POL Posts: Blogs, Reports & Updates
March 3, 2023

2022 Report on POL's Micro Loans Program

Executive Summary

The Power of Love team is grateful for your continued support and dedication to empower vulnerable women, educate children, and alleviate poverty. Your continued support is building a community of empowered and self-reliant women entrepreneursRationale for a Microloans program and the Impact of COVID

About Zambia: Zambia is a democratic country, rich in mineral resources and a young population with a median age of just 17 years. The country has made significant progress in areas of health care and education. However, 55% of its population lives below the national poverty line, 70 percent of the urban population lives in slums, and most of its estimated one million orphans live with grandmothers/extended family who have few marketable skills, poor information regarding disease prevention, and no source of income. These families need training in income generating activities, healthcare, and education.

Impact of COVID, Climate change: In the past 3-4 years, more countries are facing growing levels of food insecurity and loss of livelihood due to COVID, climate change, and conflict. As a result, the world in not on track to achieve the UNs SDGs by 2030. However, recent studies conclude that that the goals of reducing the impact of climate change and poverty reduction need not be in conflict if vulnerable populations are provided with food, clean energy, education, health, water, and sanitation. These provisions will result in a higher human well-being, and an improvement in the quality of life.

Access to credit is a solution: Provision of microcredit expands the financial choices available to vulnerable women and is a cost-effective solution for them to generate an income and keep children in school. Since a majority of the world survives on just $2 per day, microfinance becomes a solution that can help more people improve their living conditions and educate children. 

Our response: To keep vulnerable families self-reliant and sustainable, our focus over the last year has been to increase the number of women who receive entrepreneurial training and closer monitoring of their businesses to ensure success. In 2023, safe water filtration systems will be provided to families who lack access to clean water. All program activities are designed to reduce poverty and offset the impact of higher food prices, and climate change.

Our Vison is for all families to be sustainable. Studies have shown that if women are empowered and children are educated communities will be more sustainable. Accordingly, the goals of our micro loans program are (i) equip women with the tools they need to run a successful business, (ii) create conditions for social empowerment, and (iii) enable women to gather enough capital and savings so they can continue to run a profitable business even after graduating from the program.

Micro Loans Rationale and Program Impact

We believe that access to credit is a fundamental right and availability of credit is an effective solution for unlocking the income potential, reducing poverty, and improving health for all. In most developing countries, poor households have their best resource, labor, “locked up”, due to constraints such as a lack of liquidity. For example, a poor household may have family members who are willing to work on the family farm/garden but may not have sufficient funds to purchase farm inputs or improved crop varieties. If this liquidity constraint is addressed, the household can escape the vicious circle of poverty. Micro finance can play a significant role in facilitating the financial inclusion of disadvantaged populations. Benefits of financial inclusion and choices range all the way from enabling people to put food on the table, educating children, and reducing the stress of poverty in a sustainable way. In addition, beneficiaries begin to feel “they matter’, and this is transformative; instead of focusing on survival they begin to look for ways to thrive.

Power of Love’s women’s empowerment program continues to benefit more than 20,000 (currently enrolled and graduates) women and their families in Zambia. Earnings from businesses started with loans help pay for food, rent, medicines, and school. As a result, there is a demonstrable improvement in the health of families, more children attend school (>2500 in 2022), the women are financially literate, and there is an improvement in gender equality.

All women and their families receive insecticide treated nets to keep them safe from malaria and so that children do not miss school. Over the last two years, 8,100 clean cooking stoves and education on COVID was provided . In 2023, our plan is to provide safe water filtration systems to families that lack access to clean water. All these program activities help communities break the vicious cycle of poverty, poor health, low education, and lack of opportunity so they can enjoy a higher quality of life.

Plan for 2023

  • Expand the program by adding 50 loans and increasing loan size to improve profits and sales.
  • Provide training business skills and entrepreneurship to 700 women.
  • Provide refresher training and business mentoring to all 615 women enrolled.
  • Monitor businesses closely to ensure success.
  • Encourage graduates to mentor/train new loan recipients.
  • Track pre/post-enrollment home expenses to measure ROR and improve program impact.   
  • Continue to partner with community organizations such as churches to build trust.

Micro Loan Program Activities and Impact

Progress toward the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030 has been slower than planned due to climate change, COVID, and conflict. However, according to a study by Project Drawdown, "the world should not have to choose among human development, poverty eradication, climate mitigation, and climate adaptation”. One solution is the provision of food, clean cooking, education, health, water, and sanitation resulting in both poverty alleviation and mitigation of the impact of climate change. Consequently, our focus has been on increasing loans, provision of bigger loans, increasing the number of women trained in business skills and entrepreneurship, and ongoing support.

Program Activities Completed in 2022

Power of Love’s women’s empowerment program continues to benefit more than 20,000 (currently enrolled and graduates) women and their families in Zambia. Program activities include the provision of three consecutive loans, business training, and ongoing business mentoring and monitoring to vulnerable women impacted by HIV. All training is participative, hands on, and in the local language as most women have never been to school.

Over the period January to December 2022:   

  • 813 women received business training.
  • 550 women received refresher training.
  • 460 women received business mentoring training.
  • Added 65 new loans (50 women and 15 young adults who graduated from our pediatric HIV care program) to bring the total to 615 active loan recipients.
  • Increased the loan size for 168 women.
  • Families continue to receive COVID education and PPE.  In addition, children from the community are invited to attend COVID education workshops.

Return on investment: Over the last 3-4 months, household expenditures by 134 women before and 3-4 months after the first loans were tracked. In just three months after receipt of their first loan, the women were able to increase household expenditures by 329%. Note that this number is likely to go up significantly as the women gain experience in running their businesses. Tracking of expenditures will continue till the women complete repayments on their third and final loan.

Ongoing Program Activities in 2022

  • Active Loans: All 615 loan recipients receive ongoing training and support. Direct beneficiaries every year, are more than 5,000 adults and children.
  • Business training provided to 813 women. The goals of business training are to train loan recipients in (i) how to run a profitable business, (ii) overcome challenges, (iii) work as a team, and (vi) develop relationships of mutual support. All training modules are supplemented with hands on exercises, work sheets, real world examples, and group discussions. Training is conducted in a COVID safe manner. Post training women receive their first loan to start/expand businesses.
  • Refresher training provided to 550 women.
  • Business mentoring provided to 460 women. Mentors are graduates of the loan program running successful businesses. Over the past year, the number of women who would like to mentor has increased steadily.
  • Ongoing business monitoring: All loan recipients enrolled receive advice regarding product display, maintenance of accounts, bookkeeping, inventory management etc.
  • Support and repayment Meetings: the women discuss and educate each other on important topics such as HIV, STI’s, importance of school, and challenges faced. In 2022, the repayment rate improved, and more businesses are thriving post-COVID.
  • Repayments rates are between 90-92% despite difficult circumstances.
  • Insecticide treated nets and education on malaria provided to keep families safe from malaria.
  • Education on COVID prevention provided.

Program Impact: In a relatively short span of time (about 8-12 months), most loan recipients are economically stable as earnings from businesses help pay for necessities, school expenses and small household purchases. There is a demonstrable improvement in the health of families, more children attend school (>2000 to date in 2022), women are financially literate, and there is an improvement in gender equality. In addition, families share information regarding HIV, COVID and malaria so that the larger community benefits.

At present there are 2,730 businesses (615 by current loan recipients and 2,115 by graduates over the past 10 years) that are running because of this program, benefitting more than 20,000 adults and children. The impact is multi-generational. With more children attending school they can graduate high school, aspire for careers out of reach of their parents, and educate their own children.   

A unique outcome of program activities is that several churches, based on their observations, requested that their women parishioners receive business training. Currently, we are partnering with multiple churches to train women in business skills and entrepreneurship. To date, 1,330 women from different churches have received business training. The demand for these trainings has grown organically. At present, we have more than 800 women awaiting training. 

Here is a testimony from a recent loan recipient: “I am HIV positive and loved. I have seen the devastation and I know the cost of HIV, having lost numerous family members from complications to AIDS. When I came to know that I was HIV positive, my world come crashing down on me. Thanks to Power of Love foundation for the strength as I received support though out, not forgetting friends and family. I kept on following all the health guidelines and hospital appointments. After I graduated from the program at Power of Love foundation; I met Peter (not his real name) and found unconditional love shared my status as we were being told at the center during safe parks on reproductive health and peer education, only to find that he was also HIV positive. We got married and we have been together for three years now. We have baby girl together who is HIV negative. Am happy to be one of the people who have received loans from the micro finance as our lives will never be the same am now doing my business. I will work extra hard and save more”.

Program Success and Metrics

Short and Medium Term: There is an improvement in the diet, nutrition, and health of families; more than 2,500 children attend school/skills training in 2022 alone, families have better knowledge about HIV prevention and care; many women purchased a plot of land or extended/built homes; more women are financially literate and have built strong social networks.

Long term impact is illustrated by:

  • Skills Development: Women learn a variety of business skills that include record keeping (leads to better information on inventory, sales, profits, receivables etc.), customer service, and financial literacy.
  • Acquire new habits: Women start saving a small amount each week via mobile banks (as these are cheaper and easier to operate than commercial bank accounts) or village banks. Older children help with businesses.
  • Better knowledge about HIV/malaria/COVID leads to better health and higher earnings.
  • Build relationships of mutual support that are helpful in the long run.
  • Change in culture as men (husbands, sons) support businesses and help with childcare.
  • Quality of life: Women are self-reliant, enjoy a higher status in the community and become role models/leaders.
  • Education: More children are in school/vocational training.
  • Stronger community: Communities are better equipped to find solutions that work best for their environment and culture.

Family sustainability: Families are more sustainable, and women are self-reliant as they (i) are running successful businesses, (ii) are socially and economically empowered, and (iii) have acquired lifelong skills. In addition, there is an improvement in gender equity and families can break out of the vicious circle of poverty-poor health-low education-lack of opportunities.

Community strengthening: More than 50% of women who have graduated over the past 10 years are still running businesses in the community. Currently, more than 2,700 businesses are running that were started by women currently enrolled/graduated from this program. In addition, more than one-third of graduates have made investments in land, shops, and home extensions so they have a stable and sustained source of income. Making a relatively small investment through the provision of loans and training, results in economic empowerment for the women, family sustainability, improved gender equity, and a stronger community that can solve problems without assistance.

Plan for 2023

  • Expand the program by adding 50 loans to bring the total to 665 active loans.
  • Increase loan size to improve profits and sales.
  • Provide business skills and entrepreneurship training to 700 women.
  • Provide refresher training and business mentoring to all women enrolled.
  • Monitor businesses closely to ensure success.
  • Encourage graduates to mentor/train new loan recipients.
  • Track pre/post-enrollment household spending to improve program impact.   
  • Continue to partner with community organizations such as churches to build trust.

Building More Sustainable and Peaceful Communities

We measure success by ensuring sustainability of the family and not so much by repayment rates and financial sustainability of the program. Family sustainability is measured by factors such as: an improvement in health, children attending school, financial literacy, asset acquisition, improved gender equity, women leaders/role models, and strong social networks. To sum, program activities result in poverty alleviation, an improvement in the health of families, education for children, and asset acquisition by women which in turn mitigate the impact of climate change. In the long term, communities are stronger and more sustainable and peaceful.

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