By Regai Tsunga
Tuesday was a day of celebration in the Mutasa District of Eastern Zimbabwe, as the ASAP Africa Zimbabwe team finally launched the ISL project. Over ninety women and children were presented with certificates recognizing their achievement and proficiency in managing internal savings and lending activities.The launch came almost one year after the signing of the project agreement by Plan International and ASAP. During the three-year project partnership ASAP will improve the household security and income for over 2000 individuals mostly women and children through providing training in the internal savings and lending methodology. This delay was caused by the unilateral ban of NGO operations by the Government of Zimbabwe in 2008 following the disputed “harmonized” national elections. The ban was only lifted in September 2008 at which time programming also resumed. The day was marked with testimonies by Kufusa Mari participants showcasing products, demonstrating how the project was making a difference in their lives through the use of drama, and encouraging others to participate. Mrs. Portia Chitendeni explains: ”We are three in our club and in October last year we borrowed zwd 90,000 from the project. If was not easy because we were grappling with inflation, but we managed to buy 6 kgs of sugar that we exchanged with three buckets of maize. We sold them at 600 Rand and we changed 50 rands for us to return the zwd 90,000 we had borrowed. We sent someone o South Africa to buy some blankets and from there up to date we are buying and selling property. We never lack anything to eat or school fees for our children and our husbands are really supportive of this project. Kufusa Mari Project has really changed our lives.” Pictured here, Headman Sanyamandwe addresses the crowd that gathered at Pafiwa School for the celebration. Government officials from various ministries were present in support of the launch and these included officers from the Ministries of Women Affairs, Education, Local Government, Youth, Agriculture, Social Welfare and Health. ASAP' Country Director, Regai Tsunga (purple tie) hosted the Program Support Manager from Plan International, Dr Batholomew Mupeta and a team of other Plan staff that included the Resource Mobilization Manager, Mr Makoni and the Mutasa Program Unit Manager, Mr Stanley Dawa. Dr Mupeta expressed profound satisfaction at the progress the project was making and looked forward to increased cooperation between his organization and ASAP. He encouraged the Mutasa community to participate in this community managed micro finance project and improve the quality of their lives. Mr. Tsunga recognized the hard work and achievement of ASAP's Kufusa Mari field team, a group of talented professionals headed up by Joseph Miti (on the right) in Zimbabwe, as they enjoy the day and participate in the celebrations. Tsunga also expressed joy that the project was progressing well despite the previous challenges relating to the NGO ban, political polarization, restrictive and counterproductive national monetary policies and the hyper-inflation. He said the use of multiple currencies notably the USD and Rand following the suspension of Zimbabwe dollar as official tender will result in enhanced project impact.