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By Lyson Mapanga
The Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi FEDOMA in collaboration with the Malawi Council for the Handicapped MACOHA in their endeavor of improving lives of persons with disabilities, they are implementing an inclusive Microfinance and Sustainable Livelihood IMFSL Pilot project implemented in two districts; Blantyre Urban and Salima Rural.
According to the FEDOMA’s IMFSL project Officer Patrick Ulaya, the project works together with two Microfinance institutions namely Opportunity Bank of Malawi OBM and Concern Universal Microfinance Organization CUMO in designated districts of Blantyre Urban and Salima Rural respectively to pilot the provision of microfinance services to persons with disabilities in an inclusive format.
The project according to Ulaya is aimed at generating knowledge on which one would be more effective between an urban setup and rural setup as the two targeted districts were also reached at as one way of supplementing the Community Based Rehabilitation CBR work underway in these districts.
The project is on board to eradicate the exclusiveness among persons with disabilities in the country. In this case, the project calls for economic inclusiveness and ensures persons with disabilities are economically empowered.
“We introduced this project in order to reduce poverty levels and to increase opportunities for sustainable livelihoods for persons with disabilities through improved access to microfinance services and community inclusion but take me clear that our main role as MACOHA and FEDOMA is to orient and link up persons with disabilities to these microfinance institutions and these microfinance institutions are the ones providing microfinance services to the intended beneficiaries,” said Ulaya.
The pilot project which started in November, 2013 and expected to be completed in October, 2015 planned to reach out to 500 beneficiaries in total with 250 beneficiaries per each targeted district. These include persons with disabilities, parents and Care givers.
“FEDOMA is grateful for CBM’s intervention with the funding necessary for the implementation of this project. MACOHA and FEDOMA have partnered with two microfinance institutions in provision of microfinance services in their respective targeted districts. We are also thankful to persons with disabilities in those mentioned districts for their involvement in this pilot project,” he added.
In terms of the progress tremendous, FEDOMA is delighted as there is quite considerable progress as so far the project has reached a figure of 450 beneficiaries out of 500 intended beneficiaries and even the payment rate is quiet recommendable as no default has been registered so far. “So far we haven’t yet heard of any default as the beneficiaries in both districts are so trust worthy in settling down depts and one of our achievements in this project is the inclusiveness by the lending institutions have shown so far by making amendments to their promises accessible and also another achievement is the attitude the staff are reaching out to people in the communities as they are able to understand disability and even the communities themselves are able to take themselves in board. All we are saying here is not exclusiveness but enlightening inclusiveness. These are some of the achievements we have registered so far,” he highlighted.
Ulaya also sighted the relationship with the media as the project has been using media as a key element to lease awareness through radio adverts as so far some microfinance institutions have already shown interest to be part of the facilitators of the project as so far, talks with such interested microfinance institutions are in progress and the project verbally encounters the Vision Fund, a microfinance institution in Blantyre as it has shown an interest to work with implementers of this project The project has also recruited World Relief Microfinance institution in Salima District as the institution is able to facilitate the modalities of Village Savings and Loans VCLs to persons with disabilities.
However, the project has been experiencing some challenges and one of the challenges registered is of to do with documentation. This is a problem as the implementers are finding difficulties when compiling data as there is no electronic documentation. He however said such challenges will be overcome as possible means are in progress to eradicate such problems.
“ In terms of challenges, we are experiencing high demand persons with disabilities in both districts of Salima and Blantyre they do come in large numbers looking for the provisions of the microfinance services and the figures are so huge than our expectations. The other challenge is that capturing data and documentation is quiet a challenge as the beneficiaries are not documented electronically. However, we are making it that we should overcome such challenges. The project which is sole funded by CBM through out, is expecting to be phased out in October. However, according to Ulaya, there is a room to extend the project further as talks are in progress with the funding institution (CBM) seeking for the extension of the project.