What is important about these savings groups is that they are not limited in their impact to income only. The group meetings are used as a vehicle to provide other kinds of messages. One of those messages is the opportunity to support orphans and vulnerable children, of whom there are many.
Secondly, the meetings are used to promote and teach health and hygiene culture. This could range from ensuring that all children are immunised to learning about sanitation and toilets.
Thirdly, given the emphasis that World Vision puts on child welfare, the groups are also given messages about child protection and child abuse, and members are encouraged to report cases of abuse. Domestic violence in the community has also reduced, as a major factor is often limited finances. The savings groups have enabled women to assist their husbands with income generation.
Some people have resisted joining savings groups. Why? Many poor people have seen funds misappropriated by officials or scammers and have deep suspicions that as soon as their funds go into that box, that is the last they will see of it.
Mrs Majombo expressly addressed this by saying that she had spoken to the village chief and to the local councillor. She had gone door to door to invite participants, but only 14 people showed interest the first time. When the time came to share out the proceeds, she invited the whole village to witness the experience.
That was back in June 2014. Many of the villagers over time have realised it is a good scheme and last year (2016) there were a total of 257 savings groups and 2,844 members.
Another important feature of these groups is that they are predominantly women. Savings groups have become a way in which they can achieve a form of independence. The spectacular rise of women like Mrs Majombo reveals that savings groups can be the basis of forming business enterprises.
Savings groups are an important vehicle to improve people’s lives but they are not a panacea. They need to form part of a range of tools to improve the lot of the poor. There are other major issues which can still impinge on their ability to progress: land rights, drought relief, provision of services by government, rule of law and corruption.
However, the savings groups have become a start for many and offer hope for something better. For this, the communities are grateful to World Vision for their intervention.