A Story of Hope: Redefining Mukando for Women Empowerment

Success Stories

A Story of Hope: Redefining Mukando for Women Empowerment

Virl Microfinance, Chitungwiza

‘Those who introduced the idea of Mukando started a very good idea’ said Mbuya Easter Chidzonga, a participant in a group microcredit scheme based in Chitungwiza. ‘It has really helped us as women and these are the same groups we are using to get small loans for our businesses’.

In the town of Chitungwiza, Virl Microfinance, a partner of ZMF, has redefined the concept of Mukando to help improve access to microfinance for women. Mukando, a Shona word which literally means to pool/throw in, is an Internal Savings and Lending (ISAL) initiative when individuals, typically women, come together as a group and pool an agreed amount of money regularly. Whenever any of the group members are in need of finance, small loans can be taken out at a nominal interest rate. However, for individuals requiring more capital than the group has at hand, pooled funds from Mukando can sometimes be inadequate for funding small scale business initiatives.

How it works

In November 2012, ZMF provided funds to Virl Microfinance disbursed to Mukando participants. This is in line with ZMF’s need to target women at the lowest levels who are sometimes not financially and economically recognisable. Systems such as the ISAL form good opportunities for women to group and share ideas, beyond financial activities. Each group ranges from 5-10 individuals. Whilst loans are made to individuals, all group members hold the responsibility for ensuring the loan is paid. Group members can conduct either joint or independent income generating projects. On a regular basis, these groups meet together to keep track on loans as well as to encourage accountability on funds. Mbuya Chidzonga belongs to a six member Mukando group. Of those six, half the group has accessed microloans. One member, Mai Gwaze has started a poultry project; whilst Mai Gawani has become a general merchandise dealer selling products such as mobile airtime, and vegetable produce. Mbuya Chidzonga recently started a cordial manufacturing business.

Benefits of group schemes

The group system has been relatively successful as it relies on informal social mechanisms to encourage loan repayment. Defaulters within a group give the rest of the members a bad credit record hence the pressure on each other to ensure that borrowed funds are paid back. Group members are also likely to group according to similar types hence improving the social dynamics of the groups and improving repayment rates. Group structures create supportive and encouraging environments for women to borrow and run projects either as groups or members in their individual capacity. In addition, group schemes lead to the creation of social networks that increase opportunities for inclusion of women in economic and political development.

This project has the potential to contribute to poverty reduction as it has created access to funding amongst low-income women. In addition, being groups primarily motivated and driven by the women themselves, they are able to foster sustainable economic development amongst women.

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Success Stories

A Story of Hope: Mbuya Easter Chidzonga, an entrepreneur re-invented

Success Stories

A Story of Hope: Mbuya Easter Chidzonga, an entrepreneur re-invented

Mbuya Easter Chidzonga used to make a living as a cross border trader travelling to South Africa and bringing in goods for resell. Now she has started a business manufacturing and distributing cordials to neighbourhood shops in Chitungwiza as well as Dema growth point, Mashonaland East.


Over the last decade, as economic hardships deepened in Zimbabwe, many women such as Mbuya Chidzonga resorted to informal cross border trading (ICBT) in order to improve the welfare of their households. ‘When I was a cross-border trader, I would go to South Africa and bring back stock to resell.’ However, as the market became stiff with competition and local manufacturing began to regularise, the profitability of cross border trading declined.

According to Mbuya Chidzonga, ‘the market is now so flooded; many people are doing the same thing – everyone is going to South Africa to bring back the same things to sell. Right now I have a pile of 2 in 1’s from last year still unsold’. She points to a pile of blankets that are gathering dust in a corner of the living room.

Fig 1: Mbuya Easter Chidzonga shows off the cordial she manufactures, Chitungwiza


‘After I stopped going to South Africa, I spent some months wondering what I should do next to earn money, then I got some advice from a relative. Sekuru Zvaremhaka showed me how to make drinks using powders from South Africa’.

In order to finance her diversification into the cordials business, Easter Chidzonga obtained a loan of $500 through Virl Microfinance, a local Financial Services Provider (FSP) receiving wholesale funding from ZMF. With these funds she purchased bottles, caps, labels and the ingredients for her product. She now sells the 2l product branded ‘Propan’ to individuals, local tuckshops and small supermarkets in Chitungwiza.

The future

Though the business is less than a year old, it is nevertheless brisk – retailing at $1 per bottle, her brand is cheaper than the average 2l cordial hence its popularity. In addition, Mbuya Chidzonga has managed to create a strong network of customers amongst local shops and tuckshops to move her stock. With the proceeds from her drinks business, she is taking care of her grandchild as well as building a house at Dema growth point. After successfully selling some cases there she saw the potential for a profitable niche market targeting rural stores. Her plan is to obtain a further loan to open a cordial manufacturing business in her rural home in preparation for her retirement.


Grain Mapundu, a business regenerated

Success Stories

Grain Mapundu, a business regenerated

A loan obtained from one of ZMF’s partner organisations (Quest Financial Services) enabled 38 year old Grain Mapundu to revive his flagging telecommunications business. With the loan that Grain obtained, he purchased new stock thereby expanding his business.

Starting Out

Born in the rural area of Mt. Darwin in 1975, Grain Mapundu moved to the city of Harare in the 80s where he became a gardener to raise money for school fees. He eventually completed his education and became a technician with the Post and Telecommunications (PTC) parastatal. However, the 1996 PTC workers’ strike caused Grain to lose his job, motivating him to start his own telecommunications company a few years later.

Fig 1: Grain Mapundu

Economic Crisis

By 2004, Grain Mapundu had a staff complement of 8 people, providing PABX installations and servicing to companies within Harare. ‘When we started, Mapundu Investments’ performance was good. We even had 8. But things started to fall apart because of the economic meltdown – we ought to have closed but I decided to stay in Zimbabwe because a client is a king and I chose to serve my clients’.

In 2012, ZMF provided wholesale funding to Quest Financial Services to enable them to expand their microfinance services to their clientele. With the funding obtained, Quest Financial Services was able to provide a further microloan to Grain Mapundu enabling him to purchase cabling for his PABX installations.


To date, the company is gradually turning around assisted by the microloans Grain has obtained. With the profits he has made from his small enterprise, Grain has also managed to support his wife and three children. ‘My first born is doing Form Four, with this small business. I even support my sister and ill brother, together with their children. What I would like to say to those people who fund Quest – if only they could give more money so that in turn we as businesses can have more money to expand’.