VICOBA: Humble Beginnings

“Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.” So the bible says in Job 8:7. In a nutshell this is not only a wise statement from biblical times, but a universal principal. It is a universal principle that yields whatever is called growth.

In modern history of success stories we have heard of big projects that started in garage, like apple computers. Some others started like family or group projects. Every known big thing, has know humble beginnings. Be it a nation, a company, an organization or even a person.

On this principle CCT mobilizes VICOBA for communities to be able to save and borrow money for their projects. In Mara Region, particularly Rorya and Serengeti they have some outstanding stories of how poor people managed to improve their means of income and lives at large.

Case1: Semeni Karume

Semeni Karume is a member of Neema IR-VICOBA group from Nyathorogo Ward in Rorya District. She is one of 27 founding members of the group of whom only 7 are men. Since she got married she has been a house wife and a peasant. She was struggling with poverty that had grappled her family, and worse she did not have a means to tackle it. Worse enough she did not enjoy asking for every penny she needed from her husband.

In October 2014 she took a loan of 300,000/- shillings (~150USD) from the group. From her loan she invested 200,000/- (~100 USD) in cultivating two acres of rice and the rest in a fish business. She wisely did not “put all eggs in one basket for” obvious reasons. One being the fact that if one business fails she will still be able to pay the loan from another; secondly she needed to improve her life both on short term and on long term basis. With fish business she would be sure to meet some family needs while rice is yet to harvest. Thirdly, it was the fish business that had to finance her little farm. With the profit she was making she had among other things to finance labour, as rice farming is labour intensive.

As per Semeni’s wishes fish business did not go fishy and rains came down gracefully. She managed to raise the crop to the point of harvesting. In total she harvested 55 sacks of rice and sold them for 4 million TZS (~2,000 USD). She had managed harvesting rice while her fish business was still operational.

With proceedings from rice, she bought a brand new motorcycle for 1.8 million TZS (~900 USD). The motorcycle is by itself used as a taxi to generate income, but also she uses it while going to the lake to purchase fish for her business. Eventually operating costs in her business are highly reduced as compared to when she had to pay for motorcycles in order to collect the merchandise.

Apart from re-investing the money from rice, Semeni has managed to pay school fees, buy school uniforms and other needs for her children.

So far Semeni is very happy with her success and what she is doing. She therefore continues with her non-fishy fish business and is already preparing her land for the next season of farming. On top of that she is planning of strengthening her economic fronts: trade, agriculture and investment in VICOBA. She is very grateful to God for the development she has had. She acknowledges that her success is mainly due to participating in VICOBA groups initiated by CCT. In that course even her husband has been highly encouraged and has planned to join VICOBA soon.

Semeni and her husband getting ready for journey lake-wards to fetch fish

Semeni and her husband getting ready for journey lake-wards to fetch fish

Case2: Done with hand hoe

For a regular villager without any sustainable income getting farm implements is matter of gruesome strategizing. However with access to finances Eliza Moris managed to buy two oxen despite the fact that she did not have enough money by herself. She is a member of Amani VICOBA Group from Ikoma Ward.

Initially she had been farming with a hand hoe, she had to spend  up to 5 days per acre and therefore productivity was very low.

Now that she is a member of a VICOBA group she borrowed 400,000/- (~200 USD) for cereals business, where she would buy and resell with some profit margin. She managed to get profit from this business. Then she went farther by taking another loan of 1,200,000/- (~600 USD) for expanding her business, which she did very well.

Eliza had all this time focused on buying oxen in order to do away with the hand hoe. After long time of little savings from her cereals business she managed to buy two bulls for a total of 550,000/- TZS (~275.0 USD) as well as a plough which cost her  158,000/- (~79.0 USD). In order to maximize efficiency she joined with her neighbour who has two oxen as well. Together they have been able in this season to cultivate their lands without using the old hand-hoe.

Eliza and neighbours working with their pairs of oxen

Eliza and neighbours working with their pairs of oxen

Case3: From perpetrator to protector with VICOBA in between

After CCT started educating communities in Kisumwa Ward in 2011 on fighting against FGM, ‘ngariba’ (women circumciser) Mwikwabe Setwa (60) was at the forefront in accepting the enlightment. After understanding the effects of FGM she publicly declared quitting her carrier as a ngariba (a woman with traditional authority to cut girls in FGM).

Now that her former carrier had guaranteed her respect and economic benefits, quitting would mean losing them both. Therefore economic challenges were imminent once she had made a decision to stop perpetrating the brutal act. Thence she joined VICOBA, Mshikamano group which was started in 2012 under CCT’s facilitation.

The group enjoys her active participation in buying shares and in borrowing and clearing loans timely. Actually she is one of the best in the group. For instance in the end of year’s cycle she was the second topmost earner by reaping 94,000/- (~47.0 USD) as profit from her shares after the topmost earner who got 109,000/- (~54.5 USD).

Mwikwabe appreciates the efforts done by CCT to change her attitude and behaviour; and therefore be able to start a new life away from FGM. Currently she works to advocate against FGM in her area and VICOBA group, people still listen to her because they know that she has lived what she says. She is also running a small business to sell vegetables and therefore earn something for daily needs.

In places where VICOBA are working, there are many humble stories, yet revolutionary. There is every reason to be optimistic that some of the VICOBA members we know today will at sometime become economic giants.

Zek 4:10 “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”

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