What a Year!
On Tuesday we started our training sessions in the afternoon. The first day of training is always a bit slow as people straggle in. This year is no exception. By 1 PM there were only about 60 leaders in attendance. This year there are more late-arrivals than usual. It could be the heavy rains are at the root of the problem. Since we have been here there has been a cholera epidemic that is closing off some areas and causing problems with the water supplies. There was a major flooding problem in the Pawaga District (the north western part of Iringa) that has caused people to be evacuated and has resulted in whole villages disappearing. There has been a large increase in cases of malaria. Many of the roads we normally drive have been closed, etc.
Within the MFI team, Itiweni (the MFI coordinator), Peter (our field agent) and Itiweni’s daughter, Mercy, have had malaria since we arrived; today Nuru (our accountant) discovered that she has it. At a few of our village visits attendance at our meetings has been low because the villagers are all at funerals, often due to malaria.
The rain has also delayed our building at Ipogolo. First the contractor came down with malaria. After he got better the roads were so muddy that materials couldn't be delivered. Finally, when the rains stopped a couple of weeks ago, we got the materials delivered; however there have been so many sudden showers lately that the work still isn't done.
On the positive side it seems that all of our work spreading the news about Iringa Hope is paying off. Just a few nights ago we had dinner with Dave Benafeld, one of the chief NAFAKA agents here in Iringa. NAFAKA is a development program funded by USAID that has given us a grant to develop our AMCOS. He told us how impressed he was with our network and with Itiweni. He had been reviewing the materials from our last year’s update meeting and was looking forward to this year’s program. He wanted to attend but was going to be out of town and so was sending three of his employees to the program. He will be funding more of our work this year.
Joan Mayer from USAID was likewise impressed by the Iringa Hope network. She told us that they would be pushing to have our program included in their new rural credit initiative.
Today we learned that the District Commissioner is hoping to work with us to get a grant of 6 acres of land for us to develop in the future. He is hoping that he can help us get a market center going for our AMCOS. He knows that this will take some time, but he also knows that land is going to be hard to find soon and he wants us to have a location ready for when we need it.
We have been told by government officials that Iringa Hope is the largest network of its kind in Tanzania. In fact, it is totally unique in the country. It is also the only organization to have passed all of the government audits. According to the District Commissioner, every other group in the country is struggling and many of them are going under.
We have heard a lot of praise for the Iringa Hope network; a network of communities that has been made possible by the financial support of our donors, the diligence of the Microfinance team in Iringa and the community leaders throughout the district, and the commitment and hard work of our members.
The Iringa Hope leaders began gathering at our building early on Tuesday.
Our meeting room was filled with small groups talking about what was happening in their SACCOS.
Some people had come out from Dar es salaam to talk with us. Just two years ago this would never have happened.
There were about 60 leaders at the opening session. Itiweni thinks that we will wind up with a little under 100. Many of the roads to our locations are still closed from the rains.
We met and chatted with our leaders over chai on the porch of the classroom building.
Many of the leaders have brought their children with them.
Itiweni did some baby sitting (baby carrying??)
There are multiple classes going on at once. Jefa Duma from our offices gave a class on keeping your books.
The IDC building at Ipogolo is near completion. The problem is that there is some outside painting and tuck pointing that needs to be done. This can only be done when things are dry. Unfortunately it keeps raining!