“I could not do business anymore without support and Manna gives us the support we need”
Salara lives in the Gudele area of Juba, South Sudan and runs a business there selling general supplies in a small shop. She has 6 children and her husband is in the military, where the pay is often unreliable. Despite her experience and skills, the economic crisis meant she was struggling to do business; decreasing returns on stock made it impossible to buy in bulk the amount needed to make enough profit, and her business was shrinking.
”To buy a new sack of charcoal I needed to sell 30 small bags, while in the past we only needed to sell 15 small bags to buy one big sack”
In December last year Salara was introduced to Manna Microfinance through her local church, and joined the ‘Success’ group. Members meet weekly, initially for 8 weeks of making savings, building relationships and receiving training and then have the opportunity to take out a first loan. Salara spoke last week to Tabitha (AID communications worker in South Sudan) about what the group has meant for her, her business and her family.
How and why did you become involved with Manna Microfinance?
We go to the same church with Acu chum (a senior group that started in 2012) and a member in the group ushered me in to Manna Microfinance. At this time when our economy is in crisis, I could not do business anymore without support. And Manna gives us the support we need – weekly meetings which strengthen us and fellowship from other members. We started saving in January this year (2016) but we started gathering and meeting late last year in December.
What was the amount of your first loan, and how did you use it?
The first loan we received 2,000ssp [just over £30] for each member. The first thing I did was to increase the stock – the money enabled me to buy in bulk which is cheaper and helps to get a good return in terms of profits.
What difference has Manna Microfinance made to your life and family?
I have enjoyed the weekly meetings and fellowship. The meetings come with training and encouragement. The credit officer tells us always about business trends in Juba, which is very informative. I am currently recording more increased profits [from which] I am planning to pay school fees for my children and buy uniform. After the loan I am now making a reasonable profit which I use only to provide for my family because my husband he is a solider and they are not paid most of the months.
Will you take another loan? What does the future hold?
Yes, I have taken my first loan and am looking forward, after 30 weeks, to take another one. We have started repaying the first loan hence we are positive we can finish and take another one. For now, my children are the number one priority, Juba has become very expensive and all I want is to educate them. I wish each one of them can go through basic education and higher, my investment will be through them. We have recommended the programme to the young women in the church, they are young and I think they can achieve more than us.
How has it worked being part of a group structure?
It has been good because we have been building up good relationships. and encourage each other. We are taught in small groups which make it easy to understand, and it’s open, we can easily ask questions. We are the success group and we meet in the same place [with other microfinance groups]. In my group we have built friendships that mean we can help each other in times of need – to me they are my sisters. We save together and encourage each other. Every time we meet we pray and we have a prayer request time within the group that enables us to seek God.
Has being a Christian made a difference to how you run your business?
Running a business as a Christian makes it different because people trust you.
How has the recent conflict affected you and your business?
The 20 months conflict in South Sudan has affected everyone here. For us it was difficult to enroll our children back to school, they stayed home for a while until things cooled down. We cannot recover the time they missed in School. Secondly, some of our family members had to go and stay in the protection area for a while; for us in Gudele, soldiers moved door to door looking for the rebels which affected the children and us. Thirdly, it has reduced the business profits now things are very expensive, getting fuel is hard hence for us to travel to Gumbo (the market place) takes a lot of money. Fourthly, my husband he is solider, sometimes he is taken away and for months we can’t see him. Sometimes we can only pray for him.
Please pray for Salara and her family.
To find out more about Manna Microfinance click here.