Those of you who have been following our project over the last couple of months may remember posts congratulating our partner, Mama Mwaka, on being the first member of the 2Seeds Network to reach a personal savings goal. As we now celebrate our second partner, Mzee Adamu, reaching his personal savings goal, we want to take a moment to talk about what it is that we hope to accomplish in setting up these goals, why we think it’s so important and what this all means for our partners and their families moving forward.
As has been mentioned in previous posts, most of our partners relied on small-scale farms as their primary source of income before joining the 2Seeds Network. In a village like Kwakiliga, where the sun is hot, the rains are unpredictable and the soil is far from fertile, one can understand why it would be difficult to find great success in agriculture. Unfortunately, with very little means to establish savings, it is next to impossible for people to invest in alternative entrepreneurial endeavors. Thus, Kwakiligan families have been trapped in a cycle of poverty for decades. 2Seeds’ aim of breaking that cycle by investing in opportunities to diversify income sources has found a good deal of success over the last two years. As the egg-selling business continues to grow, so too do our partners’ incomes. With this newfound income came a new challenge, however. Many of our partners suddenly had personal savings to manage and had very little experience doing so.
I highly recommend to all of you – particularly those of you who have, are currently or may one day live in an African nation – the book African Friends and Money Matters by David Maranz. In it, he looks at matters of personal finance through a largely anthropological lens in a variety of African nations. His observations are often general, but many of them are very relevant to what we’ve seen here and they have major implications on personal savings habits. Here are a few that stood out:
- The financial need that occurs first has first claim on the available resources
- Resources are to be used, not hoarded
- Money is to be spent before friends or relatives ask to “borrow”
- Africans tend to be very sensitive and alert to the needs of others and are quite ready to share their resources
- The response, “No”, to a request for money, a loan, or a material object is understood as an insult, indifference to need, a lack of respect, or a sign of rejection of the petitioner.
Again, these are largely generalizations and obviously do not apply to all, but we have seen first-hand the stress that one might feel having money in an environment where most do not.
Uncompleted structures are very common here, as people often begin construction of new rooms and buildings in order to liquidate assets. Should a neighbor or family member ask for a loan, there is a strong obligation to help if the money is there.
You can see in Maranz’s observations that there is a strong sense of solidarity at play. Breaking away from that, even if it means positive personal growth, can be very difficult and come at the cost of personal relationships, which are extremely highly valued here.
Having detailed and structured personal savings plans helps to alleviate some of this pressure. Virtually all of the profit generated by our egg business is put directly into a shared bank account, with records to keep track of both group and individual shares. All of our partners have also already developed goals for what they hope to do with their share of profits. Some of them are like Mama Mwaka’s goal of making crucial home improvements and will lead to happier, healthier lives; others are investments in future ventures that will help to build even greater financial security. Some of the goals are rather modest or incremental, others are quite large and may take years to reach. No matter the specifics, our goal, as Project Coordinators, is to help our partners to establish savings plans that they can take full ownership over.
Not only do these savings plans mean partners aren’t sitting on large amounts of cash, but they also help to create budgets and spending projections, which maximize savings and actually increase financial freedom and independence. Our partners work extremely hard and are accomplishing truly amazing things – we want to see them reap the full benefit of their efforts.
One of the primary objectives of the Kwakiliga Project – and 2Seeds in general, for that matter – is to see our partners achieve income security. That’s just the beginning, though. We want our partners to be able to reach their own personal maisha bora, or “better life”. Whether that’s Mama Mwaka having the house she’s always wanted, Aziza getting her women’s fashion business off the ground, or Mzee Mcharo investing in bee hives to produce and sell honey, we believe strongly in the power of financial literacy and goal setting as a catalyst for personal development.
Thanks for checking in!
Until next time,
Brandon and Jeremy, KwakStars
Click here to check out an abbreviated list of Maranz’s observations from his book African Friend and Money Matters.