This marks the 9th year and 11th trip to the remote Mwakaleli Valley in the Livingstone Mountains in the southwest corner of Tanzania. Guest travelers on this trip are my dear friends, Jane Marx and Patty Lund-Moe. I was excited to share why I love the people in these Villages and the projects that One Small Drop supports for the empowerment of women, widows and children. When you empower the woman, you empower the family.
We were greeted at the base of the mountain with a land rover piloted by master driver Mwaliaje, and our wonderful manager, Oscar and essential interpreter, Tupo. This land rover covers many miles of mountainous, rugged terrain, and the vehicle is always filled with extra supporters: Peter – a helper and interpreter, Tumpe – the President of Lukamanda (Lukamanda is the non-profit formed by the 11 women’s groups that One Small Drop works with) and various others.
Over the past 9 years some of the sustainable projects One Small Drop has helped to start include pigs, potatoes, avocados, beans, orphan uniforms, tea, cows, batik material, sewing machine coop, bees, soap making and micro loans.
We visited each of the 11 communities to hear reports on their projects. 9 of the 11 are currently doing micro loans. This project seems to be providing some of the best profits. They are looking to increase their pool of funds because there is a high demand for the micro loans. Typically they lend out $10 at 10% interest for a maximum of 3 months. So if you pay it back after one month, you owe $11, after 2 months $12 and $13 after 3 months. These loans benefit both the group that is loaning the money and the woman borrowing the money. She may be looking to start a business or expand a component of her business, but more importantly, because of these loans the woman are realizing they have a right to talk and voice their opinions with confidence.
The ladies doing the Batik Dying reported that this is also a very profitable project. They are able to dye the material in one day and sell the entire lot the next day. They made a profit of $240 on their 1st try. They are looking at adding capital in this project and doing it again.
It really is a honor to see how far these ladies have come over the last 9 years. Their courage to step into a partnership, coupled with their compassionate hearts have led to a relationships like no other.