Pastoral Women's Council PWC Tanzania
Pastoral women have embraced economic empowerment initiatives more than ever this year, as many work to balance impacts of the economic challenges of COVID-19 with alternative sources of income.
One such challenge was the shutting of cross border business with neighbouring Kenya, limiting trade options. Pastoralist women took on this challenge and strengthened their small businesses to fill the gap.
Pastoral Women’s Council runs programs aimed at building capacity, economic empowerment, business skills development and financial literacy in building resilience and creating opportunities for pastoralist women.
PWC established 100 VICOBA (Village Community Banks) groups in local communities in Ngorongoro and Longido Districts from late 2019. This means that more than 2,500 women had access to VICOBA groups this year and were able to access and contribute to the model of shared economic support and micro-funding.
VICOBA groups are community led and organised, with 5 women working together to form the core committee. With a pool of funds sourced from VICOBA group members and donations, members make their case to the committee to receive access to loans. The modest interest repayments made on that loan help to grow the committee’s funds.
Namurru, a long-term member of the Naishiye VICOBA group, describes how the funding and business training she has received helped her to diversify her income and invest in more sustainable, less competitive markets.
[After an initial loan] “My business kept growing and I was now able to buy 50kgs of sugar, a parcel of tea leaves and 25kgs of rice... I opted to reduce sugar business and invest some money into [the] goat business because many women in my homestead bought and sold the same sugar product.”
“I was able to use part of my business profit to buy maize bran and cotton cake to feed my cows so that I could get more milk.
Updates from the Energize Project
This year, PWC also implemented the Energize project, a program that targets out of school young women to upskill them on financial literacy and provide opportunities to diversify their income to include the sale of solar products locally. The education program enrolled 101 participants this year, who received training on domestic biogas construction and solar panel installation. Of the initial cohort, 7 graduates have already been supported to start their own clean energy business.
Energize Girl Selina who lives in Malambo Village, is a talented traditional jewelry maker who was selling her wares to her neighbours and community members. Keen to diversify her income and save money to return to school, Selina applied to take part in the Energize program.
Selina is now assisting other young members of her community to better understand about saving for their goal while adapting to renewable sources of energy. She said, “I didn’t know better ways of saving, but now I have understood, and I am willing to teach others.”
In 2017, PWC started up and registered the Engishon Microfinance Fund, a social enterprise whose goal is to enhance access to affordable and flexible loans to pastoralist communities, especially women and youth, to enable them expand their businesses. In this past year, the fund continued to provide accessible loans facilities as well as business training to members of VICOBA groups. Ruth Lazaro, a young graduate from vocational training college accessed a business loan to start up her tailoring business. “Engishon Microfinance provided me with a loan of Tsh. 1,000,000 (approximately $435USD) that enabled me to buy two sewing machines, kanga fabrics, thread and other materials necessary to set up my small tailoring business.”
These interventions have been well placed to support pastoral women through the challenges and changes felt globally in 2020. With significant capacity built across communities, we look forward to seeing what women in all three programs can achieve together in 2021.
“My life was a life of struggle before I joined the VICOBA. I was working in other people’s houses earning whatever money I could get to provide for my family.
“I am the sole provider for my children. My parents used to provide some assistance but when my father passed away that support was no longer available and I also became responsible for the care of my mother. I joined the VICOBA because I saw it as an opportunity to release myself from extreme poverty. In the beginning
The 'Ebeneza B' VICOBA Group first began with women members of the local Ketumbeine Baptist church who came together in 2013 when World Vision kick-started the group with a gift of 65 chickens.
By 2014 there was so much interest in the group that PWC became involved to support the women involved and in the end one large group was split to become Ebeneza A & Ebeneza B.
“PWC gave us the training on business skills and then they trained us on how to establish a VICOBA" says Ebeneza B member Furaha, who has been involved in the project since its inception.
“Through PWC's support we are now very confident and organised. When World Vision announced they would recruit service providers in Ketumbeine for cooking for their staff, Ebeneza B just knew we could do it. Because we were already established and had the savings to invest we were able to win the tender" she says.
Winning the World Vision catering tender changed everything for the women of Ebeneza B.
“With the World Vision work we are paid 12,000 tsh per person per day for our cooking services. This amounts to over 1,800,000 tsh per year for the group. Together with the World Vision work we also invest in group members with loans for small businesses" Furaha explains.
“When the VICOBA first started I borrowed 50,000 tsh and started a business selling sugar, greens and fruits. In the second loan round I then obtained another 200,000 to grow my business further.
"Now, my family is no longer eating ugali for every meal! We can afford variety and healthy vegetables and meat. Food is no longer a problem for my family.
“Life is very good now. My children have new clothes, and I bought my husband a phone which made him so happy.
“After joining the VICOBA I am now very appreciated by my husband. He is so pleased I am in the group and he encourages – sometimes even insists – that I attend the meetings. It makes such a difference to my family.”
“I joined my local VICOBA group in 2014. After I joined I was assisted by the group to build an iron-roofed house through our rotating grants. Now I have a stable home for my family, it is a huge relief.
“I am pleased to be in the group because I have support with these women – if I am sick they will help me with medical funds, if I have troubles the will help to pay my children's school fees. With this group I have refuge”
“My husband was ok with me joining the group in the beginning, but his appreciation has grown and grown now as he sees results. I have established a shop through the VICOBA support, selling spices and foods. I took my share of the groups’ profit and my husband and I decided together how to use the money.
“In the future I plan to apply for a plot in the local trading centre so I can permanently establish my shop and ensure my family’s wellbeing for the future. My main concern for the funds is to put my children through school.
“I am schooled through to Std 7, and I hope my children can go all the way to the end of school! Secondary, college…how far can they go?!”
“The Engareser Women's Solidarity Boma was established four years ago, but in 2016 PWC funded the building of a solid structure to protect our market area from the weather.
“The boma was originally established by women in the area who had learnt about their rights and wanted to establish a place of their own to conduct business. PWC became involved soon after our establishment, to help us get organised and strong.
“PWC has helped us with training to improve our beading products to appeal to our tourist market, as well as assist us to purchase and keep 50 livestock. These livestock are the first for us women to own independently. We share in the care of them and will share in the profit from resale.
“Primarily the women here have been nominated by their own sub-villages to be part of the boma due to their extreme poverty. Some of us have husbands that live far away, and many of us are widows. It is a refuge option for some. Being part of the boma helps us to work together to support each other and lift ourselves from poverty.”
“PWC contribute a lot to this community in terms of women’s empowerment, particularly economically through the Income Generating Groups (IGGs). PWC have helped to establish IGGs in the area which are making it possible for women to have access to loans and finance.
“I am already seeing women establishing their own businesses, which is having a positive economic impact in the community. As a result, I know that more children are attending school and people are not struggling financial as they have in the past. The women are even dressing better now! You can see their pride and confidence growing. We need to end the oppression of women in our communities.”
"I was among the founding members of the Ebeneza VICOBA groups in Longido, through my church. Primarily PWC have been mobilizing the entire village through village meetings. Our church pastor took this IGG idea from the PWC general meetings and encouraged us to set one up.
“After beginning the group our first action was to come together and agree on our terms of contributions. We began with everyone contributing 5,000 tsh at each meeting.
“With our first savings, we bought an altar for our church and that became a gateway for our success. The very next day the World Vision tender came up. We applied and won!
“The World Vision cooking income has been our seed money, and we have grown from there.
“I received an initial 100,000 tsh from the vicoba, and then a follow up 200,000 to establish a restaurant in the village. I provide food for guests and it is really busy, especially on market day, when I often serve more than 25 people and make 200% profit. I have already paid back my loans.
“Being part of this group has really changed my life because now I have the money to buy whatever my family needs. I have purchased a lot here in the town and have built a house for my family.
“This has made me a confident and independent person. I feel strong and proud knowing that I can own a business. This was a dream of mine and now I have done it.”
The foreshadowing of a women’s economic group in Ketumbeine first began around 10 years ago when an orphan boy in the area, Zacharia, asked for support to afford his school fees. The women came together and organised, each giving 500 tsh which covered the fees. From this initial call for support, discussions continued about how to provide sustainable support for Zacharia to continue his studies into the future.
The original investment group began with 20 women. Following PWC’s involvement and support seven years ago, the group has grown from strength to strength and now encompasses more than 100 women.
“PWC became involved with us after seeing our sense of community and commitment within the original group” says Teresea the group Chair.
Over the years PWC’s support has enabled the group to grow in size and sophistication. In 2016, with PWCs leadership, the group formed their first ‘VICOBA’ independent savings and loan scheme.
The VICOBA structure sees each women contributing weekly funds to the group pool as investment shares. Records of individual contributions are recorded in log books, which illustrate each woman’s investment and loan balances.
Group member Tumaini was the first member of the group to receive a loan from the VICOBA, in December 2016. She borrowed money to purchase two bulls to fatten and resell for profit.
“I chose the business of buying and fattening bulls because the opportunity for profit is high. Many Maasai make money like this, so it seems low-risk” she says.
Before having independent access to a loan, Tumaini has never had the right to own cattle. Her Maasai culture and husband mean that the change to financial independence and property ownership is novel and exciting for Tumaini.
“Just yesterday my husband took one of my goats and sold it without my permission. When he got home I told him off and made him give me the money!
“I have always shared with my husband the knowledge and benefits I get from the group and now he has greater respect and appreciation for me. So when I put my foot down he listens to me!” she says.
“I was fortunate to be one of the people trained by PWC as a CAHW (Community Animal Health Worker), after which I established a veterinary shop.
“This area is in drought right now though, so the livestock have moved areas. During this time I have changed my shop to sell consumables instead. I have learnt that it is important to be flexible in business!
“Once the livestock returns I will retain this business as I have a good customer base, and I will open a second shop to re-establish the veterinary medical store.
“My husband and I run the business together. My involvement in the VICOBA has really strengthened the partnership with my husband. It has strengthened us as equals. It has also supported my family to help support my children’s wellbeing and schooling.”