Impact of Our Micro Loans Program over the last 12 months

Power of Love’s micro loans program now has 240 women enrolled and a majority of them are running successful businesses. The businesses chosen by the women are quite diverse and range from groceries (mealie meal - a Zambian staple, cooking oil, rice, sugar, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and beans), to dressed chicken, dried fish, charcoal, baby blankets, books, restaurant, and a salon etc. Most women (about 50%) have started tiny grocery stores located close to their homes. About 20% of the women sell used clothes and shoes. These ladies travel by bus to the City Market in Lusaka, purchase the used clothing and shoes and resell these at a higher price in their community marketplace. Many of the businesses such as charcoal, rice, beans and sugar involve the women buying in bulk, repackaging the item in smaller quantities and reselling. All of these businesses add value for the community members as they are located within walking distance from their homes and the community is able to purchase smaller and more affordable quantities. For example, one of the ladies, Edith Makoni owned a hair dryer machine, so she opened a hair salon by renting space in the marketplace and purchasing supplies and materials like combs and cosmetics, needed to run her business. Edith is now providing a service to the women closer to their homes and at reasonable prices.
Business training and loans provided to women go a long way in helping them provide for their families and take the first steps towards self-reliance. At this time, 70% of the women are single or widowed and 50% are dependent on their husband or relatives for household expenses. On average each women cares for 7 or more people at home - our goal is to
help these women learn how to run a business so they can pay for school expenses and keep their children in school.
We track businesses run by the women to study how they evolve as the women progress from their first loan to their second and third loan cycles. Our hope is that as the women move to through their loan cycles, they are able to increase the number and variety of items, add higher value items, increase the store size or move to a better location, and/or have a better store design and display.

Short Term Impact of the Loans Provided
1. The diet and nutrition of all families in our program has improved and they have gone from eating one meal to 2-3 meals per day. Since the average household size is about 7-8 people, our loans program impacts 1600-1700 people directly and an additional 1000 people indirectly as the women in our program educate others on taking proper care of their HIV positive members in the family, keep their children in school and encourage them to go in for testing for HIV and to take charge of their own lives.
2. Schooling: Most families understand the importance of keeping children in school and are able to pay for school expenses (books, uniforms, school bag).
3. Earnings from businesses enable women to purchase household goods, building materials, pay for expansion of their homes or purchase plots
4. Savings: Most women understand the importance of saving and more than 50% have started savings in bank accounts. The amount saved per woman is small but these savings help build capital for when they are weaned off the program/emergencies/for school expenses, and for investment in big assets like houses.
5. Business Expansion: About two-thirds of the women are able to expand their business by the second loan cycle.

Medium/Long Impact of the Loans Program
1. Women will move from selling out of their homes to a rented shop in the community marketplace which has higher foot traffic.
2. Expand their business with the same type of goods.
3. Expand and diversify into new line/lines of business.
4. Purchase a shop instead of selling from a rented space.

Challenges Faced
1. Personal/Marital problems
2. Need more capital to expand business as a significant portion of their earnings goes towards meeting the needs of the family so they are not able to save enough to purchase raw materials/inventory items for their business. This is especially true of women in the old loans program.
In general, some women may not able to expand/run their businesses due to sickness, funerals, school fees and expenses, competition in the market, and limited capital.

How We Counteract Challenges
1. The refresher training provided helps the women in improving earnings from businesses so that the women can be on track with repayments and/or expand their business.
2. Advice/mentoring from peers whose businesses are doing fine.
3. Counseling for women whose businesses are impacted due to marital/personal problems.