Women in the Bukoba area of Tanzania join the Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association (BUWEA). They purchase a passbook which records savings, loans, and repayments.
The women are organized into small groups of 4-5 neighbors. With a leader or social worker, they learn business skills and begin to plan out what their income project might be. This is done cooperatively. If one woman would like to raise rabbits, the other women choose other projects such as selling fried fish or starting a tailoring business.
A woman applies for a loan from the Revolving Fund Executive Commitee. Typical first loans are about $50 USD, to be repaid in full after four months with 12% interest rate. For a $50 loan, $60 would be repaid in four months. The Executive Committee conducts what they call an “ambush inspection” halfway through the loan period to see that the income project is on track, and to help the woman member troubleshoot any obstacles that may be looming. The goal is for the income project to be successful, and for the woman to be able to successfully repay her loan.
Founded with 8 women in a prayer circle called a “Mary-Go-Round,” the Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association (BUWEA) has grown to 555 members, a formal revolving loan program, a SACCO, and several group projects including a soy farm and factory and a commercial bakery. The group brings in women members who typically have no daily income, offers training and supports them through their loan process. The group employs their women members to plant, weed, and harvest soy at the farm, and to operate the bakery.
In a recent survey, 56 out of 57 new members of our partner program in Tanzania reported that, six months after retiring their first loan, their daily income had increased from zero to more than $1 per day. This is just after their first loan!
100% of BUWEA’s revolving loans have been repaid.
Tanzania is a country roughly twice the size of California. The nation’s average life expectancy is 61 years; median age is 17.5 (about half the population are younger than 18 years). Bukoba suffered an invasion from Idi Amin of Uganda in the 1970s but successfully repelled the invasion; however both corners of Uganda and this area of Tanzania suffered the effects to their infrastructure from this war. Bukoba town overlooks the coast of Lake Victoria. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, dotted with large granite formations created from ancient volcanic activity.
Consolatha Emmanual is a widow who is raising her grandchildren. Before joining BUWEA, she struggled to survive and even to provide shelter for her family. Her home had no roof, and the walls were crumbling. They were starving. Through BUWEA, she has taken loans to operate a local cow business, raising the cows and selling them at market. She cuts down hardwoods and saws the logs into boards for sale for construction materials. She is now proud to report that her grandchildren are thriving in school, and she has expanded her house and put on a new tin roof. Further, Consolatha has emerged as a leader in BUWEA, now encouraging 40 groups of women who are all participating in the revolving loan program.