It was still morning on July 10th and we were already visiting our fourth Small Business Fund (SBF) family in Manyamula Village, Malawi. The morning started with me, Boyd (SIA Advisory Board member), and Canaan Gondwe (local SIA SBF Coordinator) in the truck, along with our driver, Mr. Mango. By the time we reached Chisomo Place, several more people had hopped in the back of the truck. Two more followed along on the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative motorbike.
The crew of our escorts and on-lookers created a festive atmosphere around the site visits. They were there to see their friends from the cooperative, experience the exciting atmosphere of an international visitor, and to make sure we caught everything on camera.
Meanly Mbeye, a widow, runs Chisomo Place farm with her siblings, children, and elderly mother, a practice common on African small farms. Also typical, Meanly has pieced together several small enterprises to provide for everyone. Receiving the $150 SIA grant in 2013 helped to revive the family dairy production. They had a cow, but it desperately needed vaccines and better food. The grant went toward these necessities and now the cow produces enough milk to sell to surrounding families and to the local World Vision center.
In addition to the milk, Meanly also bakes and sells donuts four days a week, earning up to $120 each week. To help her with this work, she has hired another woman to help with the baking. SIA SBF owners are job creators!
Last week I talked about passing along the joy of giving. Meanly has not only hired another person to help with the business, she has also trained another woman, named Joyce Banda (but not the Malawian past-president!) in baking and marketing donuts. Joyce also received the gift of a bag of flour for her first round of baking.
Another piece of the family investment is a small – and growing – Moringa farm. Del Anderson (SIA Founder) was really interested in the potential benefits of Moringa. Canaan remembered that and has encouraged people in his community to plant these fast-growing trees with leaves that provide countless medicinal and nutritional benefits. Meanly proudly showed us the 35 Moringa seedlings and Winkly eagerly picked and ate a few of the leaves. I tried a few too – not too bad tasting, and they’re good for you!
Meanly was delighted to be able to show us her thriving homestead. Canaan was pleased to share the accomplishments of the family he has mentored. And I was impressed to see Menaly’s strength and perseverance in the face of the needs of her large family. They received the grant less than a year ago and already they are reinvesting to expand their farm and create sustainable businesses. And they are able to provide better food and medical care for the whole family.
As we left, Meanly sent us (and the crew that followed us) a basket of donuts and “minerals” (soda) for the next visit. One more display of gratitude and generosity for the road!