Agnes Jaka, 70 is a farmer and palm oil producer living in Bomfa, Ghana. In 2007 Agnes decided to expand her farming to include animal husbandry. She saw this as an opportunity to further develop her farming practices and add another source of income.
In February of 2008 Self-Help trained Agnes on animal care and gave her a loan of 140 cedis (US$127.30). Agnes purchased 2 female sheep and a ram. Each female gave birth to a lamb. Agnes was excited to see the progress her farm was quickly making. Unfortunately illness struck in 2009 and only the ram survived. Agnes had no choice but to sell the ram in order to pay off her loan. She was determined to get back on her feet and find success.
In 2010 Self-Help granted Agnes a loan to buy a screw press to improve her palm oil processing. The screw press has increased her production, decreased processing time, and allowed her to rent the equipment to other farmers. This success has allowed Agnes to pay off her screw press a month ahead of time. She is grateful to Self-Help for a new opportunity. Agnes said, “Given the opportunity, I would like to receive a loan to buy a digester so I can stop using mortar and pestle which is laborious and time consuming”.
Self-Help stands by its beneficiaries helping them to find success, new opportunities and sustainability.
In January, the Self-Help executive director had the opportunity to watch the Nokware women in Ghana make soap from their palm oil. It was a real treat that must be shared with all of you! Enthusiasm and excitement among 30 women was contagious. They proudly demonstrated their new trade - making laundry soap from their palm oil - and with each step in the process their faces were beaming!
In review, screw presses (purchased through your gifts) squeeze more oil from palm fruits increasing the amount of oil extracted. In addition, presses reduce time the required to process oil. Increased oil, harvest time for palm oil, and bumper crops can cause gluts in the market and low prices for palm oil. Having the alternative to make and sell laundry soap is proving to be a real asset by adding value to their oil and family incomes.
Currently the six groups have three molds. Each mold makes 72 bars, usually sold within two days. An average family in Ghana uses two bars of laundry soap each week, so the market is ever present. The next step is to acquire funding to purchase more molds so that each women's groups have molds! The women are so proud of their product and thank you for believing in them through your support!
This past October, 30 women in Kwaso, located in the Ashanti region of Ghana, successfully completed a 3 day training program. This special training taught the women how to make bar and liquid laundry soap. The group's name, "Nokware" translates to "truth" in English. They decided they would brand name their soap "Nokware" as well. Each bar weighs 135 grams (4.8 ounces) and sells for .40 Cedi (29 cents) and the liquid soap is sold for 2 cedi ($1.45) per liter. The Nokware laundry bar soap comes in two colors, white and yellow.
The women's goal was to find a way to add value to their products and potentially increase their income. Training was aimed at helping the Nokware group acquire additional knowledge and skills in order to deepen their understanding of existing business operations which will help them reach their goal. They are excited to begin selling soap because it provides an opportunity to address the seasonal challenges which have slowed down their palm oil business for years. For women over the age of 50, they find respite in being able to do a job that is less strenuous than farming.
Theresa Owusu, pictured in orange and green, 'dragged' her husband to the 3 day training event. She said, "this is a dream fulfilled, for many years we waited for an opportunity like this, many thanks to Self-Help International".
Stories of development like these are made possible through the continuous generosity of all of Self-Help's donors.
Five years ago Sarah started sewing clothing to sell through a Self-Help loan. She is a good seamstress and very hardworking, but always lacked the financial support to expand her business. Thanks to loans from people like you Sarah purchased a newer sewing machine, expanded her sewing shop, and started hiring young apprentices to learn the sewing trade.
Today, she has a neat and tidy shop with four apprentices working with her. She has a coal iron to press the materail, and has recently purchased a knitting machine for the business. She has come a long way in a mere 5 years. During the Executive Director visit in July, she expressed 'thanks' to the US citizens for their support. Not only is her business expanding but she is able to take better care of her children and pay school and medical fees.
Thinking ahead, Sarah's goal is to have electricity in her shop so that she can work evenings and during the holiday seasons.
Today was our site visit with Self-Help International. Our wonderful host Rita and her father drove us to the main road where we met Benjamin, the Project Coordinator at Self-Help. First we went to the main office which is in a building owned by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture which Self-Help partners with at times for training and micro-finance operations. We met with Wilberforce, the country director, to discuss the administrative side of Self-Help Ghana. Then Benjamin and 2 of his colleague whisked us off to visit beneficiaries.
We first stopped at a pottery co-op that was using a loan from Self-Help to purchase clay to make high-quality pots for farmers and other locals. It was amazing the work that went into each bowl that would be sold at the market for less than $1. Then we went to a poultry project Self Help worked with the government to set up with its borrowers. This was an example of taking a problem and being creative to develop a solution that made everyone benefit. The farmers were having problems with low maize prices during the harvest time because there was a large supply from all the farmers. So, instead, they introduced poultry farms to these farmers and gave them small storage silos to keep the maize in for 5-6 months to feed to the poultry. This allowed them to decrease the supply on the market, thereby raising the prices, and create another revenue stream from selling eggs in their community. The additional high-quality maize stored in the silo could be fed to the chickens and would not spoil before the next harvest. Self-Help was able to finance the special seeds and other materials needed for this production so the farmers would be able to start the new program immediately and not have to wait until they saved enough money to afford the additional resources.
After we visited with the poultry farmers, we visited another of Self-Help’s local community programs to feed nutritious breakfasts to about 300 children 6 years old and below at the local school. This program allowed local farmers, which were also micro-credit borrowers to provide the school with the cornmeal necessary to make the porridge daily. When speaking with the headmaster of the school, he said that in the 2 terms that the program was in existence, they were able to see a big difference in the performance of the students. Then, we were able to get a little testimony of that ourselves as we went outside to see the classrooms and as soon as we were ready to take some pictures, about 200 excited children came running out to be included in the photo shoot. We decided that the porridge must really work and we wanted some so we could be that energetic too.
The visit was completed with a discussion with a group of the poultry program beneficiaries, where they expressed their happiness with the organization and its program and the things it has allowed them to accomplish, like sending their children to school. The only ways they said the Self-Help program could improve was to be able to lend larger loan amounts, which is a common issue for micro-credit programs that are so successful in helping their borrowers develop good businesses that they need larger loans to expand their profitable businesses, but the micro-credit program is limited in the amount of money they have available to lend to their customers. Overall, we were very impressed with Self-Help’s projects and felt that with more funding, they would be able to expand their beneficial programs to assist more communities in Ghana.
Sarah and four other In-the-Field Travelers are currently in Ghana before they are making their way to Mali and Burkina Faso. They'll be visiting more than 30 GlobalGiving projects in the next month. Follow their adventures at http://itfwa.wordpress.com/.
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