Temwa’s Micro-Finance Officer, Jericho Nyirenda, is a busy man. His days are spent either at the office in Mzuzu uploading client information and liaising with our micro-finance partners Deki, or out in the field disbursing loans, collecting repayments and checking up with clients.
Our Communications Officer, Eleanor Wratten, joined him for a day out in the field to find out more about what he gets up to.
The day started with a deluge of rain, grey skies as far as the eye could see and deep puddles covering the potholes in the road. I asked Jericho if it was still ok for us to go out on the motorbike along wet, windy and bumpy dirt tracks during this weather. His response: ‘Ah, no problem. This is what it’s like during the rainy season. And we have work to do.”
Shortly afterwards, we were cruising along the Usisya road out of Mzuzu on our way to the village of Bigha. Jericho had arranged to meet some existing clients here and also do profiling of new clients who are taking part in the Nkhata Bay Natural Way project.
By the time we arrived at our first destination, the rain had disappeared and we were back to the baking heat of the Malawi sun. We stopped in at the house of a micro-finance volunteer, who helps Jericho collect repayments, to get an update on what repayments had been made and any arrears that needed to be followed up on. The area that Temwa covers is huge, so the volunteers play a really important role in supporting Jericho to reach all the far-flung places he has to get to.
We then went to visit two ladies who opened up grocery shops in neighbouring villages in February this year, each of which has flourished. The second lady we visited, Sarah Phiri, has just finished the repayments on her first loan; clients are given one year to make the full repayment so to have finished three months early is testament to her hard-work and diligence. And she doesn’t want to stop there. Whilst we were there, she filled out an application to receive a second loan so she can start a new shop nearby. Sarah and her husband Adam invited us into their home, just behind the shop, for nsima (the Malawian staple food made from maize flour) but with still more work to get through and the day rushing by, we had to make our apologies and hurry on to the next activity.
The next activity was the profiling of new clients for Nkhata Bay Natural Way, a really exciting project which trains people in sustainable farming techniques, combats the effects of deforestation with tree planting, introduces income generating activities (IGA) to vulnerable households and strengthens local governance structures.
The group in Bigha are being given the resources and training needed to run a bee-keeping business. This is a great IGA as honey is a very lucrative crop and it also combats deforestation as keeping bees in forests deters potential tree-fellers. We met with the new clients to find out more about their background and where they sit on the Progress out of Poverty Index, an international standard to measure whether a person lives below the poverty line.
As we drove between these different meetings, people kept on waving us down, so we’d stop and it would be another of Jericho’s clients who wanted to say hello or thank him for his help. “It’s important that I stop and say hello to these people, even when I’m busy. Temwa and Deki have played a huge role in changing their lives and if I whizz on past, then they’re going to feel like that connection is lost and Temwa isn’t a caring organisation.” The strong relationships that the Project Officers build with the local communities is clearly apparent; it is part of Temwa’s mission and is an integral part of its success.
On the final leg home, Jericho had just one more stop to made. “I want to see my client who is a chicken farmer. I need to buy some chickens for my Christmas dinner.”
If you’d like to support an aspiring entrepreneur in Nkhata Bay North with a micro-finance loan, please visit the Deki website for profiles and more information.