Female smallholders Jane Pintu from Kwekwe and Lucia Zvidzai from Gokwe, Midlands work hard but still struggle to make ends meet. Both women participate in internal community savings activities with their peers to purchase basic household items—savings that could be their entry to lucrative livestock ownership.
Unfortunately, they have an uphill battle in the face of long-held cultural beliefs that livestock productivity is the purview of men. To counter these gender norms, Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development program is providing training to dozens of local women’s groups. The women learn organizational and finance skills to give them power and ownership over their finances.
By forming internal savings and lending (ISALs) groups, the women can enter into a low risk, alternative form of microfinance. Under the ISALs concept, farmers form a group with a defined constitution. Each farmer contributes a set amount that is used to fund group livestock activities or shared among members at an interest.
Pintu is one of 10 members of the Kubudirira Women’s Group, where members contrbute $10 each per month. The total is then availed to members at 10 percent interest. So far, Pintu has borrowed and fully paid back two loans, allowing her to purchase two in-calf heifers. Following program advice, she exchanged one heifer for an ox that she entered into a pen fattening program, eventually earning nearly $300 in profit from its sale.
“I am very excited now that I have seen that there is money in livestock production,” Pintu said. “I plan to grow my herd and continue buying and selling cattle.”
Zvidzai was able to put a deposit on a dairy cow from Gokwe milk collection center under the government’s Dairy Revitalization Program thanks to a $150 loan from her ISAL group, Wise Women. Her dairy cow will earn her at least $6 per day from milk sales. Other groups such as the Dzidzai Internal Savings and Lending Group in Chipinge are also seeing success. The group’s 14 members contributed $600 to purchase three steers to put through a 30-day pen fattening program, eventually generating $1,757 in gross income for a net income of $700.
Farmers are also using ISALs to finance routine cattle management activities. In Chirumhanzu, Midlands, Sara Ndodha mobilized 10 farmers to form an ISAL group for collective purchasing of drugs for its members.
The success of these women, and the continued expansion of the ISAL program, points toward a positive change the number of women participating in livestock activities in Zimbabwe.