Sunday, May 19, 2013

You're invited to our Garden Party - Sunday, July 7 at 2-5 PM.  There will be a Tanzanian church service by the lake at 2-3 followed by tea and mandazis, live music, beer and wine, and ice cream.  Take a look at the poster for more information!  The address for the day is 18641 Knollwood Circle, Lakeville, MN.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The SACCOS Training Session Concludes

Today is Saturday.  That means that our training program is now over for this spring.  In all we counted 75 participants in the program.  There were many compliments to the teaching staff.  The sessions covered a large amount of information and included group exercises, presentations, and review sessions.  The main topics were:

Developing and using your constitution
Preparing and evaluating financial proposals
Managing a SACCOS office
Legal aspects of a SACCOS

Tom gave a talk about what our goals were for the coming year, things to work on and watch out for, suggestions for making your SACCOS work better, and how we are doing.  Sandy gave a greeting and told several sayings that relate to SACCOS in Swahili – Sandy got more applause.

As a last item Malila had the leaders make a schedule with him to come to their villages to work on their registrations.  Malila, you may recall, is the Kilolo District Co-op Officer, soon to be promoted.  He has been especially helpful.  One of our big problems in registering has been the co-op officers who seem to not be aware of the legal requirements!  They often want our SACCOS to comply with laws that are way out of date and have been repealed.  Malila has promised that he will hold a general meeting of all the co-op officers in the Iringa Region and make sure they are all up to date.  He will also make them all aware of the Iringa Hope network and will try to get us an expedited registration system.  By the end of the year we expect to be over half of all of the registered SACCOS in this region.

Overall we had 26 villages represented at our meeting.  The people came from as far away as Kivalamo (a full day’s trip walking and taking the bus) and Ipolamwa (almost a full day) and as close as Mkimbizi (a short bus trip).  They traded ideas, held discussion groups into the night, and generally seemed to enjoy the time they spent.

It has been exciting for us to watch the new SACCOS take their first steps, and we feel pride for those established SACCOS who are growing and prospering. We wish them success as they continue their work to improve the lives of the people in their communities.  

Our Last Day At Kihesa.

Even Itiweni took notes today.

We handed out more paperwork.

Sandy got a lot of applause.

Our Leaders.

Our Leaders.

Our Leaders.

Our Leaders.

Our Leaders.

Our Leaders.

The Wasa Leaders.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kihesa Training Day Two

This morning we went over to the Kihesa training session.  The classes started 8:00, but we arrived at 10:00 in order to greet people over chai.  We met a number who we hadn't seen yesterday.  Today there were over 70 people in the classes.  Attendance is always higher on day two so Itiweni schedules things accordingly.

Peter and Margaret had been there bright and early to help organize the sessions for the day.  Today the group was split into two parts – those who have been to training before and those who are new this year.  The new section was the largest with about 50 or so attendees.  The other section had about 25 or so.  Overall a great turn out.

The returning session had given our instructor a list of questions they wanted answered.  It was a long list with lots of good questions.  When we arrived at the class there was a discussion going between the chairman of Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS, the Ilulu Coop officer, and an Ihemi officer.  We didn't understand the discussion, but it was good to see how involved everyone was in the class.

The group upstairs was also busy working.  They were getting the basics of the organization and record keeping.  Here too, there were many questions and lots of discussion.

After chai Tom went to “say a few words to the groups.”  Sandy thought that these turned into “many, many, many words.”  Well, maybe so.  This was our chance to make sure that everyone was “on the same page” for the year.  Tom covered some things that we had seen done that were not right.  He congratulated them on their excellent work the prior year and highlighted the Nyanzwa officers for collecting 80% of the money owed.  Then he told them a few things to work on (”You need to grow your membership.”  “We need to service loans below 800,000 Tsh ($500) first so we can help the most members.”  “You need to encourage your members to save by making it easy to do.” and so on.)  Finally he told them a few of the results from our visits and invited them to come to the MFI office to see the entire report and our budget for this year.

Following this we went out to wait for lunch and see if there was anything we needed to do.  It was an overcast day so as we sat we started to doze off.  Tom was the first to fall asleep and Sandy soon followed.  As it approached two o’clock it started to rain.  Soon it was really pouring.  Lunch was served and everyone mingled.  Some of the people came over and told us how much they enjoyed coming here and how much they were learning.  We were very happy to hear this.

After lunch we took off to do a few errands and get ready for our radio show.  Tonight is the last of our broadcasts for this year and we have been told by many people they will be listening.  Tom hopes to spend the night talking about the Iringa Hope organization and what we found during our visits.

Our SACCOS team has enjoyed watching our attempts to learn Kiswahili.  They are especially amused by Tom's efforts.  Today he confused one of the classes by greeting them with a hearty "kwa heri", (Kiswahili for "good-bye").  He had intended to use the traditional Hehe greeting "kamwene".  When this was sorted out the class had a good laugh.  

We greeted people during chai.

There were two sessions this morning.  The session for new leaders had about 50 members.

The session for returning leaders had about 25 members.  When we got there the Iringa Hope chairman, the Ilulu Coop Officer, and an Ihemi officer were talking.

It was overcast and we dozed off.  Tom fell asleep first, but he also woke up first!

At lunch time everyone mingled.

We had a good lunch.

Many members stopped by to say how much they enjoyed the sessions.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Training Begins At Kihesa

Today we started our training session at Kihesa.  We hold these sessions twice a year for the leadership of the SACCOS.  The sessions last four days with the first and last day being somewhat shorter than the middle two.  This year we are expecting up to 95 people at our March session. 
The day starts with chai followed by opening statements and greetings.  There were about 50 at this opening.  

Tom gave a greeting followed by Sandy and Itiweni.  Itiweni then spent some time explaining to everyone the relationship between Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS and their SACCOS (The Joint SACCOS is like a central bank while their SACCOS is a local branch bank.), the role of the Micro Finance Institute (It is where they go for help, advice, and training.), and the Co-op Office (It is the government agency where they have to register and submit their finances.).  She made sure everyone is aware of how to get help, how to schedule training and village seminars, and how to report problems before they become big.

The main session today is being given by Malila – the Kilolo District Co-op officer who will soon be promoted to regional officer, and a representative from the Iringa District Cooperative Office.  They talk about the basic laws governing co-ops, what the officers' responsibilities are, etc.  Soon everyone is taking notes and asking questions.  “Can two SACCOS have the same name?”  (No.)  “How long are loans?”  (That is up to your constitution and your members – up to a year for us.)  “What is kiingilio?  (A nonrefundable entrance fee to cover paperwork, etc.)  “What are hisa?”  (Shares in the SACCOS – everyone must own at least one, no one can own more than a few percent.), and so on.

Soon the children were wandering around and getting restless.  Sandy took some over to the Kihesa library for story time.  One little girl helped her little brother who was afraid of us wazungus.  Tom tried to say “hi” – but he cried every time he looked at him.

Back in the lecture room there were mamas feeding their children, some were nursing, and others had children that seemed to be content to just look around a bit.  It is good to see so many women leaders (We tell everyone that each SACCOS must have at least one woman holding an office– and we have never had a problem with this.)  It is also good to see so many children here – especially when everyone seems to include them in our meetings.

We found time to visit with some of the leaders.  We met all of them earlier this year during our village visits. Even those who know very little English find a way to visit.  Itiweni wound up spending much of the day on the phone.  There are some leaders stuck with their buses broken down.  There have been some deaths among leader’s families.  Some people wound up at the University instead of at Kihesa.  In the end Itiweni got it all sorted out.

The leaders from one village came with a problem.  They have been getting their SACCOS started since we visited them earlier this month.  They hoped to arrive early in order to talk with Itiweni, but they went to the University by mistake so they actually arrived just as the meeting was starting.  What was concerning them was the 5,000,000 Tsh they had collected to start their SACCOS (very impressive). They were afraid to leave this large a sum in their village (It is about $3,200.)  and were wondering what they could do?  (You may recall that most rural farmers are unable to open bank accounts.)  

We can’t open a bank account for them yet because we need a registration number to do so.  We decided that we would put their cash into our account and give them a receipt for it.  They were so relieved.  They have been very nervous carrying this much cash.

Because we lack Kiswahili skills, we decided that we didn't need to stick around after lunch, so we went back to our apartment, but the training session continued with classes by the co-op officers until about 5 in the evening. When classes were over Itiweni assigned rooms to everyone (we feed and house everyone for the four days they are here).  In the evening there are opportunities for them to attend group discussions where the new SACCOS leaders can learn from those SACCOS leaders who are familiar with the way a SACCOS works.  Tomorrow the session starts at 8:00.

We greeted the SACCOS leaders as they arrived.

Isn't it funny how the African mama (on the right) wants to dress in American attire and the American mama (on the left) wants to dress as an African!

The leaders arrived carrying their luggage.  They will be here 4 days.

It was good to see all of the mamas and their children.

Sandy gave a greeting to all.

Itiweni explained the relationship between Iringa Hope, USA; the University and the Diocese, the SACCOS, and our central bank, Iringa Hope Joint SACCOS.

Malila gave the class.

Sandy, Peter, and Margaret gave out notepads and pens during the class.  There were about 50 or so present this first day.

Itiweni spent much of the day on the phone fixing problems.

This little girl didn't want Tom to get too close.

This girl helped take care of a little boy.  He was afraid of Tom and cried if Tom looked at him.  (Sandy took them to the library and read a story.)

Sandy and Itiweni conferred on some problems.

We found time to visit with all of the SACCOS leaders.

The leaders of this new SACCOS had come early to see Itiweni, but they went to the University by mistake.

We had a good lunch.

Since we lack Kiswahili skills, we decided that we didn't need to stick around after lunch.

What We Have Found

Yesterday we gave a summary of what we have found as we visited the SACCOS.  We held it in a large classroom at the University.  There were about 40 people in the audience including local co-op officials, representatives from the financial community, SACCOS leaders, and representatives of the university and the diocese.  

Tom reviewed the program, where we are at currently, and where we hope to go.  Even though we had visited all of the villages and met with the leaders and members, it was still hard to believe the results we found.  

A little over a month ago Tom made some estimates.  He based these on the first half dozen or so visits we had made.  Now we have completed all of our visits and can see how good our estimates were.  Here are the numbers:

Total Membership:                    Estimated – 1,541
                                                Actual – 1,766

Total number of family members benefiting from loans:           Estimate – 12,580
                                                                                           Actual – 10,243

Total number of children sent to school from loan profits:        Estimate – 2,550
                                                                                           Actual – 2,296

At the time Tom made these estimates we found it hard to believe that this project could be affecting so many people –so it was easy to shrug at the numbers.  Now that we have been around the villages and seen the people it is truly hard to imagine – even after seeing them all!
If you would like to read the summary that we shared with the group you can find it at:

It was a beautiful day at the University.

First everyone had chai.

Then Tom gave an update on what we had found in our visits.

Bishop Mdegala gave his thoughts.

Provost Dr. Bangu gave a brief talk.

Don Fultz from Bega Kwa Bega gave a brief message.

It is hard to believe all of the people that Iringa Hope is helping.
Asante Sana Everyone! (Thank You)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Today At Cathedral

Today we were to Cathedral to talk with their SACCOS members.  Cathedral is right downtown Iringa.  The SACCOS here was started by a local businessman.  It ran for awhile and then was suspended when there was a series of problems with the leadership and their borrowers stopped paying.  Last year we visited them and they asked if we might help.  Enoch has been working to get an audit done for them by the government (the first step) and today we were supposed to hear the results.

When we went to start our car it didn’t start.   It isn’t a long walk so we used this “opportunity” to get some exercise.  We arrived at Cathedral promptly at 10, but we didn’t find many SACCOS members waiting for the meeting to start.  Soon Enoch arrived, followed by our interns.  We found 4 members of the SACCOS also looking for the meeting – but there are 163 registered members in this SACCOS.

The Iringa Municipal Coop officer arrived and Enoch talked with him for awhile.  We had thought we were going to meet in the church, but it was double booked today.  We were a small group so we met  in the loft of the church.  There were only 7 members of the SACCOS present so we wondered if we could have a meeting with so few.  The Co-op officer told us that he could authorize a “special conditions” meeting – but it didn’t really matter because the lady who prepared the report was in the hospital and the report would not be available today.  (This was the third delay)

Itiweni and a few other SACCOS members arrived around 10:45 and the meeting began.  Since there was no auditor’s report the main discussion was about how to proceed.  First they talked about why there were so few who came.  Our opinion is that since this SACCOS has not done anything since 2009 people have just given up – but who knows.  The Co-op officer said that he would authorize a general meeting and consider whoever showed up a legal quorum – but we had to make an announcement and wait a week.  We agreed to come back next Saturday, after the conclusion of our training meetings, for another meeting.  Then the Coop officer suggested that we wait for a final audit reading, etc.  Itiweni got up and scolded the officer and the members for delaying and delaying.  She cited some of the provisions of the law and told them it was time to just get on with it.  This seemed to get the meeting moving toward a close with the Co-op officer agreeing that next time they could dismiss the board and appoint a 5 person committee to do collections.  The meeting broke up with the understanding that we would be back again next week for another round.  Stay tuned!

Our car would not start - so we walked over.

Cathedral is right downtown.

Enock went over and talked to the municipal Coop officer.

Only 12 of the 163 SACCOS members came to the meeting.  We thought that maybe after being dormant since 2009 the members had just given up.  We will see who shows up next week.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Magubike – Our Last Out Of Town Visit

 Today we went to Magubike – our last out of town visit!  Magubike is a relatively new parish (it was created from a preaching point of Kidamala in 2008) that does not have a partner parish in the US.  This year, through the generosity of Dr. David Klevan, they are going to have a SACCOS.  Asante sana!

We started our journey by driving over to the Mkimbizi bus stop to pick up Peter, Margaret, and Pastor Ambrose Mwakikoti from Mkimbize.  Itiweni is not going with us today since she has to get ready for our training class next week. 

 To get to Magubike you go out of Iringa on the Ruaha road.  It is about a 45 minute drive down this road to the turn off.  Once you take the turn it is straight ahead for most of the rest of the way.
When we arrived in Magubike we were greeted by a group of members singing and dancing.  Pastor Nyadwike was there to greet us, smiling and clearly very happy.  Tom spied some “corn children” running in and out of the corn field so he went over to give them some candy.  There was a sign here from the Agricultural Institute at the university– it was the first we had seen – very good guys!  The sign gives the type of seed, when it was planted, etc.  It was looking good.

Before chai with the pastor we sat down together to learn a little about the congregation and the community.    This congregation has 400 members – 250 adults and 150 children.  The cash crops here are maize, sunflowers, and tobacco.  Most of the farmers in the congregation farm 2 to 3 acres.  A few farm up to 10 acres.  Most of them are getting 4 bags an acre for an income of about $250-300.  Like so many others they would like to follow the CVP plot approach they have learned, but capital is short.

Tom asks some questions about capital.  It turns out that there are some micro lenders here in town.  The problem for these farmers however is that the micro loans are being fed through the larger tobacco farmers in the area.  These farmers then “bind’ the smaller farmers to them so that they wind up raising crops for them.  When the crops are sold these farmers pay off the loans which include their tractors and other equipment which the small farmers do not use, then divide up the rest.  The result is that the small farmers either cannot get any capital or they effectively get a very low price for their crops.

There is also a SACCOS in town.  In fact, the chairman of that SACCOS joined us at the pastor’s house for chai.  He is very interested in joining an Iringa Hope SACCOS.  We questioned why they wanted to start another SACCOS and learned that there are many problems with the existing one.  First, you can take a loan for anything you want – so much of the money is tied up in homes and motorcycles.  And you must be married to belong to the SACCOS.   Since many of the women are widowed or their husbands are gone they cannot get a loan.  You also must be over 30 and under 60 – so many of the farmers are not eligible for this reason either.  Furthermore, one must be a village resident – which means that most of this parish cannot join anyway (our SACCOS will include a large area including the town).  Finally, the loans are usually at 4-5% per month with monthly payments required – not very helpful for a farmer who plants and then waits 4 months for his income to ripen.  The pastor told us that there are 150-200 people who want to join a new SACCOS.

When we got to the church for the meeting there were 49 people waiting for us.  We introduced ourselves and gave a few remarks, then turned the meeting over to Peter who conducted a class on SACCOS.   Many questions and remarks followed.  “Is it true that we, and not the church, will own this SACCOS?”  (Yes)  “Can anyone join?”  (Yes, as long as they are trustworthy)  “Is it true that we can wait to pay until we sell our crops?”  (The terms are up to the members so you can decide this.)  “How can we join this SACCOS?”  (Peter told them they had to form one first – he then told them how to do this.)  The chairman of the village SACCOS then stood up and said he wanted to join an Iringa Hope SACCOS.  There were a number of other people who joined him in this. 

When we made our closing remarks Sandy referred to two previous speakers from the audience who had said this would be such a gift – first because the interest rate was only 2% a month, and second because it would allow young and single people to join.  She reminded everyone that their SACCOS is a “gift that keeps on giving.” 

When we were finished the pastor asked us to wait for awhile because they had something to say. (Someone had gone to fetch gifts for us).   No one was saying anything and the church seemed strangely quiet.  Sandy asked the pastor if this was the point where everyone breaks into song and with a cue from the pastor, everyone did.   Soon there was a group dancing in the front of the church.  When the gifts arrived the singing and dancing ceased, the gifts were presented and we said our good-byes.

Before we left Tom met with the “machine committee” for awhile.  He explained a business plan to everyone.  There is a committee that wanted to borrow money to buy a machine to make sunflower oil. Their idea is to make the oil locally and then sell it.  They think that by shipping the oil instead of the seed they will make more money.  The idea seems to have merit, but it does not seem like they have considered all of the issues.

The group had a lot of questions; first, about how to plan a business and make it pay.  The questions are good and show that they are ready to think about it some more.  Then they started asking if maybe they can just borrow the money to buy a machine.  Tom told them that they have to think of it as starting a business, not buying a machine.  They need to think of what building they would put it in, how much it would cost to hook it up, etc.  There was some discussion of whether or not the church could buy one – but they could not answer the question of who would then run it and sell the oil, hire some workers, etc.  Finally everyone agreed that if they wanted a business that would help the community and make money they needed to have the SACCOS own and run it. 

As we left they were discussing how to develop some of the details they will need for a business plan.  Tom promised that if they wanted help someone from the university would help them.  They are hoping to have a plan done and ready to look at in August or September.

As we left it started to rain.  We hadn't driven very far before we encountered our first traffic jam of the day – goats!  There was a large herd of goats coming down the road in the rain driven by two small boys.  About half way back to Iringa we came across our second traffic jam of the day – kids!  School was out and there were hundreds of kids walking down the road.  Despite the traffic jams we still were home before 4:00 – good thing because we have a radio show tonight - our last trip out of town in “the beast.”  

We think it was over heating on the way home, but none of the gauges work, so we were only guessing, judging  from the smell coming from under the hood.  

It was a nice drive with only a slight amount of traffic.

As we approached the village the vista opened up.

The church has a very lovely location.

The pastor was very happy to see us.

Tom spied some "corn children" running into and out of the rows.

This group seemed very well informed.

This little girl was so shy she would hide whenever Tom took a picture.

Sandy made a few closing remarks about the "gift that keeps on giving."  Somehow the pastor managed to talk three times as long as she did!

Sandy was just being silly when she asked the pastor if this was the time when everyone broke out singing and dancing.

The pastor asked us to wait a few minutes - they had a "few sentences" they wanted to say to us.  It turned out they wanted to give us some gifts.

Tom went to talk to the machine committee" for a few minutes.  90 minutes later they were still talking.

On the way home there were 2 little boys herding goats down the road.

We got into two traffic jams on the way back.  First came the goats and then came the kids.  We had a good laugh and enjoyed being there.

As we drove back the sun came out.