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Meet the Clients Mary Lipoche

Mary Lipoche

Country: Malawi

Businesswoman, farmer, wife and mother to four – Mary lives in one of the poorest countries in the world and has had to overcome some considerable challenges in order to provide for her family and transform her life, including facing one of the southern hemisphere’s worst tropical cyclones.

Mary lives in Malawi with her husband and four children. She grows crops to sell and has a bakery business selling goods in the local market. Opportunity International provided Mary with access to secure savings, loans, financial management training and a mentor. 

Before, it was difficult to manage my home, and my children would often go to school on an empty stomach. Now, as a result of the trainings and increased income from my business, I am better able to meet my family’s needs.

With her savings, Mary has bought goats and chickens to feed her family with, and a bicycle, which helps reduce travel time to the market and group meetings. Mary is now a respected businesswoman in her community.

Other people look up to me now as they see the progress I have made since joining. I am gaining respect and am seen as somebody who can hold a position of authority in the village.

However, Mary’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges. In February 2023, Malawi and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa faced a category 5 severe tropical cyclone, which destroyed her crops.

Cyclone Freddy caused a major setback and dent in my income. Our crops were destroyed. Others lost their livestock in the floods. I feel frustrated as the cyclone did a lot of damage.

But Mary is resilient and has learnt from this setback. She is now better prepared for future extreme weather events. 

I have started to invest in agricultural inputs in advance, so that I can plant my crops earlier. That way they may withstand the effects of the floods better. Opportunity International advised me to diversify so I am also planning to intercrop, to hedge against risks.

Rural communities in Africa are often unable to access lots of basic necessities, like financial services. Mary is part of a three-year project to provide loans and training to some of Malawi’s poorest and most financially excluded districts.

Financial training, savings and mentoring have enabled Mary to diversify her income and build resilience against climate shocks. Despite facing significant challenges, Mary has provided for her family and community, and is building a better future. 

My hope is for all Malawian women to be able to rely on themselves, grow their businesses and manage their homes successfully.