How savings are changing smallholder farmers' lives in Zambia: Violet Chimuka’s story

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is supporting smallholder farmers in Chikambwe Village in Southern Zambia to mitigate adverse climate conditions.

In Chikambwe Village in Mazabuka District, an area vulnerable to adverse climate conditions, erratic rain and frequent dry spells, most smallholder farmers are heavily dependent on rainfed agriculture and have limited access to markets, farming inputs and credit services.

To mitigate the impact of these challenges, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) supported smallholder farmers in Chikambwe Village to form a savings group April 2019. They are some of the 38,000 smallholder farmers WFP has supported to form 1,500 groups to start saving part of their incomes. Savings are vital to enable smallholder farmers to manage shocks and emergencies, make investments in their farming businesses and diversify their livelihoods beyond rainfed agriculture.

Members are trained in business skills and financial management, which has helped farmers to save frequently, borrow from their group’s fund and repay loans with an interest rate.

At the end of each six-month saving cycle, the money plus interest earned from borrowing and penalties is shared according to individual savings. The group shares the profits at strategic times, such as the onset of the planting season or lean season when food is scarce.

Twasyoma Savings Group – whose motto is ‘we believe that savings can change people’s lives’ – is making a difference in the lives of smallholder farmers in Chikambwe Village. ‘’Our way of living has completely changed since we started saving. It’s not only saving money, it’s a way of creating a better future for ourselves, our families and the communities we live in,’’ says smallholder farmer Violet Chimuka, who is part of the Twasyoma Savings Group.

Over the last three saving cycles, the group has shared out ZMW 46,000 (around US$ 2,200) between its 19 members of 4 men and 15 women. In the first cycle, Violet saved ZMW 1,400 (US$ 66) and received a pay-out of ZMW 2,000 (US$ 95). She decided to use her profit to buy 50 chickens to diversify her livelihood. Her investment was a great success – within the first eight months she had expanded her farm to 200 chickens. How savings are changing smallholder farmer’s lives in Zambia | 3 Violet’s chickens

‘’I was selling each chicken for ZMW 65. But I didn’t stop there – I decided to start a homestead garden as my house is close to a communal water pump,’’ says Violet beaming with a smile on her face. She received training on vegetable production from WFP through Heifer International and was encouraged to diversify her production with a range of nutritious food for her family. She now grows eggplants, rape, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, sweet potato, okra and onions.

“My business is doing very well. On top of selling chickens, I make around ZMW 250 a week from selling vegetables. With my profits I can finally afford to buy a hose for my garden and build a poultry house for my chickens’’ she says. When asked how her savings group changed her life, Violet announced: ‘’My family now eat a healthy meal every day. I can pay for my children’s school fees and uniforms without any worries. I do not have to travel long distances to sell my chickens – my savings group and village can now afford to buy them.’’

In the next savings cycle, Violet wants to increase the number of chickens she is keeping and build a solar pumping system for her garden to enable her to grow even more vegetables and have running water in her household. Violets testimony of the Twasyoma Savings Group shows how savings groups can be an effective approach to financial inclusion and benefit farming households as well as communities.

Written by
Sophie Smeulders
Communications Officer
UN entities involved in this initiative
World Food Programme