Building families through saving

by Mihle Mapoma
26 January 2024
26 January 2024

SaveAct facilitates the formation of savings groups in communities, as a foundation for building sustainable livelihoods. We focus mostly on women and youth, with 92% of membership being women and 24% youth. This has also led to entire families joining SaveAct and using savings groups to improve or sustain their families’ unit. The process is usually that the wife, or grandmother, or any form of matriarch of the family joins a savings group, and everyone follows, seeing how much she achieves either in the home, for the home, or for herself.

We have come across multiple families in savings groups, since the inception of SaveAct in 2005. To date, we have over 110 000 members across all our regions.

Nombongo Mankatiseng Lerara and Kopano Lerara from Matatiele are both part of a savings group. Nombongo joined first, and, using share-outs and loans, she renovated some parts of the house, bought household furniture and children’s clothes. When Kopano saw how well the savings were serving the family, he decided to join as well. He suggested to his wife that they invest their savings into their abundant land, so that the savings are used as an investment that will yield further money. The family farms their land, planting a range of vegetables that they sell. They are such a fan of the savings concept they have integrated their two young children into saving as well, but also wanted to teach their children the value of hard work. Each child has a row of crops they planted, and work at every day. They sell the crops in their row, and record keep the sales. The children asked their father to use some savings to buy them sweet and chips boxes, and they sell those at school. The money earned doing that is used for school uniforms and supplies. In addition to that, the two children get a Rand or two a day for working on their crops from their parents. This is the money they put towards their two-person savings group.

Many members share their knowledge of savings groups with their children, young and old(er) so that they can either join them as well, or just to educate them about where the money they get for school and the like comes from. Savings are also used to start, or improve enterprises that are already established when a person joins a savings group. An example of these two ideas coming together is the Sthomo family.

Khethiwe and Zakhele Sthomo from Ntabamhlophe are not only proud parents, they are also successful entrepreneurs. The family joined SaveAct in 2018, when Khethiwe was working on her dream of becoming a full-time fashion designer. After joining SaveAct, Khethiwe registered to attend the Jabulani Fashion Academy in Mnambithi (KZN). She used her savings and savings group loans to pay for tuition fees and daily transport to and from the lecture venue in Ladysmith. After graduating, her husband surprised her with her first industrial sewing machine. She later used her savings from one of her share-outs to buy a second industrial machine, both of which sit in her dining room.

Zakhele, on the other hand, prides himself as a farmer. The Sthomo family sells chickens, pigs, goats and cows, plus crops from their garden. In 2020, the peak of the Covid19 pandemic, the Sthomo poultry business took a dive. “That was a stressful time,” sighed Zakhele. After attending a two-week poultry training course under the Siyazisiza Trust, at their farm in Mtunzini earlier last year, Khethiwe learned everything she needed to know to improve the situation at home. After coming back from poultry training, Khethiwe sat down with her husband and taught him everything she had learned. The chicks grew big and healthy, and sold well; so well the family now consistently sells out as soon as their chickens mature to selling age. Not only do they sell to community members, but also to small local shops.

Supporting each other’s entrepreneurial endeavours was always fundamental to the couple, however, even more important was the family unit, and their children. Between them, they save R1500 a month with their savings groups. When Khethiwe joined SaveAct in 2018, both her children were in grade ten, and on track to university soon. “Savings really came in handy then! Outside of everything we bought for our home, our savings worked best for the children,” she said. She continued that “so yes, the businesses, the house – all that stuff is great. But when it comes to our children? That’s the best use of our savings!”.

Some of the families have matriarchs who raised the rest of the women in the family to be just as headstrong and independent as they are; making sure their daughter/s follow their path to save money, get educated and work towards improving their individual and family livelihoods. We see this in families like the Masukus.

Theresa Masuku and her daughter Nqobile Masuku joined SaveAct in 2017. The women share that SaveAct has helped them with their personal growth, overall familial growth, and gave them opportunities to learn about topics such as poultry and farming. Their savings group has a shared garden, that they all work on together. “We bulk-buy seeds, and help each other if we see that someone’s plant bed needs a boost”. The ladies of Incebo savings group meet regularly, not only for savings purposes, but to also teach each other things they have learned and would like to share with the group. “We teach each other about topics like climate change, or different ways of further saving,” said Nqobile. They are trying to make sure that organic food is something that is pushed forward throughout the whole community, and have decided to start with themselves and their children. “We also bring food to the meetings. Our only rule is that it has to be made from the crops in the garden, and/or organic,” Nqobile continued.

Nophumlani and Phumla Mashaba from Matatiele are both part of a savings group. Nophumlani joined the group first, in 2018, having been interested in the savings model, and recruited her eldest daughter to join with her. Nophumlani used some of her savings to grow her garden exponentially and to contribute towards starting the community garden, which now feeds almost 100 children a week. Phumla saw how her mom and older sister were thriving in the savings group, and after attending a few meetings with her mother, she decided to also join the group in 2023. What drew her in most was the loaning system. She says that loaning via a savings group is much better than a bank or loan shark. Nophumlani used some of her savings to buy building materials for a new house, and Phumla and her older sister are contributing to that as well. Between the three of them, they’ve completed the build, and are now looking to new goals for their savings.

Just as daughters are introduced to SaveAct, sons are initiated into understanding the savings model right in the home first as well. Mathaba Thukela, with her sons Lihle and Maxhoba Thukela, joined SaveAct in 2019. All three of them, from Mhlokwana, EC, are part of the Nompumelelo Co-op and savings group, which farms cabbage, spinach and potatoes, depending on the season. Mathaba used her savings and loans to make improvements to her home, her own personal garden and add to her livestock. She encouraged her sons to join SaveAct as well, and after seeing the things their mother could do with savings, they jumped on board. “SaveAct helped us by opening up our minds to saving money andimprove our homes,” Mathaba said. “We encourage youth to start saving,” said Lihle, “and stay close to their entrepreneurial elders to get tips on how to run businesses,” added Maxhoba.

Claudia Ntuli, who started a juicing and atchar business, and used her savings to buy the packaging for this, joined SaveAct in 2019. Claudia currently employs four full-time employees, and her son as the financial manager. The son is also now in a savings group, having seen how well his mother is doing with her savings, and how she puts them to use.

Admittedly, savings groups have a very small percentage of men. Only eight percent across the board, however this is not to say that the men are not as involved in the sustainability of their livelihoods and communities as women are. Some men have to be encouraged by their wives to join, like Mr. Johnson Dlamini, or told to by their sisters, like Mr. Gcobani Qhina, who instruct their brother in yet another way that ‘sister knows best’.

Gcobani Qhina from Mt Ayliff, joined SaveAct in 2021, and says he is still trying to figure out a way to thank his sister for telling him about it. His sister, a savings member, suggested he join SaveAct. 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. Gcobani had heard about SaveAct through community members, but “what she said sealed the deal for me,” he laughed. Gcobani was already a poultry farmer and tuckshop owner when he joined his savings group, but started a new business using savings, that now employs 25 people.

With regards to the aforementioned — Johnson and Mangubo Adelaide Dlamini from Underberg, joined SaveAct in 2015. They put their savings towards their farm and buying livestock. They use their entire plot of farming land for the family, but will sometimes sell produce to the community. “We save here! We are savers! You can also go back and take a loan if need be, and fix your problems. We save so much. It really helps. It’s a great feeling!” said Adelaide.

Cindy and Elliot Shoba, joined SA in 2018. Cindy used her savings to start businesses: garden and poultry. She started in her own yard, but now has more land elsewhere and that is where they sell from. “My family saw how I was the boss in December,” she laughed. “I had money, and they saw all the things I could do, so they all wished to join when they saw how well I did. Nothando (daughter) followed me first, then my husband Elliot, and lastly my oldest daughter (Thembi). I want us to have our own co-op as a family,” said Cindy. Elliot said he sees “the benefits of her having joined SaveAct. Like the garden, and the new house we built. Also, other things the kids have bought for the home, like cupboards and fixing of the floor etc. We see the work. It’s beautiful”. They both want to leave their kids and grandkids with the skills they have learnt from SaveAct training, particularly about planting and farming; and just life skills in general.

Sometimes though, family isn’t only the people you grew up with at home. It isn’t only limited to siblings, or parents, or even extended family. Sometimes, family means in-laws! Our members thought ‘the more, the merrier’ was for exactly this sentiment.

Esther and MJ Mweli from Ntandala near Underberg joined SaveAct around 2017. After her son got married, she made sure to let her daughter-in-law, Jabulile, in on the family secret – that her and her husband, MJ, were both part of savings groups. Esthe had started a poultry business using a loan from her savings group, as she saw a gap in the market for meat in her community. She used the loan to buy 25 chickens, feed and vaccines sold as a pack by Zis’Ukhanyo (a previous SaveAct partner), through SaveAct. As Jabulile lived with them, she threw herself into the business, and came up with ideas of how they could expand the business to also selling egg laying chickens, and grow the chickens better.

These families are a drop in the ocean of the true representation is of the SaveAct families that are out there. The overall reach of our savings groups and education received by being a part of our groups, is extensive and the impact undoubtedly huge, more so for families.

We are grateful for all contributions
to our work, regardless of their size.


33 Alan Paton Avenue, Scottsville

South Africa

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