Micro Loans to rebuild lives in Eastern D.R. Congo

 
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Participants at the demonstration garden
Participants at the demonstration garden

Pro-microfinance wishes you a very happy holiday season and is delighted to share some photos of the successful roll-out of the Community Shamba Project, a subproject that partners with its Butembo office for financial services and local coordination support.

On Monday, October 13, 2014 the first full Permaculture design training of trainers to be offered in Butembo, DRC began. The two-week, intensive training was co-sponsored by Pro-Microfinance International and the Permaculture Research Institute- Kenya. Instructors Joseph Lentunyoi and Aaron Karumba traveled from Kenya and Southern Congo respectively to work with the course’s 29 participants, who were a mix of school teachers and farmers from agricultural cooperatives. The two week course exposed participants to a number of new skills and techniques, as well as practical exercises in a demonstration garden, such as the sheet-mulch sandwich pictured. Course participants also learned advanced composting, contouring and recycling techniques for biological wastes. Participants were excited to be exposed especially to the practical aspects of the curriculum, which brought classroom theories to life.

Participants commented that they appreciated the course and the skills gained from it. In a country where 70% of the population lacks access to adequate food and 1 in 4 children are malnourished (WFP, 2012), a training-of-trainers model for grassroots organizations such as those represented in the course is an important step forward in addressing-and spreading awareness on- local, environmental opportunities and knowledge gaps.

Course participants expressed an eagerness to receive further trainings in many of the topics introduced during the course, such as bio-gases, mushroom cultivation, bee-keeping and pesticide. All participants were unanimously happy to have had the opportunity to participate. 

Pro-microfinance is delighted to have played a role in the facilitation of this training and hopes to be able to coordinate more similar courses in the future. Please consider a donation to PMI in place of a gift to a loved one this holiday season- your donations are absolutely invaluable to us.

Kaswera Sivyaleghana is one of the participants
Kaswera Sivyaleghana is one of the participants
Noelle Bangu, a shop assistant and client of PMI
Noelle Bangu, a shop assistant and client of PMI

Access to microcredit is often highlighted as a key tool in alleviating poverty. Yet other services often considered complimentary, such as micro-savings, micro-insurance and trainings, are sometimes in themselves a critical service for users.

 Take, for instance, Pro-Microfinance DR Congo’s ‘Bwakisa Carte’ program, or “savings by card” program. Costing roughly .50 USD for users, members are visited daily by a Pro-Microfinance agents and asked to deposit an amount of their choice with Pro-Microfinance. The agent keeps the deposit of the member in an account for them. At the end of the month, participants can withdraw their savings or continue with another round. Based on a savings model indigenous to the region, the program appeals to busy vendors who deal with small amounts of cash on a daily basis- and for whom a little bit saved is a little bit earned.

 Pro-Microfinance USA’s chief process officer Julia Smith visited over two dozen Bwakisa Carte members on September 11, 2014. Members were asked how long they participated in the program, why they participated in the program, and what could be done to improve the program.

 Mama Dokas, for instance, is a salted and dried fish vendor originally from Bukavu, South Kivu. With the support of her husband, she started buying her merchandise before becoming a member of the Bwakisa Carte programe in 2013. She’s waiting to save more in order to be able to open a regular savings account with Pro-Microfinance, which will give her access to higher amounts of credit. She hasn’t applied for any microloan yet, but appreciates that the Pro-Microfinance staff are reliable in their collection- meaning she doesn’t have to take time off her long work schedule to also visit her bank.

 Mama Tibisa, on the other end of the market, helps her older sister manage a Malewa, or a small food vending stand. She also hasn’t yet taken a microloan from Pro-Microfinance, but just being a part of the Bwakisa Carte program helps her save towards paying for larger costs, such as her children’s school fees and rent. Mam Kisungu, a mother of three and a vendor of raw beans, says she joined the program because she realized that if she saved her money, she could purchase larger sacks of beans. She also appreciates that having savings helps her to be capable of solving problems that might arise, instead of depending on others. 

 Mama Joline, Antoine, and Astrid are three bean sellers who work together and are all members of the Bwakisa Carte. Mama Joline echos Mama Tibisa, saying “It’s helpful to avoid spending money during the day. When we keep it, in such small amounts it’s not useful. But when we save it, its enough to cover bigger expenses, like our monthly rent”.

 Members of the Bwakisa Carte program are also eligible to apply for PMI’s credit products and receive microloans of up to 300 USD. But for many of the clients visited, being able to manage their savings is a first, and last, step in meeting cash-flow shortages.

When savings alone can enable vendors to reinvest in their stock and cover household expenses, the act of collecting savings for members becomes a key tool itself in managing and overcoming the challenges of being a small-scale vendor in DRC.

Mama Akan has 4 kids, and sells food since 1991
Mama Akan has 4 kids, and sells food since 1991
Students at the school Garden
Students at the school Garden

Pro-microfinance is pleased to present a new project, The Community Shamba Project, developed by several of its board members.

 The Community Shamba Project is an initiative to create a collaborative network of school gardens that use sustainable, integrative agriculture practices, based on the principles of Permaculture. The word “Shamba” means farm” in Swahili.  The initiative will start with a pilot project in the city of Butembo in the Northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Central Africa.

 Permaculture design empowers people to strengthen the connections between aspects of life such as food, shelter, water, sanitation, community and local economics to reduce work and the need for income generation while increasing overall abundance through mutually supportive and productive systems. 

 This project will be launched with a two-week, hands-on permaculture design training in October 2014. Thirty participants will be selected from local schools, communityorganizations and farm cooperatives. 

The course will be led by Aaron Kalala and Joseph Lentunyoi, certified Permaculture Design Instructors.

Joseph is the lead trainer and consultant for PRI-Kenya, bringing a wealth of teaching experience to the table. Joseph has experience teaching and implementing permaculture in a variety of contexts, from the drylands of Laikipia and Somaliland to the coast of Tanzania and the varied landscapes of California.

 Aaron is from the DRC, and recieved his Permaculture Design  Certificate in 2007 in Tanzania, taught by Geoff Lawton. Since then, he has trained over 56 women on growing food and conservation in the Congo Basin and has participated in numerous other trainings. Aaron also established a Permaculture demonstration garden at an eco-village located in Uvira, DRC. He speaks French, English, Swahili, and Lingala and other local DRC languages.

 The Fall 2014 initiative will be the first of what will become a network of sustainable gardens using Permaculture design principles to create food security, increase self-sufficiency, and honor the environment with integrative agriculture principals.

 DRC is one of the most malnourished countries in the world, and many children rely on the meals they receive at school to sustain them. Having future gardens for food production located within the schools will give children access to healthy food, while at the same time being able to learn and implement the soil-enriching techniques found in Permaculture, so that a greater variety of food can be grown with an increased nutritional value. This can provide families long-term food producing self-sufficiency, and will help in reducing depletion of the surrounding ecosystem.

 Your donation will be instrumental in helping our organization to provide our recipients with agricultural training and tools that lead to building strong families and communities.

With many thanks in advance for your generous support.

In appreciation,

Kym Park,

PMI Board Secretary 

A Rent to Own Program beneficiary
A Rent to Own Program beneficiary

Dear Supporters,

We are delighted to inform you that 2014 is off to a great start with Pro-Microfinance. In July 2013, Pro-Microfinance expanded its activities to Kinshasa, a city with a population of about 12 million people. With less than 5% of the population having access to financial services and an over 80 % rate of unemployment.  PMI has launched a “Rent to Own” program, where small entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to rent equipment that they own once they have paid the cost of the equipment. 

With PMI’s “Rent to Own” program, motorbike taxi drivers, for example, deposit payments on their account at PMI, until the whole cost of a motorbike rented is paid off.  The program, in partnership with local businesses, helps  motorbike taxi drivers to become owners and improve their income, rather than driving for someone else who poorly pays them. With an average income of $20 a day, $15 usually goes to a private motorbike owner, and only $5 to the driver. If the driver happens to make less than $20, he will get less than $5 that day, as he cannot compromise the $15 for the owner of the motorbike. 

PMI’s “Rent to Own” program helps entrepreneurs find a pathway to become the owner of the motorbike -and other business assets- at the end of the process.  This program triples and quadruples their income, and helps them to better be able to support their families. We thank you for you support to PMI in previous years and in the years to come. Programs like these are what make our work meaningful, and we promise to keep you updated along the way!  

Mr Kasereka Justin a demobilised soldier in DRC
Mr Kasereka Justin a demobilised soldier in DRC

Dear Supporters,

Greetings and we hope this update finds you well. Just to let you know, your financial contributions to Pro-Microfinance DR Congo have had an enormous impact in improving the living standard of families in Butembo, North Kivu. Our recent contributions have made it possible for us to work with a new organizational partner active in grassroots peace building. PMI has extended micro loans to target demobilized soldiers and vulnerable persons in Butemobo and offer lifeline financial support, through its new partner PEREX.

PEREX, a local organization, works to offer community-based reintegration services to demobilized combatants, their families, and extremely vulnerable members of the community. PEREX previously partnered with international NGO’s such as CARITAS in order to extend business opportunities to demobilized combatants and vulnerable members of their host community, such as work-and-pay projects to repair community infrastructure together. Since the completion of the reintegration programming funded by these INGOs, PEREX has been seeking critical support to sustain livelihood services to its members. One of the vital needs of the members of PEREX, many of them with vocational training, has been access to financial services.

PMI therefore recently partnered with PEREX to work with 15 solidarity groups formed by PEREX, each group made of 5 members. Many of the groups have taken and repaid their first group loan, some have taken a second loan, and some have even paid back their second round and are going for their third round. Borrowers have also received trainings in budgeting, record keeping, and entrepreneurship. Here is a big thank you from the PMI team and all its beneficiaries!

PMI’s visiting team members from the USA met with several beneficiaries of the new partnership. Maman Katungu, for instance, used to bring supplies to her husband while he was stationed in a rebel outpost in North Kivu. Since her husband returned to civilian life, Maman has acted as the head of her household, selling fish and saving in an indigenous, neighborhood savings scheme to help her family’s 3 school age children stay in school. Since joining PMI, Maman used her first $100 loan to switch from selling fish to selling tomatoes, which she says has a higher daily profit. She is eagerly looking forward to her second loan, which she says she’d like to use to invest in a communal selling space with the other women in her self-help group.

With its focus always on community needs, PMI’s scalable and sustainable programming works from the bottom up to provide alternatives to hundreds of market women (and men) like Maman. Consider making a contribution today to our efforts in the Congo.

Mr Kasereka, a demobilised soldier shares his story

“My name is Kasreka, I am a demobilized soldier. During the demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration program, I was trained by CARITAS as a mechanic man and received a starter kit. I started a small motorbike repair shop here at the roadside. Later on, I joined PEREX for follow up training as Caritas did not have follow-up programs. From PEREX, I learned how to manage small business and was able to get a Loan from PMI with my other 4 self-help group members. Today, I train 7 school boys in motorbike mechanics during their school vacations. I also have a small chair-making business and farm pigs at home. “

Yours truly,

Julia Smith and John Kavyavu

Mr Justin and his team
Mr Justin and his team

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Organization

Project Leader

John S. Kavyavu

Takoma Park, Maryland United States

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