Between 14th – 16th of September, representatives from YPM head office visited activities in Handeni branch. Training and follow up were done on VICOBA and PETS, and wheelchairs donated to the local hospital. We are also in the process of setting up a computer center for youths.
VICOBA IN BRIEF
VICOBA is a Village Community Banking. It is a group that is formed by 20 – 30 people who are willing and accept the responsibility of forming, attending, respecting and abiding to the rules to be set. These groups are formed for the sake of empowering economic freedom at local and grass roots level. They are platforms for grass roots informal education and efforts to inculcate the spirit of saving from the little that they have. The amount, the regulations to guide the group and the leadership is chosen among the group members. The facilitation does not require them to pay fees, but rather support the early stages and allow them to grow.
There are many benefits from participation in VICOBA groups. It fosters cooperation on economic development by providing fast access to loans for investment in businesses. It gives chance to build a strong relationship in the given community and members of the group. It provide chances for unified voice in matters related to development in the specified community; it challenges and encourages the spirit of saving and thus loan to businesses. It encourages members to be industrious and courageous to take steps in starting small businesses as a way to stop/fight poverty. In a unified manner it equips members to raise together while holding hands of one another through insisted weekly savings. And there is profit.
Read more about VICOBA groups here
Visit to VICOBA group
At the moment there are three VICOBA groups in Handeni, and we were lucky to meet with one of them. The group was 8 months old and consisted of 30 members, which together have contributed with 2,977,000 Tanzanian shillings in the bank. This has made it possible to lend out 6,370,000 million shillings, which has been used to start small businesses like small hotels and shops.
In this visit in Handeni- Kwakonje community, the group reported that since start-up, there are people who has taken loans and returned already. Altogether 2,884,000 shillings have been returned to the group. But time to return loans is however also mentioned as one of the challenges facing the group, and some were concerned about what to do about people traveling away without paying back. YPM advised the groups to have a clear charter of rules on how to handle delayed payments, not to lend out money to unreliable persons, and to report any form of theft to the police. Travel is not an excuse for delayed payment as modern technology, like money sent through mobile account, makes transactions possible across distance.
Another issue stressed by the YPM delegation was whether the group would keep the circle into the next year or not. VICOBA groups are mainly organized in two different ways: some are distributing back all the shares and profit once a year, and start over again (breaking the circle), while others keep the shares and distribute profits only (keeping the circle/closing the year). YPM advised all their groups to keep the circle/close the year, as this is the only way to build a strong bank which can let people lend higher amounts of money. Access to more financial resources gives greater investment opportunities to the individual, but will also benefit everyone in the VICOBA group by bringing in more profit. If a group want loans on a million shillings or more they should close the circle. The VICOBA group in Handeni has a maximum loan of 500 000 shillings today, but decided they would attempt to close the circle to increase their capacity.
Follow up training on PETS
On Thursday 15th of September YPM held a training on Public Expenditure Tracking System (PETS) for young people from villages around Handeni. The participants presented what they had done in their local communities as follow up projects since last training. The last training held August 2015 set the group of Trainer of Trainers (ToTs) who were to go into their communities and awaken the spirit of follow up for inspiring accountability. One example of a project was done on a local health center, tracking the income from fees put on users. Every visitor to the center had to contribute with 300 shillings to pay the security guard, in addition to 1000 shillings to see a doctor, and 200 for child clinic. This fees were justified as necessary to run the center, but an account on how the money was spent, and what happened to the surplus, could not be shown.
Tracking public money, asking questions and hold leading figures accountable is all of what PETS is about. If a health center receives 1300 shillings from twenty people every day, then that makes 26000 a day, 182 000 a week, and 780 000 a month! People have the right to ask how this money is spent. Unfortunately the ambassadors of PETS still meet a lot of challenges in their work. On the training, people reported problems with cooperation with leaders and local community, lack of education among people on their right to ask, and leaders who ignored them, did not turn up on appointments, or received them with a skeptical attitude (typically who are you, and why do you ask about this).
Challenges and how to solve them were discussed, and YPM came with some advice for the future. The participants should be conscious not to do PETS alone, but teach their villages and by that creating whole communities working together as catalysts for change. Alone we are weak, but together we are unbreakable. Priorities for follow up should be decided collectively in the community, and ambassadors of PETS should make sure they report back to the village to inform them on their progress, build trust and get community power. In that way we are doing advocacy with the community, not for them.
YPM is aware that PETS is demanding work and will take time, but are grateful for all achievements reach this far.
Wheelchairs to Handeni hospital
Friday morning on the 16th of September, YPM donated four wheelchairs to Handeni hospital to be used by sick and disabled people living/visiting the hospital.
Construction of computer center
YPM is planning to put up a computer center for youths in Handeni, and have donated four computers for this purpose. The center is expected to open next month. Further information will be posted.