“Before I started the shop it was so difficult for us to have our daily food, the profits from daily sales helped my family to feed every day and to support my children’s schooling – buying uniform and books.” Rose
Families in South Sudan often struggle to secure a livelihood, not through lack of thriftiness or creativity, but due to an absence of resources and opportunity. Banking institutions practically do not exist for the local, serving only aid agencies and large businesses, while more informal lenders charge extortionate and unreasonable rates. Mothers and wives are often particularly burdened with the responsibility of finding work, but often jobs in South Sudan do not pay enough to provide food, clothing and schooling for a family.
This is where Manna Microfinance steps in.
“We are grateful to Anglican International Development for giving this country a second chance over and over supporting women to provide for their family in such a difficult time.” Rose
AID’s Manna Microfinance (MM) programme helps women to create livelihoods so they can provide for their for their families.
Manna Microfinance is run by local staff (though was initially delivered by a partner organisation, the Bridge Foundation). It is managed by South Sudanese vicar Reverend Martin, who is supported by a secretary and several field staff who work directly with the women to recruit members, develop self-help groups, deliver business training and collect loan repayments. Reverend Martin is also assisted by Tabitha Muthui, AID’s Communications and Fundraising Manager in Sub-Saharan Africa. AID conducts audit checks every few months and also helps to develop new ideas for innovation and diversification.
MM usually serves between 200-300 members at any one time, it has a high repayment rate and strong support from the local community. In the last couple of years MM has begun to make a profit from the small interest collected on loan repayments. The aim is that the project grows, supporting more and more women, and so becomes self-sustainable from these profits.
How MM Works
Women are invited to join a group through a notice given in a local church, they must then attend group meetings for 8 weeks (where they receive training) and making weekly savings. After 8 weeks a member is eligible to apply for a loan. The loan and new skills are used to begin or develop a business. Members must then make regular repayments at a low interest rate, as well as contributing to savings, until the loan is paid off. They may then apply for a second loan.
Groups meetings begin with prayer and worship, before moving on to training, making loan repayments and contributing to savings accounts.
“The training we received before receiving the money was so helpful to us. We kept on remembering what we have been taught.” Sarah Moses
Training covers areas such as group principles, savings, book keeping, money management, entrepreneurial awareness and ethics.
Benefits of the Group Structure
The group structure helps to provide stability and support for the women both in their work and their lives. The benefit of this group structure has been particularly evident during the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. During episodes of violence in Juba several MM businesses have been destroyed, however their group members have come to their aid and enabled them to revive their livelihoods. Without MM’s help these women would have been left without hope.
Links With the Church and Community
MM was set up in partnership with the local church (click here to read more about why we work with the Church), the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) and remains closely integrated with the church. As mentioned, groups are recruited through announcements in church services (though are open to women of all faith and none) and as well as this, church leaders are involved in encouraging women in their business development and loan repayments. The Church’s values of accountability, inclusion, honesty and personal dignity ensure that the systems of microfinance are overseen properly.
Conflict in South Sudan
In God’s grace, Manna Microfinance (MM) has been able to continue enabling women through South Sudan’s current conflcit. Tabitha Muthui (AID East Africa staff worker) says:
“Manna Microfinance women have been able to put up a complete hut of resilience; from the staff to the clients and the entire management.”
Following the conflict in 2016, MM women have come up with resourceful ways to continue running businesses and fighting the rising inflation rates. They have begun to rely more on local resources, rather than imported goods, and to develop skills-based businesses.
Lillia (left) did a tailoring course offered by the Catholic Church in 2014 and, with a $50 loan from MM, she was able to begin a tailoring business and keep her family full and healthy.
Instead of buying and selling goods, Sarah (right) has set up a tea business in the capital.
Awut (left) has started a beading business:
“Sometimes we sell the neckless to our sisters in Uganda and Kenya. Sometimes to women who are overseas, this is how we gain hard currency.”