The rough brick walls vibrate with the buzz of voices; dark heads close together as they discuss the exercise – a budget for a business using 500,000 kwacha ($110). Seeing the excitement of these Mpongwe village people as they learn to apply business concepts to their lives is gratifying.
Mama Peter tells us her profit after two weeks of baking scones is 100,000 Zambian Kwacha (about $22). “What’s your income?” I ask her. She doesn’t understand the question. I take her through the steps. “How many scones do you bake with that amount of flour?” She was quite uncertain. Together we figure out she makes 1000 scones, selling them for 500 kwacha each, making 500,000 kw. That’s only a profit of 50,000 kw (just over $10).
Later some of the younger women approach Pastor Jessy, their leader. “There’s something wrong with those figures,” they maintain. Together they do the budget calculations and realize where she went wrong.
This doesn’t sound like big stuff. But it is for these people. Many don’t have a good education, but they’re hungry for knowledge, especially business knowledge. The ability to work out their true profit or loss is important in knowing how to bargain for a good price. So often they are at the mercy of some unscrupulous trader.
Around 40 men and women attended the financial and business management workshop I was teaching. All small scale farmers, most of the women are also engaged in small businesses like Mama Peter. What a different group than the big farmers we visited with last week!
My goal was to take them through the processes involved in beginning and establishing a business. Which business should I do? – Forecasting and budgeting, keeping good records, a simple bookkeeping system. – Evaluating the business and what do to with profit.
We didn’t get far – we finished the budgeting. I find it such a challenge to teach these groups. We always start late, cutting down on teaching time. Then there’s the translation, which also takes time (but gives me a moment to think). How much do these people understand – the elders didn’t seem to pick up much, but it’s the younger ones we’re trying to reach.
As Pastor Jessy commented – the women have the most creative ideas for business. They are the ones that are on time, eager to learn all they can. That’s in line with what most development studies recommend: invest in the women.
There’s quite a fair sized chunk of the farm loan up for redistribution in the next months. Together we’ve decided to give the women substantially more for small businesses. This time they’ll have to submit a budget for their business to get the loans!