What is Mpendulo Savings?
Mpendulo means “the answer” in isiXhosa. Our motto is “Save ‘n Grow”, because for us and our members, this is the answer! Both the name, Mpendulo, and our motto were chosen for the project by our group members.
Our aim is to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS and unemployment on vulnerable families by building their economic resilience through membership in community managed savings and lending (CMSL) groups. We operate in the Cacadu District of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Our office is based in Pellsrus, one of the township areas of Jeffreys Bay.
In mid 2006, a group of people from Jeffreys Bay and the township involved in community development formed an advisory group. They noticed a recurring theme across their work, which was the issue of alleviating poverty. Activities existed to assist vulnerable families with grants and charitable donations of food, clothes and medicines, but building the economic resilience of vulnerable families by helping them to help themselves was neglected. The advisory group felt that promoting CMSL groups could fill this perceived gap. These advisors are now the Board of Trustees for Mpendulo.
In October 2006, a member of the advisory group (now the Director) met with the head of the Department of Development Studies at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). He agreed to assist in getting the CMSL Project off the ground and to mentor our organizational development. A grant, managed by NMMU, was secured in early 2008 from World Vision and Kellogg’s Foundation and the project was launched under the auspices of NMMU. During 2009, the CMSL Project was registered as the CMSL Trust, and approved by SARS as a tax-exempt, Public Benefit Organization. Although CMSL Trust is our officially registered name, everyone in the community knows us as Mpendulo Project.
In spite of the challenges of coping with AIDS-related crises and unemployment, many poor families do respond creatively and devise ways to survive and even thrive. At Mpendulo, we do not want to make the mistake of treating poverty-stricken families as helpless victims. If we do, then we create programs that treat them as passive recipients of our goodwill, rather than as active participants in addressing their own needs, problems, and challenges.
We have enormous faith in the ability of vulnerable communities to find their own answers and we embrace the process of building community ownership of both problems and solutions.
We believe that creating access to flexible savings and loans through self managed mechanisms will improve economic resiliency, and by extension, enable families to cope successfully with crises. In our opinion, community managed systems are a more financially healthy alternative to standard microfinance practice, which can create a dangerous reliance on externally managed credit provision. Borrowing one’s way out of poverty creates debt; Mpendulo prefers to build savings to create equity.