Located at Chimala ward, Mbarali district, Mbeya region in the southern highlands, UPENDO Women Group was established on January 2013. The group is a member of MVIWATA and registered at Mbarali District council. The group is also registered as a company at BRELA. The main objective of the group is to raise members’ income through Village Community Banks (VICOBA). The group’s office is located at Chimala Bus stand.
Prior to joining MVIWATA, the group had small capital in such a way the group struggled to offer sufficient credits to members, the group also had inadequate knowledge and skills on operations and management of the farmers financial service, inadequate business skills, also the group had no long term business plan.
Through MVIWATA interventions, Upendo Women Group received a number of trainings, which include post-harvest handling and quality standards, marketing, youth, gender and group management and operations. In addition, different services were facilitated to build the capacity of the group including business development services, supporting brand development and packaging of rice and facilitate business linkage to various buyers for collective selling of their processed rice.
Apart from being members of Village Community Bank, the members are traditionally engaged on paddy production as their main economic activity. Having struggled to finance paddy production, add value on their produces and secure reliable market, the group through MVIWATA interventions overcame the barriers hindering their progress.
Thanks to MVIWATA initiatives, the group is now linked to local and international rice markets in countries bordering Tanzania in the southern highlands. In this season, the group managed to cultivate 10 acres, the produce is stored and will be collectively milled and sold to buyers.
The group, through a series of trainings managed to develop a proposal for a competitive mechanization grant offered under Nafaka project. The group successfully won the grant and received a rice-milling machine worth 12,000,000 TZS. Under this grant, the group was required to pay a cost share of 10% of the price of the milling machine.
MVIWATA in collaboration with Mbarali district council agro-mechanization department facilitated a milling machine operations, management and bookkeeping training to Upendo Women Group milling operators. This was done deliberately so that the group can efficiently and effectively manage the milling facility for sustained milling services and benefit the group members.
Currently Upendo Women Group runs a number of projects that include a Village Community Bank (VICOBA) with three (3) accounts namely shares 5, comfort and assurance account. Through VICOBA, the group has been able to offer credit three (3) times of the shares of a member. There is an account in which members can make savings for supporting education costs for their children at school.
The group through the mechanization grant received, manages a milling machine business, which provide rice-milling service to members and non-members. In addition, the group processes, packs and sells brown and white rice to specified buyers in and out of Tanzania.
Among the notable achievements the group has to its members is increased income, which has enabled members to manage education costs for their children, build residential houses and expansion of paddy cultivation fields for increased production.
Likewise, the group has been able to facilitate a formation of a youth group with 30 members that also operate as VICOBA. Market for rice has also expanded because of the group’s interventions facilitated by MVIWATA. The group has managed to mobilize a capital of amounting to 90 million TZS, with a capacity of lending up to 7 million TZS per member.
Due to increased customers, visiting Upendo Women Group milling machine project, the group leadership is challenged to expand their milling services. Therefore, the group plans to purchase a milling machine with big capacity abd technology and build a warehouse, which will provide a space for storage of at least three thousands (3,000) metric tons of rice, which will be processed at their own milling machine.
Networking and collective actions by grassroots smallholder farmers’ groups and networks being the core business of MVIWATA’s interventions, Upendo Women Group, given its achievements is playing a key role in facilitating skills and knowledge dissemination to neighboring farmers’ groups through farmer group to farmer group exchange visits.