Forging partnerships for sustainable prosperity

Gawa Cooperative has used their savings to invest in a hardware store. Photo: Anesu Freddy/UNDP
Gawa Cooperative has used their savings to invest in a hardware store. Photo: Anesu Freddy/UNDP

At the center of the rural wards 20 and 32 of Gokwe South District in Midlands Province lies a thriving business enterprise 40 kilometres from Gokwe town called Gawa Business Center.  The Centre is a brainchild of 14 Internal Savings and Lending Groups (ISAL’s) which pooled resources to form the Gawa Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO). It comprises 118 members including 78 females and 40 males.

With financial and technical support from UNDP and the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development (MSMECD), Gawa SACCO has become one of the best performing Savings and Credit Cooperatives in the district by cutting a niche for itself in enterprise and livelihoods diversification.

“We were suffering, with no way to earn money, but we can now meet household expenses and pay school fees. We no longer know what poverty is – we lack nothing in our homes” said Edith Chagadama, a member of the SACCO.

The harsh and challenging environment in Wards 20 and 32, make it vulnerable to climate change. But Gawa SACCO has turned this challenge into an opportunity through their focus on livelihoods diversification. Courtesy of joint efforts by various partners led by Ministry of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development and NGOs Agritex and Welthungerhilfe, the SACCO has managed to reach great heights of achievement within a very short space of time. This is demonstrated in their flagship project—a new hardware and aggregation center at the business center using the USD 10,000 seed capital provided by UNDP’s Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Livelihoods (IGSL) project in the fourth quarter of 2016.

“Hopes to access financing were once crushed when we approached a particular commercial bank because it had strict lending conditions that we could not meet but that hope has been restored by the seed capital support from UNDP through MSMECD” relates Mr Smart Munengiwa, Gawa SACCO Chairperson, adding that the assistance from UNDP enabled the realization of their vision of scaling up their business.

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“We are proud to indicate that as at 31 March 2017, the value of projects being run by SACCO members was at $24 000 and the projects include poultry, cattle pen fattening, improved breeds goat rearing, sesame seed growing, groundnuts, peanut butter processing among other things,” explained the Chairperson. On site are metal silos hired from Peak Trading, a private company. The silos are meant to support the produce aggregation facility. “In fact, we are looking at expanding our operations to reach those other business centers that require such services”.

In fact, one person has been employed as a sales assistant in the shop. And as a sign of good business tidings, the group reported 30% profit in the first month of operation. Furthermore, members have been able to take advantage of the store to sell the goods from their individual microenterprises, thus increasing income.

“Income-Savings=Expenditure is the SACCO slogan whereby we encourage each other to save first before incurring any expenditure. The saving culture is well engraved in the group members and this is especially due to the trainings we have received from UNDP, MSMECD and Welthungerhilfe,” says Mr. George Gogwe the Ministry of Women Affairs ward coordinator for the Gawa area.

The choice of a hardware and aggregation centre was largely influenced by enterprise development and financial literacy trainings from EXTRA, UNDP and Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development.

Gawa is harnessing enterprise and livelihoods diversification as evidenced by taking a step further in its diversification efforts which has resulted in operationalization of a hardware and aggregation center right in the rural areas. Subsequently, these efforts have been contributing to diversifying livelihoods for the community and establishing a sustainable means of income-generation as well as employment creation. For instance, the focus on moving away from traditional crops like maize to more drought-resistant alternatives can also be seen in the new approaches taken with livestock management. These include improved breeds of goats and cattle pen fattening.

Gawa SACCO is doing very well though with such prominent level of growth and success, there is need for effective capacity development like leadership skills training and fund and SACCOs management trainings to ensure group survival,” explained Ms. Petronella Kunonga, Ward 20 and 32 Livestock Extension Officer.

“The hard-work and team spirit displayed by Sawa SACCO members in pushing for the success and growth of the SACCO is commendable, they should keep it up.” said Ms. Grace Mapfumo, Ward 20 Agritex Extension Officer.

Inspired by GAWA, three other SACCOs have been formed in the district by groups which replicate the SACCO model in their operations. To support them, Gawa members cascaded the training from the project to the new SACCOs. A Gawa member reported “we taught them what we were taught.”

In addition, scores of development partners have brought their beneficiaries and partners to Gokwe on learning visits to Gawa, with some coming from as far as Malawi, Ghana, and Germany.

With UNDP support, the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development has been supporting registration of savings and credit cooperatives to enhance their capacities and eventually, contribute to poverty eradication and wealth and employment creation. Major beneficiaries of this assistance are the savings and credit cooperative organizations (SACCOS). For instance, in 2016, a total of 1069 people under SACCOs umbrella received training in business management, and 1,017 in cooperative management skills. Initial results show that 60 beneficiaries in Lupane, Binga, Nkayi and Gokwe South Districts have organized themselves into 4 SACCOs now accessing micro-credit support to the tune of USD 10,000 each.

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