Poor Show They Can Save

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By William J. Mbangula OSHAKATI Over N$700 000 was saved in the northern regions over a period of two years by 1 800 members of various credit schemes and saving unions of which the majority are women. The Managing Director of the Rural Institute for Social Empowerment in Namibia (Rise Namibia), Pintile Davids, revealed this to a youth conference in Ongwediva recently. “Our support has been and is still in the form of both institutional and leadership capacity building at grassroots level. For the past years, Rise Namibia has been able to organise and mobilize rural householdsmall scale farmers into tangible savings and credit associations as vehicles to access credit facilities for both household and agricultural input use. This is due to the fact that more than 16 years after independence, access to conventional credit facilities as offered by the commercial financial institutions are still a no-go zone – a taboo for the poor of this country,” said Davids. Rise Namibia is a non-governmental community development agency not for gain that was founded in May 1987. Since its inception it has supported rural communities in the Hardap, Oshana, Kunene, Erongo, Omusati, Caprivi, Karas and Ohangwena regions. It acts as an intermediary bodywhich serves the interests of rural community-based organisations. Its mission is outlined as the one to “to facilitate a process that develops sustainable organisational human resources capacity at grassroots level, through a series of tailor-made training and mentoring”. Currently, Rise Namibia is the implementing agency of the 18 months pilot youth programme jointly funded by the Social Security Commission (SSC), the Commonwealth and the Government. It is officially known as the Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative (CYCI) under the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sports and Culture. The programme, with a N$2 million budget, will end in October this year. It aims at equipping the youth with the necessary skills and resources to start their own SMEs, as part of the drive towards self-employment and job creation. In the regions of Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and Omusati, Rise Namibia is in partnership with credit unions and farmers cooperatives such as Uukumwe, Ongushu, Omu-sati and Mandume where successful rural savings and credit schemes were implemented. These schemes are fully owned and controlled by its rural beneficiaries. Major achievements, among many others, said Davids, are the regular savings and loans taken out by the members with a relatively high return rate with appropriate interest calculations on loans. Beneficiaries in these schemes are mainly rural farmers, women, youth and other disadvantaged groups who are unable to secure financial support from commercial banking institutions due to lack of collateral. “What people have done with the loans they have taken out is remarkable. Some women bought ploughs, livestock, started SMEs, improved their houses and the like. One lady related to me how strong the solidarity network is among members in times of death, wedding celebrations and other important community activities. Now I am tempted to say that when something is beautiful do not hesitate to give the roses. We need to encourage each other as this is the source of strength and courage,” he stressed. Davids appealed to savings and credit unions in other regions such as Kavango, Kunene, Erongo and Caprivi to replicate what their counterparts in Omusati, Oshana Ohangwena and Oshikoto have done. “My appeal to the cooperatives, savings and credit unions in the four northern regions is that you should sustain this shining example because this is the right thing to do. Other stakeholders such as the government, SSC and the Commonwealth are impressed by your performance.” As part of its three-year (2006-2009) strategic plan, Rise Namibia is currently lobbying the local and regional councils to enter into a strategic partnership as a way to ensure rural micro-finance to eradicate poverty.

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