Two years later, Gcobani Qhina is still thinking about how to thank his sister for encouraging him to join SaveAct. Mr Qhina joined his savings group in 2021, and has since started his most successful business, while expanding his already established enterprises by using savings.
Mr Qhina had continuous car trouble, through no fault of his own. His village is a long drive away from the closest town, with the majority of the road unpaved, and so his cars did not take kindly to the travel. Because of this, and because he had to fix them no matter the cost, for deliveries and the family’s needs, he would have to borrow money from loan sharks. “I’d end up going to loan sharks, who’d want so much more back than I borrowed from them,” he said. He spoke about the exploitative nature of the loan shark industry with his sister, and how it was necessitated by his situation. His sister suggested joining SaveAct, which she is a savings member of. She explained that with savings groups, one can get a loan at a fixed once-off rate of 10%, and pay it over three months. Mr Qhina had heard about SaveAct through community members before, but “what she said sealed the deal for me,” he laughed.
Qhina joined a savings group, and started taking loans from there. In addition to that though, he saw that he had a safe place to save his money, and could use the share-out at the end of the year for his family. The Qhina family is hardworking, with a boisterous wife, two opinionated young-adult daughters and soft-spoken Mr Qhina. The family owns a tuck-shop as well, and had been farming poultry and crops for a few years.
‘’Our chickens were always dying, and nothing we did seemed to work,” said Qhina, “but when I came back from poultry training at Mtunzini (where trainer Siyazisiza Trust is based), and shared what I learned with my wife, we applied the knowledge and they all grew! Not one chicken has died since.” The Qhina family’s poultry business is so successful they sell out as soon as their chickens are of sellable age. Despite the fact that they add more to each stock order when buying chicks, the batches continue to sell out.
In addition to the poultry training Mr Qhina attend all the other training provided for SaveAct members. He said he learned about how to better care for his crops. “I used savings to buy my seedlings, then applied the training I got to my farming technique. That’s why my garden is so beautiful, you see? They (vendors) all argue over it. Everyone wants a piece,” Mr Qhina said jokingly. The garden is actually split into two plots of land, the second being rented out from a neighbour.
Through Agri-Enterprise and Food Security training specifically, Mr Qhina realised some of the mistakes he was making, and teaching his family to make, when farming. His daughters and wife help with the farming. “Come help your father!” shouts his wife to their daughters as she washes her hands, having done her part for the day. The girls had decided to avoid the garden on the day of our interview due to the cold weather, but mom wasn’t having it. Mr Qhina laughed at the reluctant help from his daughters, and decided to give them a reprieve to go back to the warmth of the corner of sun on the stoep of the kitchen. As he chivalrously opened the gate for them to leave, closing it behind them, he said with a chuckle,“ they only help sometimes.”
Since attending training, his crops have flourished and are growing well. Mr Qhina grows vegetables (cabbages at the time of the interview), and used to sell his cabbages to community members and Boxer Superstores. “Any time I hit a stumbling block with my farming, SaveAct pulls me out. I take out a loan and use it to patch up the problem area,” he said. However, through all the hullaballoo of everyone wanting a piece, a private company has now signed with Mr Qhina, and he provides them, and them alone, with cabbages. “They stood resolute that they wanted me to work with them,” he said, and so with them he went.
“There’s a business that SaveAct helped the most – the logging business. I used savings to start that business,” states Mr Qhina. The forest he goes to is far from his own home, so much so that he is thinking of opening up a branch of the business that side. The business employs 21 people. The dream, Qhina said, was to expand that number to 50 within the next five years. “Twenty-one families are kept fed by that business,” Mr Qhina said proudly. He used savings to buy his first chainsaw, and now has four of his own. However, the business was not without setbacks. The problem of not having his own truck to deliver the logs to where they are weighed and sold, has cost him at times. He would struggle to find a truck to pick the logs up, or even after he’s found one, it would come quite a bit later than he’d requested. This meant that the logs dried out, and by the time they got weighed, their weight was much lighter than it would’ve been if they had been taken when freshly cut. A low weight meant a low selling price. One of his goals is to buy his own truck, and as much as he hasn’t had trouble with trucks in a while, he can’t rely on that too much, he said.
“A business is a great tool, but it’s not easy from the get-go. You will first fail, fall down and you will bruise. Yes, of course you will fall. But in the end…you will succeed,” he said.