The Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ) has partnered with its affiliate church health institutions to promote financial health of rural communities through savings in Mpongwe District in the Copperbelt.

CHAZ has been promoting Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) through its affiliate church health institutions in Mpongwe District, Copperbelt Province and in Petauke District in Eastern Province’s with support from the Rural Finance Expansion Programme (RUFEP).

Since 2016, CHAZ has been working with RUFEP to build capacity of VSLAs in Petauke District in Eastern Province with support from RUFEP under the Community Based Financial Institutions Linkages Window.

In Mpongwe District, CHAZ is working with St. Theresa and Mpongwe Mission Hospitals of the Catholic Church to promote financial health of rural communities through village savings and loan associations. This has uplifted the livelihoods of the rural people who are mostly vulnerable and lack of access to basic health care and financial services.

With support from RUFEP under the Agency and Mobile Banking Window of the Innovation and Outreach Facility, CHAZ is implementing a project dubbed Community Based Microfinance Mobile Banking Project through St. Theresa Mission Hospital in Mpongwe rural.

Apart from facilitating linkages with formal financial institutions, the Community Based Microfinance Mobile Banking Project promotes digitization of VSLAs transactions using mobile banking.

On the 21st September, 2021, a RUFEP delegation went on a monitoring field visit to assess progress by CHAZ on the Project. The first point of call was St. Theresa Mission Hospital in Mpongwe District.

Sr. Veronica Bwalya is the Deputy Administrator for St. Theresa Mission Hospital. Sr. Bwalya briefed the RUFEP team on progress made by her health institution on the CHAZ and RUFEP supported project in Mpongwe district.

She said Field Officers and Agents were trained to coach the Savings Group members on business management and income generating activities (IGA) adding that a number of them opened bank accounts thereafter.

“Members of Saving Groups including those living with HIV/AIDS who never ran any business are now saving and borrowing from their respective savings groups to engage in income generating activities”, she said.

She thanked RUFEP for the initiative to digitize savings groups and linking them to ZANACO, which has contributed in bringing financial services closer to the people through the Zanaco Express Agents recruited under the project.

Project Micro-Finance and Mobile Banking Supervisor Maybin Silavwe said Savings Groups have empowered vulnerable people to be self-reliant who were under the care of health institutions as they have their own stable incomes now.

Mr. Silavwe disclosed that Zanaco Express Agents were recruited from within Savings Group members and are providing financial services within the communities.

From St. Theresa Mission Hospital, the RUFEP delegation proceeded to meet Kucetekela Village Banking Group to witness how the groups have digitized their transactions using mobile phones.

The RUFEP team also visited the Baptist Church’s Mpongwe Mission Hospital another health institution member of CHAZ involved in the promotion of village banking in the district.

Hospital Administrator Rose Munkombwe thanked CHAZ, Zanaco and RUFEP for promoting savings group linkages with banks and digital savings through mobile banking.

RUFEP Programme Coordinator Michael Mbulo said RUFEP aims to increase access to and use of sustainable financial services by rural people.

Mr. Mbulo added that sustainability entails that innovations supported by RUFEP through partners such as CHAZ and its affiliate members should continue beyond RUFEP support.

The team proceeded to meet saving groups that were attending a business and financial training in preparation for migration from cash-based transactions to digital savings in the next cycle.

RUFEP was happy to witness commitment by savings group members to better their livelihoods through savings and their willingness to adopt mobile banking as a safe and convenient way of promoting cashless transactions in the wake of COVID-19.