A Cow Is Like a Savings Account

Written by Plant With Purpose on June 27, 2013 in General

Moshi Rural District, Tanzania

I met Martha in Kiruweni Village. “Shimboni Shafo,” (Good morning), I exclaimed with a handshake. Martha’s face lit up and an effusion of kind greetings followed my clumsy attempts at speaking Chagga. It was clear from seeing her compound—a well kept brick home and several animal pens—that she was thriving. Martha explained that three years ago she decided to join a Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) group sponsored by Plant With Purpose. She is one of twentyone members, each contributing a weekly share (about sixty cents) to the group’s fund. Shares provide VSLA members with savings and access to loan money.

Martha and her chickens

Looking at Martha’s nicely built house and healthy livestock, it would be difficult to guess that she is living apart from both her spouse and children. Martha’s husband moved to the city some years ago in search of work, and the couple’s five grown children have all relocated to Tanzania’s mammoth capital, Dar es Salaam. Her husband gives her money from time to time, but often he doesn’t have enough to send her anything, she explained. Without sufficient support, Martha has had to find other ways to maintain herself.

Martha and Elina

Martha recalled that prior to joining VSLA she had nearly sold her cow to pay for crop seeds. For many rural women, a cow is like a savings account. It can be used for tough times or emergencies. However, once it’s gone, so is the family’s source of capitol. Seeing a better option, Elina Mlay, a relative, told Martha about Plant With Purpose and suggested that she join a VSLA.

“Before I was in the VSLA I was always asking my neighbors to loan me money. Sometimes they would come to get the money, and I wasn’t able to repay it yet,” Martha said. In addition to helping her save and borrow money, Martha’s VSLA has instructed her in ways to improve the agricultural methods she uses to grow bananas, beans, corn, and coffee. Improved crop yields have provided Martha with food to sustain herself and extra produce to sell.

Martha’s cows

Nowadays, rather than giving up cows, Martha buys them. With help from VSLA loans, she has started small businesses raising not only cows but also chickens and pigs. Before leaving I asked Martha how she has benefited from working with Plant With Purpose. She announced proudly, “I’m independent now!”

To help more women like Martha become self sufficient visit

This is the second story in a series collected and written by Dahlia. Read “A Bank In the Garden” here.

Leave a Reply