is about a 20 minute drive down the road to Ugesa.

We greeted some members as we went to have chai.

There were about 38 members here to meet us.  There is another village meeting going on today.

Sandy always gets lots of smiles and laughs when she greets everyone in Swahili.  Tom gets laughs when he makes blunders.

After the meeting Sandy interviewed Betty Mwikamalo, 46 and married with 5 chldren and 2 grandchildren.  Betty and her husband are supporting 4 people in their household.

Next Sandy spoke with Aidan Kisinga.  Aidan is 48, married, and has 5 children and 3 grandchildren.  He currently supports 9 people – himself and his wife, 4 of his younger children, and 3 grandchildren. 

As we got in the car Sandy took out her knitting.  Peter was interested in what she was making - it is a prayer shawl.