March, 2024

Breaking the cycle from loan sharks

35-year-old Eliza Bangula, who was a clerk at Malawi’s Lujeri Tea Estate in 2012, “used to be well-known as a serial borrower at my division,” she told us.

“My salary […] was insufficient,” she explained. “I was forced to borrow from loan sharks. […] To survive, I had to borrow again.”

Hear from Eliza

The Ulalo (‘Bridge’) programme, created by the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), Lujeri Tea Estate and Taylors of Harrogate in 2021, wanted to reach 8,000 women like Eliza. A key aim was to increase women tea workers’ economic resilience by encouraging them to save money through Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) – rather than loan sharks.

“We took it as an opportunity, because it gave us a platform for soft loans,” explained Eliza. “When we shared the dividends in June 2022, I bought a bicycle for K50,000 (£39) that eases my mobility. I use it for travelling to work, the market, and even to my home village when visiting my parents. Using my bicycle cuts transport costs.”

Eliza has also used money from her dividends to start a small business selling shoes, and to start building a new home.

Since the beginning of the Ulalo project, Eliza says she has not borrowed money from loan sharks. She feels far less anxiety about money today.

“I now have the peace of mind knowing that I can borrow and repay loans with flexibility without losing all my wages.”