Agnes Mwale, a 65-year-old Ngoni tribal woman, retired early in 1983. After working at a rural clinic, she decided to settle in eastern Zambia’s Katete District. Agnes first heard about the PROFIT+-facilitated savings and lending program in July 2014. Realizing that the initiative could alleviate credit challenges among women in her community, Agnes and six other women formed the Riverside Savings and Credit Group, an all-female group. The group’s membership reached 25. By accessing credit, Agnes now enjoys economic and decision-making independence.

Thanks to the intensive training offered to the group by PROFIT+, the group started saving money in August 2014. After saving ZMK200 ($15) in the first two months, Agnes qualified for a ZMK400 ($32) loan, which she invested in a potato business. After trading potatoes for one month, Agnes paid the loan back in full, including interest. Her profit stood at ZMK1,600 ($127).

Woman Entrepreneur Builds Produce Business with Loan Secured from All-Female Savings and Credit Group

Agnes then discovered a market for red creole onions and potatoes at a Lusaka supermarket. She has since supplied the supermarket with substantial quantities of the commodities. Agnes secured a loan from her group and used the money to order more potatoes, which she supplied to the supermarket. She made a profit of ZMK13,200 ($1,051), which she reinvested in her business after paying back the loan.

Since Agnes started saving with the group, she cited a number of benefits gained through the PROFIT+ savings and credit initiative. These include: the ability to pay for her grandchildren’s school, an improved family diet, and the ability to purchase farm inputs with cash.

Agnes’s case underscores the importance of leadership and entrepreneurship development in rural areas, while targeting women’s empowerment. This type of effort requires well thought-out, targeted interventions and the mainstreaming of gender in all domains.