Reaching women in some of the most remote and rural locations is a challenge many organisations face.
In Africa, large proportions of the population live in rural areas, however, aid tends to overlook these regions because they are harder to access. The lack of physical, social and economic infrastructure not only make it harder for organisations to operate, but also hamper development of economic activities and employment. In Malawi, 84% of the population live in rural areas, and rural poverty rates are extremely high. MicroLoan’s mission is to reach the poorest of the poor and to do so our staff travel hundreds of miles every week to reach those living in remote communities.
The Challenge for MicroLoan
The challenge we face is how to overcome the barriers of providing loans to the financially excluded in rural areas. A key component of this is establishing the infrastructure necessary to locate, identify and support our clients. To do this, we hire and train local staff to become Loan & Training Officers (LTOs), and it is their job to travel to villages to meet with the women we support. Our entrepreneurs receive training sessions every two weeks run by our LTOs.
Because poverty levels are so high and access to education is so scarce in these areas, many of the women we support are illiterate. To overcome this we deliver our training sessions through games, songs, role-play and dance, creating an interactive and fun learning environment.
The work done by our LTOs is essential in helping us reach the most excluded women.
A typical day for our LTOs
Everyday our LTOs travel large distances on motorbikes, allowing them to reach isolated villages and reach our clients. On an average day an LTO will visit around three groups, travelling to different villages and communities.In Malawi, each loan officer is responsible for an average of 350 women.
During the group visits, our LTOs will provide training and oversee the distribution of loans and repayments. Before first loan disbursements are made each woman completes eight initial training modules and a group assessment, which are conducted by the LTOs.
Part of the training is focused on savings and we encourage all our clients to save regularly. The savings give resilience to manage when harvests are bad, alleviates the pressures of taking in additional family members, and coping with the death of relatives.
The majority of our clients were never able to save before working with MicroLoan. 97% of our clients in Malawi and Zambia report having savings compared to only 11% previously.
Reuben Nyirongo is one of our LTOs in Zambia. He is currently working with over 300 clients and many of them were struggling to support their children when they joined MicroLoan. There are certain groups that are particularly vulnerable, for example widows. Many women inherit nothing when their husband dies and they are forced to start over. Part of Rueben’s role is to help these women gain the knowledge and skills they need to provide for themselves.
“MLF is really helping women, including those who have experienced incredible hardship, but are now able to support their children themselves.”
One of MicroLoan Foundation’s core principles is to reach those who need it most. We work in some of the most rural areas empowering women, giving them resources and training they need to set up businesses. Loan & Training Officers are instrumental in reaching women living in remote rural areas. They provide many women with their first opportunity to run a successful business and to improve their families’ quality of life.
To date we have provided 150,000 women with the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty, reaching even those who live in the most rural parts of Malawi and Zambia.