By Edward Makuzva
KUSHINGA Internal Savings and Lending ( ISAL) group which consists of Zimbabwe National Network of People living with HIV (ZNNP+) members based in Nyakudya village, Masembura in Mashonaland Central Province have managed to stand together for years as an HIV support group.
In an interview, Thursday in the province, ZNNP+ and MIPA chairperson , Moreini Masanzu added that the ISAL group was formed in 2015 with the support from Troicare and ZNNP+ which sought to strengthen household and community resilience for People Living with HIV(PLHIV).
Masanzu said the group that has recorded great successes which stakeholders and other community members can learn from.
“The group received $150 after a feasibility assessment which ensured that a strong committee and other enabling modalities were in place. The purpose of the funds was to build Internal Savings and Lending (ISAL) groups that would empower PLHIV economically”, Masanzu explained.
She highlighted that the project was initiated to respond to the vulnerability that PLHIV and other vulnerable groups such as women, young people, persons with disabilities and the elderly face in the communities.
The chairperson added that ZNNP+ supported a number of groups but only a few have managed to remain resilient and are still in existence such as the initial Kushinga ISAL group.
She said some members have started their own small income generating initiatives from the proceeds of the ISAL which now gives them an average of $100 share per person per annum.
“ZNNP+ and National Aids Council supported the documentation of the story as a significant change that will be used in the design of ISALs in Mashonaland Central and other areas.
“The documentation of success stories that inform community-based initiatives is part of the bottom- up approaches which have evidence-based programming as outlined by the Zimbabwe National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (ZINASP).
“The story covers a successful ISAL project that has been sustained beyond 5 years despite all the challenges that include inflation, fluctuating rates, changing currencies and hijacking by some individuals. It is a story that symbolizes the art of resilience in women led community projects and the value of community monitoring, use of indigenous knowledge systems and peer- to- peer programs”, she added.
The group paid USD$2-00 per month and the money will be shared in December every year.
Speaking at the same occasion, Chief Ishmael Kagande Masembura said the project was an eye opener to the community and can bring new income streams to agricultural businesses, helping them economic sustainability and preserving small farming communities and a traditional way of life.
He added that other community members visited the site where they are doing farming to learn on how to run ISALs, and some requesting to join the group.
Chief Masembura said communities, families and local businesses continue to benefit from the Kushinga ISAL group project as they have expanded their initiatives to bananas and vegetables farming in the province.
“These innovations have contributed to the success of the plan, and other community members can learn. The project has empowered women in Masembura community who have reported that their livelihoods options have been improved.
“The project supports gender equality and building of strong community structures that are able to respond to health and other needs of communities”, Chief Masembura explained.
The Kushinga ISAL project had the following key components that enabled its success;
• Clear rules and regulations for the group in terms of borrowing, lending, and regular meetings.
• Support from ZNNP+ and other partners such as National AIDS Council
• External monitoring and support from ZNNP+.
• Maximizing on savings- pushing on numbers
• Operating within the objectives of the project
Meanwhile, members have reported that they rely on the group savings for their school fees, food, clothes, medication and other basic needs.
By Edward Makuzva