It was smiles all around in rural Buger village in the Arusha Region of Tanzania, about 20 miles from the town of Karatu. That’s because it was loan issuance day! Borrowers and the staff of our local partner, the women’s group known as GWOCO, were already standing and singing to greet us with their song: “mkopo ni mpangalio”, which translates loosely to “the loan is arranged”! It’s a GWOCO song that expresses the borrowers’ excitement to receive their loans.
We started with loans for a new group that is starting this cycle. These borrowers had spent the previous week preparing. They attended a GWOCO/WMI seminar with Esther, the loan program educator, and learned about small business dos and don’ts. Then they wrote their loan applications and business plans with the help of Eliminatha, the GWOCO Secretary. After all of their training, it was an exciting moment when the women actually received the cash in their hands to launch their business!
The GWOCO staff read the business plans before agreeing to give out loans to the new borrowers. I was very impressed with their forethought. For example, one woman who will be buying and selling chickens put down medicine for her livestock as an expense. This kind of active planning will enable her to foresee potential costs and prepare to meet them. It will also make it easy for her to pay off her loan!
The continuing borrowers in the program were excited to move on from their 300,000 shilling loan ($150) to 400,000 shillings ($200). In their follow-up applications, they gave various ideas for the use of the new funds. Some plan to branch out into other businesses, while others want to improve their stock and still others want to start selling their products regularly in town, rather than only at the bi-weekly market.
Before receiving a new loan or a follow-up, every borrower fills out a survey. This enables us to keep track of how the loans are helping them to improve their lives, communities, and status as women.
In response to the question, “Has the loan had a positive impact on your community?”, many women said that it was easier to access services in the community. When service providers like health care workers and water companies learn that a community’s income is rising, they are willing to make greater investments in that community. The loan program’s impact on community development here is mimicking WMI’s amazing results in Uganda, and we couldn’t be happier about it!