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Posted June 1999

The dynamics of conserving movable property in Western Province, Zambia: Part 2

by Dr. Otto Hospes
Wageningen Agricultural University, the Netherlands

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FAO.
< from Part 1

3. Storage and savings: local concepts, options and decisions

When faced with unusually low income or unusually high expenditure for either planned or unforeseen purposes, an individual or group of individuals, can either draw upon his or her savings and/or make use of credit (Oxfam 1990: 6). This paper does not systematically review borrowing options, yet under particular conditions rural people might very well prefer to borrow (or exchange goods, money and/or services) instead of using own savings. Also, borrowing options might very well affect when and why people (do not) make use of own savings.

Another, more fundamental option when faced with increasing costs of living is to withdraw from monetary transactions and put a greater emphasis on subsistence production and/or barter. According to Roeber (pers.comm. 1996), "Traders who provide basic commodities to the rural areas such as second hand clothing, sugar, salt, cooking oil, soap, etc. often barter with local farmers who have little need for cash since they have no access to formal financial systems." Roeber in this connection referred to the "problem of demonitization in the rural areas" of Zambia. A livestock officer of Kalabo District even told us that, "Money is not a source of exchange here in this area. It is a barter system" (Mkumba, pers.comm. 1997).

3.1 To save the dead

The Lozi word for "savings" is pulukelo, which has been translated into English by Jalla (1982) as a "box in which valuable goods are kept; a safe". According to several key-informants and Lozi villagers, one can only speak of pulukelo when referring to storage of grain or money. The word 'pulukelo' can not be used to denote the keeping of cattle. For this purpose, Lozi use the word 'liluwo', which means 'keeping things that are living' (see 3.2). Such things differ from money and grains that are not living things, at best of vital importance in terms of petty investment, food security and other basic needs (see 3.1.1, 3.1.2 and 3.3).

Mbunda use three different words for storing grain, each refering to a different phase or purpose: litulikilo is storing with a view to dry grains; sishete is storing of grains for (nearly) immediate consumption; kambendekela is to store food for the future, which might be considered the Mbunda equivalent of savings of grain. Kambendekela is also being used to refer to maize porridge (nshima) that is being kept apart by a wife for her husband, just in case he has 'sat elsewhere' but not eaten enough.

3.1.1 To store grains

The chairlady of the Area Development Team of Lukona, Kalabo District, showed us that the Lozi of her village typically store their maize in granaries located inside the courtyard whereas Mbunda who do not fence their houses, store their millet in granaries grouped together at some distance from their huts. Possibly, the fact that maize cobs are easier to steal than millet and that Mbunda more rely on millet cultivation than Lozi, explains to a large extent why Lozi store their grains inside the courtyard in contrast to Mbunda. What makes it complicated again is that Mbunda seem to have a wider spatial notion of the domestic sphere. Anyway, grains are also stored inside the hut or kept in drums - if a granary can not be built or is not necessary.

Speaking in general, a women development worker believed that in 8 of out 10 cases, the granary is the responsibility of the wife (Lubinda, pers.comm. 1997). This was also the general opinion at a meeting of the Village Health Committee of Mashwafela (Lukona area, Kalabo District), consisting of 12 men and 3 women. They upheld the image of the granary as a woman's domain but recognized that if the husband wants to make some money, he can go into the granary and collect some grain for sale. Still, one of the male members of a PPS-group of Munkuye B area of Kalabo District described the granary next to his house as "the bank of the stomach."

3.1.2 To keep money at home

According to Chabala, the subsistence-orientation of many people of Western Province, does not imply that they do not save cash (see also Roberts 1972): "The amount of money they keep depends on what they think is needed to pay school uniforms, food in case of deficit times and medicines" (pers.comm. 1997). This seems plausible given the potential money claims of relatives and neighbors. Still, there are also cases reported (see 2.3) of millions of Kwacha being saved at home, only reaching the surface - and the attention of the fortunate researcher who happens to be around - in case of a fire or other calamity endangering the house and its treasure.

3.1.3 To keep money with trustees

We only came across one case of a man who not only strongly prefered to save in money but also to keep (part of) his money with anyone whom he could trust. The man was of Mbunda origin and lived in the Lukona area of Kalabo District. He was a member of a local PPS-group, quite outspoken and entrepreneurial-minded. Possibly, this keeping of cash savings is part of what Mutyoka (pers.comm. 1997) meant with supportive networks of Mbunda "who help each other to improve" and "are like Indian businessmen."

3.1.4 To save money at a bank

To save with a bank is close to a non-option to most of the inhabitants of Western Province. Mongu city counts branches of two banks: the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB) and Standard Chartered Ltd. In Koama city the Credit and Saving Union Bank has justed opened a branch this year, not long after the collapse of the Lima Bank.

First of all, for many people it takes at least a day or so to travel to a bank and another day to get back home - walking on sandy roads, crossing the Zambezi Flood Plain per canoe or postboat, and/or hitch-hiking with a pick-up on one of the few but very bad tar roads. Motor-bikes that can be of great profit to both clients and (mobile) bankers, are hardly seen in Western Province.

The considerable travelling time and low bank-density, make one wonder why it is often so crowded at the branch of the ZNCB, in contrast to Standard Chartered. These are, however, not people bringing their savings to the bank or applying for a loan. Most of them are civil servants (or their treasurers or trustees) who have come to collect their salaries. ZNCB is a window for distributing salaries. According to a senior bank employee, the branch serves nearly 10,000 civil servants (at at total population of about 300,000 in Western Province) but not without conditions: they are all supposed to keep the ZANACO savings account through which the salaries can be transfered. The minimum balance of this savings account (with an annual interest of 22 procent) should be ZK 50,000, which is about the size of a monthly salary of a civil servant. The total number of 'savers' of another 'savings program' amounts to 600. The minimum balance of this savings program (with an annual interest of 29 procent) is ZK 250,000. Only large entrepreneurs who can meet this condition, have such an account, said the senior bank employee [6]. Obviously, next to physical distance, these minimum balances provide a major barrier to potential small savers. Roberts (pers.comm. 1997) put it very bluntly: "Banks and bank savings are not an alternative in a country with an average per capita income of 400 USD per year."

According to Chabala (pers.comm. 1997), the policies of the British and post-colonial rulers, in practice, were not directed at integration of the indigenous people or peasants into the 'main-stream economy', explaining the present low bank-density and lack of interest of banks to open (more) branches in Western Province.

3.2 To keep the living

Kahanda (pers.comm. 1997) believes that cattle is not so much a form of savings but an asset in the eyes of the Lozi who rather perceive cattle (see also 2.3) as wealth (bufumu). She added that the difference between savings and this form of wealth is that, "It is easy to start savings, but not easy to keep cattle as it runs in families", referring to conflicting (types of) ownership claims on the same cattle.

A Mbunda man explained to us that the word kambendekela is used to refer to savings of cattle. The word means that the future use of the cattle has been earmarked and, for instance, reserved for payment of a bride price or school fees. (The word can also be used to refer to savings in grain or money.)

3.3 Saving the dead but vital - with PPS-groups

To understand to what extent participation in a PPS-group is an option for rural people of Western Province to save, why quite a few of them do so and how they define and use the group savings fund, one has to analyze the participation and significance of PPS-groups at large. This again is very much dependent on (a) the wider philosophy, more concrete credit and savings policies, and the group formation approach of PPS, (b) other options in the field of savings and credit (see 3.1, 3.2 and 4) and (c) social-spatial, ecological, economic and cultural conditions (see 2) defining the range of options and providing background and meaning to decisions related to savings.

3.3.1 Changing capacities of PPS to enable and enforce savings

A very concise version of the wider philosophy of PPP - now PPS - is the long-term goal: "Enabling the rural poor in the action areas (with a special emphasis on rural women) to improve their socio-economic conditions through a sub-village development approach based on the establishment of small, informal self-help groups, organised around group income-generating activities, which members themselves identify." Indeed, PPS-groups do not start as pure financial self-help groups, like a ROSCA or ASCRA, but rather as labor groups or economic self-help groups with one or more financial self-help functions. Yet, some of the (older) groups have adopted features of ASCRAs: members have agreed to regularly contribute to the accumulating group fund from their individual fields and income.

The credit and savings policy of PPS can be seen as a tool or method to realize the long-term goal. Interestingly, the year of 1994 marked a dramatic shift of the official lending policy of the then PPP-project. From 1987 till 1994 the so-called rotating fund of the project was used to provide seasonal loans on soft terms (no rate of interest) for agricultural purposes. A cooperative union managed the fund. Unfortunately, the rotating fund proved to have been evaporated when the cooperative union was dismantled during the early 1990s. No savings policy whatsoever had been followed until 1994.

After 1994 the PPP started to manage a 'recapitalized' rotating fund itself, keeping the donor money at an account of the branch of Standard Chartered of Mongu city. It was decided that loans (with interests at commercial bank rates) should be provided to stimulate off-farm activities. Also, next to short-term loans to be repaid in 12 months, medium-term loans were offered - though hardly provided in practice till now, according to the executive director [7]. To be eligible for a loan, a group "must show evidence of having saved regularly for at least 6 months immediately prior to the loan application, showing the frequency and amount of savings" (PPP Credit Leaflet, 1995) or 12 months in case of an application for a medium-term loan. In addition, the Credit Leaflet warns that, "The project does not accept a steep increase in the savings in the last months to secure a loan". Finally, at least half of the own contribution of 20 procent of the investment-sum should come from regular savings.

Key-persons acting as interfaces between the executive director and the many small groups are district coordinators and group promoters. They promote rural poor to organize themselves in small, economic self-help groups and are supposed to explain the (changing) lending policy of PPS. The start of a PPS-group is very much the effort of a Group Promoter or agricultural officer. Until 1996 PPP was implemented through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF). The project District Coordinators of PPP were based in the district MAFF offices and agricultural assistants were supposed to assist the GPs at the village level (Chabala 1994: 28-29). Not surprisingly, in Kalabo District, "45 percent of the groups interviewed were initiated by the local official, while 31 percent were initiated by district officials outside the area and 24 percent of the groups had been established by own initiative" (ibid: 40). The so-called officials played a similar role in Koama District: "79 percent of the groups in Kaoma were established with the initiative of the local officials of the area while 21 percent were established with own initiative" (ibid: 42).

In the action area of the new and young GP of Mangango, 22 groups have been started. These days 15 groups are said to be still active, of which 11 have been newly formed by the GP in the period April-June 1996. This suggests that seven of the older groups have collapsed and four of the older groups have decided to continue operations with the support of the new GP. These dynamics indicates that the rise and fall of quite a few groups - and also the validity of the reporting - are closely related to the GP, her presence, personal characteristics and human skills. It should be noted, however, that the older groups were set up at a time when the then PPP was supported and monitored by a government agency, the MAFF. The dismantling of this 'governance structure' might have eroded a major force keeping a number of groups together - the expectation to gain some benefits (like cheap agricultural loans) and privileges from the MAFF through group membership.

3.3.2 Accumulating working capital, insuring and saving with PPS-groups

Given the enormous contextual diversity (see 2) and changes of governance structure, programmes and personnel of PPP, one can expect an enormous diversity of PPP-groups in terms of membership, age, range and types of income-generating activities (see PPS Annual Report 1996: 7-8), relations to other groups and agencies, size of group funds, ways of contributing to a group fund, etc. For instance, the Group Information Update of September 1996 shows enormous variations of the size and nature of the group fund: in the Sikongo Action Area (of Kalabo District) four groups have stored brush millet or maize worth ZK 15,000 up to ZK 90,000, two groups have respectively ZK 5,000 and ZK 30,000 in cash, and five groups have zero in cash, as per September 1996. Also, in Muweshi Action Area (of Kalabo District) six out of 10 groups seem to manage a grain bank instead of a fund. In the Litooma Action Area (Kalabo District) the average amount of money kept per group is ZK 3,200 whereas in Mangango Action Area (Kaoma District) the average amount is nearly ZK 30,000 per group.

This section provides some insights of the dynamics of PPS-groups, not of the typical but non-existing PPS-group. At best, various ways of cooperative management of scarce resources in an ecologically hostile and socially demanding environment can be distinguished. Whenever appropriate, a wider issue will be dealt with on the basis of the short description of the activities and social dynamics of a PPS-group.

"People with one heart"

The PPS-group of Mushwafela village (Lukona area, Kalabo District) is called Piluilinwi, which means "people with one heart or interest". The GP believes that this group does not any longer need intensive support from her as she thinks that the group can stand on her own feet. Interestingly enough, the PPS-group has been incorporated by the Village Health Committee to a large extent: the group does not undertake separate economic activities any longer and four members of the group belong to the staff of the VHC that not only includes a health and a sanitation sub-committee but also an agricultural and a business sub-committee.

About four years ago the agricultual sub-committee had used a large part of the yield (11 bags of 90 kgs.) from rice cultivation to buy ploughs. The remaining money was handed over to the business sub-committee who bought parafine, matches and salt. According to the chairperson of this sub-committee, the income from the sale of parafine and matches was ZK 7,500 whereas the salt was exchanged for 3.5 bags of maize worth ZK 32,500. The total amount of ZK 40,000 was then used to buy jerrycans for sale and to contribute to the construction of a protected well of a neighboring village, leaving the VHC-cum-PPS group with only ZK 4,000 in cash. Money accumulation seems not a goal perse but rather making money through an efficient and intensive use of limited financial means.

After 1993 the agricultural sub-committee faced two disappointing rice harvests due to drought. They decided to plant another crop. Those in charge of the Prevention Against Malnutrion (PAM) program, provided them with sorghum seeds on very soft terms [8]. The village headman had given usufructuary rights to the VHC to grow crops on the collective field. This man happens to be the chairperson of the VHC, which has proved to be a great advantage to the group.

According to Kahanda (pers.comm. 1997), in most cases a jointly cultivated piece of land does not belong to the group or a member of the group. Women ask the village headman permission to cultivate a piece of land for a certain period. They do not acquire ownership rights but work on it on a temporary basis. Kahanda further explained that working a piece of land together is not so much an imitation or revival of lubile. This is an old and now weak tradition of collective labor on someones field followed by a beer drinking session organized by the owner of the field to celebrate the end of the work and to 'pay' the laborers. According to Kahanda, the joint labor is rather an expression of PPP philosophy.

We also asked whether those 30 people attending the meeting of the VHC, a mix of staff, clients and PPS-members, preferred to save in grains or in cash. An old man immediately responded saying that to save in grains is the best as "food is the one which makes life." A young and casual attendant of the meeting prefered to save in money to be put at a bank. Another old man replied fiercely: "If one has a lot of money, one can still die of hunger; if one invests in food, one can always survive." When asked what they would do (as an individual) when they would all of sudden avail of ZK 500,000, a vivid debate started again: a middle-aged man would buy animals as they can reproduce themselves and bring wealth; money can only be squandered. A young man said he would invest the money into businesses. Yet, another young man disagreed and replied that "one should understand where one comes from". Then, he summed up all the advantages (see 2.3) of converting money into cattle. Unfortunately, not a single woman took the floor to speak up during this village debate.

"The chief's field"

In 1995 nine women started the PPS-group Namukau (which means: the chief's field) in the Lukona area of Kalabo District. Now the membership has doubled including 14 women and 4 men - all of Lozi origin, coming from three different villages. The group counts six married women, of which two are married with a male member of the group. The men were invited to become members because this would save them money: it would no longer be necessary to hire men for ploughing services. One of the men is the village headman. He allowed the group to cultivate a piece of land, also explaining the name of the group. This shows that male membership can be of strategic interest to a female-headed PPS-group.

During their first season, the members cultivated sorghum on their common plot. They divided the yield among each other because all of them faced shortage of food. Yet, in spite of the food security function of sorghum cultivation, the group decided to cultivate rice in the next season "because there is no market for sorghum". Next to cultivating food crops, the group grows vegetables and produces baskets for sale in Mongu. One of the members keeps the group income. When a member is ill and has to go to a clinic, she will be given a donation from the group fund to cover (part of) the costs.

The group was very puzzled when I asked about a monthly contribution of, for instance, ZK 500 to the common fund and replicated with: "Why would we do so? We cannot afford to contribute that much to the fund on a monthly basis!" They complained that none of them (but the husband of one of the women) owned cattle. Possibly, senior claims on scarce money (Hospes 1997) and the young age of the group together explain the lack of a periodical contribution to a rotating or accumulating fund.

"If you are not providing for yourself, nobody is"

One of the oldest PPS-groups in the Lukona Action Area of Kalabo District is Wakanokutonena, which means "if you are not providing for yourself, nobody is". The group started in 1983, following the advice of an agricultural officer. Membership composition has changed through time, also because women married and left the village. Nowadays total membership is 13, consisting of eight women and five men. There are four Mbunda people, including one married couple. Only three Lozi women were married, one of them with a member of the group. Three members own cattle: the chairlady, the (female) treasurer and a Mbunda man. The 10 animals of the chairlady ("given by mother") were kept by someone trusted (mafisa). The Mbunda man had bought his one and only cow from his income as a carpenter.

During the first years members concentrated on broom- and basket-making. The income from this work helped them to expand their individual fields and to start communal vegetable gardening. These days they also jointly cultivate sweet potatoes and run a petty shop (kantemba).

The members monthly contribute ZK 500 each to the common fund from the yield of individually cultivated vegetable gardens, carpentry, beer brewing, cooking fresh maize and selling fried fish at the secondary school. Interestingly enough, the women explained that cultivation of their individual fields can be seen as one of their group activities. Members can borrow money from the fund to be repaid within 4 to 6 weeks. In case of an emergency, a donation might be given to a group member. The cash is kept somewhere in the village with the treasurer. If there is enough money, the group wants to buy farming implements and then an oxen for ploughing. Strangely enough, those attending the meeting informed us that the group had recently applied for the first time for a short-term loan from PPS with the aim to buy sprayers and seeds for the vegetable garden.

The Lozi women and Mbunda man attending the meeting had sharply different savings preferences. The Lozi women prefered to save in cattle but acknowledged savings in grain to be their most used form because "this is vital". The Mbunda man prefered to save in cash (with one or more trusted persons, not necessarily relatives). He did not like to keep cattle as savings because "one can not sell a cow at any time."

"To see to yourself"

The group Chumakulimenwa ("to see to yourself") started in 1983 and is situated in the Namatindi Action Area of Kalabo District. The total membership is 14: ten women and four men. Their income-generating activities have drastically changed throughout the years and are very diverse: they used to collectively grow rice and wheat but the last two seasons they have cultivated cassave due to drought. Now they have started to cultivate sweet potatoes as well. Every member contributes a bag of maize or millet to the group (fund) from her individual field every now and then. Next to farming, the group dries mango, parboils rice and sells handicrafts. The group fund is used to pay school fees and to buy food. At times of food scarcity, the harvests are divided among the members.

"We work together"

Another PPS-group in the Namatindi Action Area of Kalabo District is called Luswalisane, which means: we work together. The group started in 1987. As the name suggests, they together cultivate mais and millet. However, they also contribute millet to the group (fund) from their individual fields. The speakers of the group indicated that this millet is sold and saved with a view to buy cattle. However, when a member faces a 'serious problem', she or he is given money from the fund. The group fund is also used to supply small loans to the members. The group now consists of eight members - all of them married: six women and two men.

"We follow others"

In 1989 Tukababakweta (Namatindi Action Area, Kalabo District) started. Their name means "we follow others". After the harvest period, every member has to contribute a standard amount of money or an equivalent in rice (for instance, ZK 5,000 or 20 kilogramme of rice) to the fund. The group consists of six members: four unmarried women and two married men.

When representatives of Chumakulimenwa, Luswalisane and Tukababakweta were asked about their most prefered form of savings, one of them replied: "At the group level, it is best to keep savings in cattle. If you have problems, you can convert it into money. Besides, grain and cash savings, in contrast to cattle, do not multiply." Yet, only two of the eight representatives owned cattle and acknowledged that savings in grains is the most common form of savings. When they were asked whether they preferred savings in a group or individual savings, they were very resolute: they prefered savings in a group because, "It is safe. Nobody can touch it anyhow", including the saver himself or herself, of course.


The very young group Shibimbe consists of 19 women of Nkoya, Mbunda, Lozi and Luchasi origin. The group is situated in a former resettlement area (in Mangango, Kaoma District) that used to attract many men to work in a road construction project - also explaining why 13 out of the 19 members are married, according to the Group Promoter. They started in February 1997 with the joint cultivation of vegetables, sale of cigarettes and brewing of beer. Their aim is to buy farming implements. The membership fee is ZK 500 but only trusted persons are accepted. The monthly contribution to the group fund is ZK 100 per person. The members consider it unwise to save the ZK 100 as an individual at home because they fear their children might take it or their husbands might spend it to drink beer. Few of the women raise chickens; none of the them owns cattle but four of their husbands do.

The spokeswomen prefered to save money (with the group) instead of saving grain (in the domestic sphere) because the money can be of great help in case of problems.

"We are working together"

The Swalisano-PPS group of the Munkuye B Action Area of Kaoma District consists of four women and four men, a mix of Nkoya, Lozi and Luvale. They come from different (kinship-based) villages and did not know each other before 1991 when an agricultural officer advised them one by one to organize a PPP-group. According to the group members, others do not want to join their ranks because they are "too conservative" or think the group is "just playing" - possibly also explaining why a number of people quitted the group in the past.

The major point of the agenda at the time of the meeting was how to raise money to be eligible for a loan from PPS. The group fund amounted to ZK 45,000 (which is enough to meet the own contribution for a short-term loan from but not for a medium-term loan, see 3.3.1). One of the members said that, "There is money around us, we should scout for piece-work to get money." Several options were then considered: harvesting of groundnuts, cooking maize and collecting firewood. The group used to cultivate a communal field but had to give up this activity due to increased costs of inputs [9] and lack of implements.

The group also concluded that another way to increase the size of the fund was to put more pressure on those who had borrowed from the group fund to repay the money. It is not only possible for members to borrow from the fund, but also for non-members. In contrast to members, non-members have to pay an interest. For example: a non-member who borrows ZK 20,000 has to repay ZK 25,000. Also, the fund is used to financially support a member when he or she is ill. No repayment is required.

Not all members participate in an income-generating activity every time. Every member has even his or her own passbook in which the income from his or her labor is registered. Yet, this income is still considered to belong to the group. In case a working group of seven earns ZK 2,000 for instance, ZK 200 is added to the name of the participant and the remaining ZK 600 is kept apart to pay for expenses of meetings (food, pencils, etc.). The members certainly did not want to keep their 'share' at home because they feared to spoil it. They explained that if it is kept with a treasurer, they feel shy to go there and use it.

3.3.3 Linkages with a bank

According to the District Coordinator of Kaoma, the treasurer usually keeps the group savings at home. He remembered that 8 groups (of a total of 47 groups operating in four different action areas, see PPS 1996) had opened a bank account at Standard Chartered in Mongu town. He was rather hesitant to advise groups to open an account at the closer Union Bank of Kaoma town as it had just been opened and had yet to win the confidence of the population. Institutional linkage-building with savings of a PPS-group to serve as alternative collateral for a bank loan, has not been tried in Western Province. This is not a pity but wise. Institutional linkage-building is certainly a bridge too far because PPS has first to further develop and test its own financial linkage-building prescribing that at least half of the own contribution of 20 procent of the investment-sum should come from regular savings (see 3.3.1). Till now this financial linkage-building has implied that nearly all PPS-groups could not effectively apply for larger loans, that is, medium-term or 'bank-sized'.

4. Some conclusions: qualities, motives and threats

In the former part various forms of savings have been outlined. In this part some hypotheses will first be tested with a view to provisionally conclude what qualities or motives prompt what individuals or groups to select what kind of (combination of) savings forms. Then, two forces or processes will be dealt with that either strengthen or threaten the identity and operations of PPS-groups - also on the basis of working hypotheses.

4.1 Qualities and motives to select savings forms

4.1.1 Attractive qualities

Several criteria or qualities can be distinguished that prompt an individual or group to select a particular form of savings. These criteria include: immediate access, convenience, status, yield (price), reciprocity (potential access to loans). The starting hypothesis in this connection has been that, "yield (price) ranks lowest in the ranking order of rural poor savings motives. It is rather a particular combination of liquidity and illiquidity preferences that lead rural poor to highly appreciate a combination of safety and immediate access to savings services."

If we concentrate on motives of Lozi living in Kalabo District to keep or invest in cattle, we might very well have to reject the hypothesis as yield is very important in their eyes, however, not in the sense of gaining maximum interest in cash but in the sense of securing a stable supply in kind (manure, milk, off-spring) to feed the family and prepare the fields. Also, many Lozi living close to the Flood Plain consider cattle ownership as a sign of wealth or economic status, although a minority really owns cattle. Cattle is not kept to cash it at any time for any reason, which means that keeping cattle is not so much an expression of a liquidity preference but more of an illiquidity preference. Besides, it is not the conversion of cattle into cash which is at stake in conflicts about cattle, but the ownership right of this preferential asset itself.

The popularity of savings of grain (maize, millet) can not so much be explained in terms of the aforementioned criteria. It has simply more to do with food security. It is literally of vital importance in a subsistence-oriented economy. Savings of grain is not only practiced in the domestic sphere but also in some PPS-groups of Kalabo District that keep a fund in kind. Maybe in case of keeping grains in granaries, one could better speak of storage instead of savings of grain because of an undefined future perspective and lack of anticipation of possible food shortages.

As regards savings in cash there are a number of options: keeping cash at home, with a trusted person, with a bank or with a PPS-group. The scope of savings of cash at home is and can hardly be documented. Yet, there are some anecdotes of old people who lost a lot of money when their hut burnt down. Lack of nearby banks, quasi-banks or boxes to safely store money in combination with potential claims of relatives, will have disencouraged many to start saving in cash in the first place. Those very few still motivated to save money have no alternative but to secretly save cash at home or participate in a PPS-group. At this point, we should add that local migrant populations seem to have another option as well, that is: to save with trusted persons. The ethnical peers of newcomers are not so demanding but rather supportive. This all and indirectly suggests again that safe places and reliable money keepers are a pre-condition for savings in cash.

The potential access to a loan from PPS might have been one of the main reasons to join a PPS-group before 1994 when seasonal loans were provided on soft terms to those organized in a PPS-group - without conditions in terms of own contributions from savings. It is unclear to what extent the introduction of a more stringent lending and savings policy in 1994 has resulted into the collapse of groups and/or change of membership composition and to what extent potential access to loans from PPS is (still) a prime motive to join a PPS-group based on a savings philosophy. Anyway, the amounts of savings per group are not really impressive, which partly explains why the number of outstanding loans to groups has been modest: 21 groups were indebted to PPS (revolving fund) as per December 30th, 1996, of a total of 308 groups (see Annual Report PPS, 1996).

It is not so much a stipulation of the savings contract but the wish to share and efficiently invest scarce resources that prompts individuals to become a member of a PPS-group. This is also related to the social climate that hardly accepts individual success and enrichment. Group mobility is easier to accept than individual mobility. Savings in the sense of accumulating capital is not a goal in itself of many PPS-groups but rather making money and re-investing small sums as soon as possible. The group fund is not a savings fund but rather a working capital fund, which also means that it is not really fair to use the amount of savings of one or more PPS-groups on a particular day of the year as a final criterion to judge their savings performance.

A final function of many funds of PPS-groups brings us again back to the criterion of reciprocity or potential access to loans but on the level of the group itself. In case of emergencies or a sudden opportunity to make a petty investment, members are donated and/or lent money from the group fund. This is, of course, highly appreciated by the member facing a mishap or an investment opportunity [10].

4.1.2 Popular motives

Motives to save include the wish to accumulate capital for investment, to gain access to credit, to meet a combination of liquidity and illiquidity preferences, to anticipate lack of food and/or money, and to get an interest payment. The specific working hypothesis has been that, "Processess of individualisation (or emancipation if you like) explain the success of group savings: kin escaping or avoiding money claims of relatives, women joining hands vis-a-vis their husbands, youngsters revolting through savings clubs against elders and their ascribed positions."

Two general but possibly related motives of escaping claims through participation in savings groups can be distinguished: the first one is to become rich(er) without being accused of doing so; the second one is to prevent money being spent by male persons for purposes that endanger food or income security of the social unit of consumption. We found evidence of both these motives but in two different sets of relationships:

According to Geran (1996), "Out of the 60 groups interviewed, 10 were based exclusively on extended family ties. The rest seemed to be a combination of related and unrelated people" (p.2). Malambo (1988) investigated five groups of which four consisted of people coming from the same 'village' and one of people coming from seven different 'villages'. Do these observations support or undermine the just-mentioned hypothesis? First of all, the observations have to be interpreted with great care as the concepts of 'village' (registered village or family village, see 2.1) and 'being unrelated' have not been properly investigated and defined. Anyway, the observations show that PPS-groups are not only consisting of non-kin. This again means that there are two different ways to use membership of a PPS-group to deal with (potential) money claims and accusations of relatives. The first one is to become a member of a group that mostly consists of "unrelated people" from "different family villages". This is to escape money claims and de-appreciate kinship relationships. A second one, and maybe typical for Western Province, is to become a member of a group together with other kin. This is to neutralize money claims but at the same time recognize kinship relationships. Group membership makes it more difficult to accuse a relative of individual enrichment.

About 30 procent of the members of all PPS-groups are men (PPS 1996). Our visits to groups in Kalabo and Kaoma District confirmed this picture. This makes it difficult to conceive the PPS-groups as a popular action of women vis-a-vis men. Yet, our general impression was that men are simply 'being accepted' only and that there is a chance that new groups might not allow men to become a member at all. The young Namukau PPS-group of Lukona Action Area (Kalabo District) invited four men to become a member, just to avail of cheap labor power for ploughing services. The young Shimbimbe PPS-group of Mangango Action Area (Kaoma District) consists of women only. Their main reason not to invite men was that they feared that they would abuse the group fund as happened elsewhere.

4.2 Flexible functionality of PPS-groups turning their hands to anything

A third working hypothesis guiding the research has been that, "small groups that have developed and are working with a multitude of savings systems are strong and self-reliant." Such multitude can refer to savings schemes proposed by PPP and those designed by the participants themselves, but also to the co-existence of rotating and accumulating types of savings. Finally, multitude can refer to the various purposes of savings, for instance: savings directed at capital accumulation for investment and savings that are meant for emergency situations.

Neither in the earlier reports nor during my own short visit, evidence could be found of own savings systems set up parallel to the PPS-savings activities. Also, PPS-groups are not a hybrid of the ROSCA-model and ASCRA-model as they do not manage a rotating and accumulating fund at the same time but only an accumulating one. PPS-groups come indeed closest to the ASCRA-model, yet because quite some of them, especially the younger ones, have no system of regular contribution to a common fund, most PPS-groups can best be characterized as labor groups with one or more financial self-help functions. Money accumulation to enable joint investments is the primary financial function. Disbursement of small loans to members (and sometimes non-members) and provision of gifts to members in case of emergencies are two other popular functions. This last-mentioned function certainly suggests that those financial self-help groups that allow for change of collective (savings) action towards social security at times of hardship are the strongest and most popular groups.

4.3 The dangers of shopping institutions and institutional shopping

A fourth working hypothesis been that, "early and easy introduction of financial linkage-building (savings as a pre-condition or alternative collateral for external loans) is a guarantee for the formation of weak quasi-groups."

This hypothesis is very difficult to verify or reject without definitions of 'early' and 'easy'. Yet, the hypothesis has brought our attention to - what might be called - centrifugal powers. These powers are at work now that PPS requires a PPS group that applies for a loan to show evidence of having saved regularly for at least 6 months (in case of a short-term loan) or 12 months (in case of a medium-term loan) prior to the loan application. Also, unintended effects have resulted from another rule emphasizing the importance of savings in PPS philosophy: half of the own contribution of 20 procent of the investment-sum (to be paid to PPS before disbursement of the loan) should be paid from the savings. What are these centrifugal powers and unintended effects? They concern a side-effect of the success of PPP in strengthening claim-making power of poor people.

Geran (1996) concluded that, "The most impressive accomplishment of PPP so far is the success it has achieved in promoting the participation of women in the various development initiatives in the Western Province" (p.3). Indeed, PPS is not the only development agency that is active in this province and quite a few of them also provide loans, subsidies (or a mixture of them) to individuals and/or groups. In the Mangango area of Kaoma district, next to PPS-groups, there are also groups organized by Women for Change, the Village Health Committee and other community development projects. Chabala (1994) reported about the Animal Draught Power project that, "In 1993 (under the current phase) it was realized that the individual approach was cost ineffective. This led to the formation of Loan and Savings Groups (LSG). There are 21 LSGs with 128 participants and 40 procent are women" (p.23). Other examples of development agencies or programs that provide loans in one way or another, are the Village Industry Services, the Rice Promotion Project, the Red Cross and the Primary Health Care programme (Chabala 1994: 25-27; Dekker, pers.comm. 1997). For instance, the Red Cross "wanted to assist single women and widows by giving them loans especially if they were already organized in groups (Chabala 1994: 27). Not surprisingly, the "PPP has proved to be a very useful channel for development and community-based support activities" (ibid: 54).

The danger or price of it is that tighter regulations with regard to access to the PPS credit facility (since 1994) including financial linkage-building, might bring members of PPS groups, of which many have already found their way to and in other development organizations, to take the easier route to credit. We found some evidence of this when we visited the Village Health Committee of Mushwafela village that in a way had absorbed the local PPS-group. All members of this group are also being served by the VHC. Four of them are even staff member of the VHC. The members of the PPS-group used to have their own income-generating activities but now they have merged with those of the VHC. They have too little savings to apply for a loan from PPS-headquarters. It is then easier for them to apply for a loan through the VHC to the Rural Health Centre as this agency provides soft loans on easier terms.


1. The study is financed with funding from FAO and WAU. It is part of a comparative research on savings forms and motives of rural poor - taking a resource dynamics perspective exploring the interrelationships of ecological, social and financial capital. Views expressed represent those of the author and not necessarily FAO.

2. Ms. Tina Bollin and Ms. Nicoliene Oudwater, both graduate students of the WAU, greatly assisted me with the preparation and implementation of my exploratory research visit. Their follow-up studies will be used to test and further improve this paper as part of a wider WAU-FAO research project on the impact of socio-cultural factors on savings behavior of rural poor.

3. Polygamy is not very common in Western Province, said several female key-informants based on their field work experience (Lubinda 1997, Kahanda 1997). Others (Ndanko and Mutyoka, pers.comm. 1997) explained that polygamy used to be quite common among Lozi but has declined as a result of economic hardship and the increasing influence of Christian church leaders preaching monogamy. "If a man (with the help of his wife) would only have to grow enough crops to feed his family, then having two wives would still have been possible or even an advantage", said Mutyoka (pers.comm. 1997). Yet, "when he is supposed to regularly provide some money to his wife to buy salt, soap and sugar, then having too wives may become too costly and cumbersome" (ibid). Monogamy seems more a sign of poverty than an expression of strict obedience to Christian norms. Besides, it is still rather common that men share their sexual life with more than one woman.

4. 19.3 percent is the average number for the three Districts. Probably, this means that the percentage for Kalabo is (much) lower as this District is the one and only District with (high) out-migration (District Planning Officer of Kaoma, pers.comm. 1997).

5. Whether this means that PPS is not serving the rural poor in this village or has rather succesfully helped people who used to be poor to improve their social-economic well-being, is hard to say.

6. This all means that the loan portfolio of the bank is at least the sum of ZK 500 million and ZK 150 million, that are probably "invested" in treasury bills and/or loans to large urban-based enterprises.

7. This is not surprising as the average amount of savings per group is about USD 20 or ZK 26,000, which is not enough to qualify for a medium-term loan: the minimim contribution from own savings should be 10 percent of the cash value of the investment-sum of at least ZK 600,000 but not more than ZK 3,600,000 (PPP Leaflet 1995). However, quite some groups might apply for a short-term loan as the cash-value of the investment-sum should then be between ZK 60,000 and ZK 600,000, which means that the own contribution from regular savings should be minimally ZK 6,000.

8. PAM provides soft loans as well as subsidies (Bollin and Oudwater, pers.comm. 1997)

9. A bag of fertilizer nowadays costs about ZK 40,000.

10. Further studies should reveal more of the actual use of this social security function and how people legitimize or disqualify the use of part of the group fund for emergency purposes.


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