Towards a Brighter Future
This story is about a day in the life of a CARE beneficiary as told to and written by Connie Mussumir former Microenterprises/Microfinance Officer for one of CARE Mozambique's programs.
As the birds in the trees, echoed by the distant crow of a solitary cock sing to herald the break of dawn, many inhabitants of Mujavange community in rural Mozambique stir under their covers, trying to savor the last precious moments of sleep. I quickly rise from my bed with thoughts of nothing but the day ahead of me. My name is Luisa and I am a beneficiary of a CARE Mozambique program.
With my husband working more than 800 km away from home in the capital Maputo and only coming home twice during the year on average, I have to single handedly take care of all the day-to-day affairs of my family of 8.Although I am usually up early, this morning I am up even earlier as I have to travel 14 km on foot to a neighboring village to provide training for a new savings group that I am forming as part of a self-replicating microfinance methodology being implemented in my community by CARE.
As usual, after getting up, the first thing I have to do is make sure that the children are provided for and that the ones that go to school do so on time. My father died when I was very young, leaving my illiterate mother to fend for the family with much difficulty as a result, I quickly learnt to appreciate the importance of education and hope to pass this message on to my children. With bread reserved for weekends, special occasions or visitors, breakfast usually comprises of whatever was leftover from supper, with elaborate meals being prepared later on during the day for lunch and supper. Having hurriedly prepared and served breakfast, I, with the help of my eldest daughter Nora quickly make sure water has been fetched for the household and that there is enough firewood for the next couple of days, I notice we are running low on firewood so I make a mental note to collect some on my way back from the neighboring village.
Mujavange is a small semi-farming community in the north of Inhambane province; one of the most natural disaster prone and HIV/AIDS ravaged regions of the country and thus an ideal target for a CARE International in Mozambique intervention. There are very few economic opportunities in my community with the main income generating activities being the cutting and selling of grass for construction of houses and the sale of basic commodities like soap and cooking oil.
CARE arrived in Mujavange and subsequently stepped into my life in March 2006 through its Sustainable Effective Economic Development (SEED) program’s Village Savings and Loans (VSL) component.
Because of SEED’s innovative approach in which beneficiaries do not receive handouts of any nature, but instead are equipped with knowledge that they can use to improve their lives in a sustainable manner, getting beneficiaries to participate in the program was not an easy task for CARE.
When we heard that CARE was introducing a new program in our community where we had to save our own money, it was difficult to imagine how and where one would get money to put away as savings or for emergencies and that is why many people, myself included were initially reluctant to join this savings and credit program. It did not take long, however for us to see the numerous long and short-term benefits of VSL and soon after all 25 positions in our group had been filled, another VSL with the maximum number of 25 people was formed in Mujavange.
The VSL methodology is a very innovative, community based rural microfinance approach in which a group of 10 to 25 individuals meet regularly, usually weekly to deposit their savings and to make contributions to a ‘social fund’ used in case of emergency. The accumulated savings are then loaned out to members in a systematic way: common uses for these loans range from starting up small businesses to paying for school fees and other household expenses. Besides providing an opportunity for villagers to save money, access loans and insurance through the emergency fund, VSL helps create a social network through which group members provide mutual support to each other in times of need. These social networks are very sustainable and usually continue functioning even after the end of an intervention or the demise of a group.
After experiencing firsthand the benefits of VSL and demonstrating my good leadership and facilitation skills while working as the President of CARE’S first saving’s groups in Mujavange, I was selected by my peers to work as a village agent, I then went on to receive training, as well as a start-up kit from CARE. Through my work, I now help spread CARE’s message in my community a thing I am sure I will continue doing even after the end of CARE’s intervention.
Having completed all the household chores and given instructions for the preparation of lunch and supper to my daughter, I finally leave the house. A typical meal usually comprises of rice and the leaves of the cassava plant known as matapa, cooked in coconut milk, with groundnuts, tomatoes and onions and that is what my family will be having for lunch today.
The walk to the meeting in the neighboring community takes me just under 2 hours. I get there to find 12 of the 25 members already sitting under the shade, waiting for me and the other members of the group to arrive. It is not long before other members of the group start arriving. Not everyone is going to make it to today’s meeting though, there has been a death in the village, a common occurrence in the community these days and some of the members have gone to the funeral. The training goes ahead as planned and at the end of the meeting, a date is set for the next meeting.
As I leave the group and head home, quickly remembering the firewood I need to collect, I am filled with happiness. I am proud to be partnering with CARE in providing badly needed financial services to my community and am happy for the opportunities and economic options the program gives to the community, women in particular. Another source of happiness for me is the income I will be able to gain through my work as a village agent, I have already started building a house with some of the money I saved up with my group and the additional income from working as a village agent will help me improve my family’s living conditions. The future, which not too long ago was bleak is now so bright and full of opportunities thanks to the wonderful work being done by CARE.