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

by Pro-Microfinance International
Vetted
Hollow non load-bearing concrete block by Kamat
Hollow non load-bearing concrete block by Kamat

Concrete blocks are always in demand in the bustling metropolis of Kinshasa. These are used in both residential and commercial construction projects, of which there are thousands.

Kamat Beton is one of the small and medium enterprise that Pro-Microfinance works with in Kinshasa. Created in 2014, Kamat Beto’s business is to rent concrete mixers out to small and medium size construction projects in Kinshasa.     Jean Baptiste Matabishi with his business partner were aware of the increasing demand for concrete blocks in the big city of Kinshasa and had been planning to expand their rental business to start including the production of concrete blocks. This way, their concrete mixing clients could also buy concrete blocks from them.

With a small loan borrowed from PMI branch in Kinshasa, the dream became a reality. Kamat purchased a block making machine, and was able to hire 2 people who help operate the machine, which produces 300-400 blocks per day. With their second loan, the business owners are planning to buy more raw materials and hire 2 more people for the evening shift. Other than the 4 people who will shortly be employed by the new addition to the business, there will be around 8 other people who will increase their income by supplying sands collected from a nearby river to Kamat.

Such small-scale industries can have a much bigger impact than the amount of the loan itself.  In an economy like Kinshasa, the creation of employment opportunities can mean the difference between being able to provide for a family and not being able. And creating employment opportunities that themselves create local, small scale production will help wean the country from depending on imported and foreign produced goods, which negatively affect development.

ProMicrofinance’s plan is to start focusing more and more on projects/businesses like this one. Your continued support will help us rebuild business in the Congo, literally block by block. Join us by providing a helping hand today, or let us know how else you would like to get involved! 

Blocks made by Kamat Beton
Blocks made by Kamat Beton
Men at work at Kamat Beton
Men at work at Kamat Beton
Hollow non load-bearing concrete block by Kamat
Hollow non load-bearing concrete block by Kamat
PMI DR Congo Team
PMI DR Congo Team

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the vast majority- some estimated 99% (ADB, 2013)- of the population remains without access to formal financial services. Yet this doesn’t mean that people don’t save and borrow when they can.

 Large personal costs, like school fees, weddings, and birthday parties call for putting aside a little at a time, and, when costs become higher than what’s been put aside, going to the local “mutuality”. Mutualities are common across countries with high rates of informal transactions. They serve as a collection point for neighbors and colleagues who want to save together, and as a helping hand to those who need to borrow. In some cases, even borrowed sums can turn into charitable contributions, recognizing that not everyone can bear the burden of credit sometimes.

 Pro-Microfinance serves as a gateway service for mutuality users to formal financial services. For many of our users, Pro-Microfinance is the first formal account they’ve ever had.  And this is a big deal. Savers can finally rest assured that their savings are secure, accessible, and well accounted for. And Pro-Microfinance won’t make a loan unless the user can demonstrate how they will generate the repayment, or who will guarantee it. And this can mean all the difference between being in the green, versus feeling indebted to your neighbors and colleagues.

 Because banks in the area where Pro-microfinance operate charge up to $5 a month in maintenance fees, many of our users, who make less than this in a day, may be lifelong members of Pro-microfinance. By donating to us, you can ensure that we cover our administrative charges, and yet retain the same accessibility as a neighborhood-level organization. We're willing to put in the extra effort to work with small-scale vendors, and we look forward to what we can do together.

From Bunzi Community farm-Mavuno
From Bunzi Community farm-Mavuno

Dear friends and supporters,

Following the Permaculture training in December last year that launched a partnership between ProMicrofinance and Mavuno Congo, a non-profit organization that empowers village leaders to end extreme poverty in the DR Congo. The two organizations have decided to continue this partnership and are working together to design a loan product tailored to the agricultural sector.

For the pilot project, participants farmers will be disbursed “In-kind Loans” of inputs like seeds and fertilizers. With this program, farmers will have the ability to get the inputs they need at lower bulk prices and have to repay at the harvest time when they have the money. After the pilot project, we will eventually expand the project by providing Cash loans to farmers to allow them to respond to other farming needs like salaries to laborers, etc.

In our next post, we will tell you more about the progress of this project and we look forward to your continued support.  

Training in the demonstration field
Training in the demonstration field

As 2015 came to a close, Pro-Microfinance (PMI) extended a helping hand to a partner in Beni in a livelihood-strengthening activity well aligned with its goals and mission. Just 35 kilometers away from Butembo, Beni has been hard hit in the last year and a half, with at least 500 recorded abductions and 450 brutal murders targeting small villages on the outskirts of Beni, mostly attributed to an armed group originating from Uganda (IRIN, 2015). With such security concerns, the area can feel over militarized and under-developed, with prices for delicate food crops such as tomatoes gouged as less locals are willing to plant care-intensive crops that expose them to potential danger. Mavuno Congo is one organization working within these confines to increase nutritional diversity. Currently partnering with the village of Bunzi, and with plans to expand, the organization works to organize the community into smaller subgroups and utilizes previously ignored spaces for gardening near villagers homes.

Pro-Microfinance’s Community Shamba Project, a resource for Permaculture (sustainable agriculture) design in the area since 2014, was therefore in ideal set of techniques to share with Mavuno’s farmers, since it utilizes otherwise wasted organic materials, conserves water usage, and creates synergistic relationships between intercropped edibles. From December 7th to the 11th, 2015, PMI's Community Shamba graduates worked closely with Mavuno Congo's staff who received training on the following:

  • Climate change and microclimates
  • Soil, forest and water degradation
  • Biological pesticide production
  • Models for field management using diversity and interdependence 

Following the training, the trainer, Ir Katembo Kalwahi reported that “Our trainees were really glad to learn the news about the movement of Permaculture, like how the principles of Permaculture promote a circular economy. The waste of some can be the resources of others, but we have the tendency to toss this in negligence. So the base of Permaculture, which is the interaction of the elements of the ecosystem, is something we really showed the participants!”

Julia visiting Bunzi Village last year
Julia visiting Bunzi Village last year
Maman Juliette, a Liboke vendor in Kinshasa
Maman Juliette, a Liboke vendor in Kinshasa

“Bwakisa Carte” is a micro savings program where collectors collect daily deposits from client savers during a 31 days cycle. The collectors return the accumulated savings to the savers minus one day’s deposit as a collection fee. Clients have the option to collect all the money after each cycle or leave their savings to grow.                           PMI DR Congo has been promoting this program for over two years and we are thrilled with the results.                   Increasingly, we are able to bring success stories, like Juliette, to share with our readers.

Maman Juliette                                                                                                                                             Maman Juliette is a single mother of 4 children. She lives in Kinshasa, the famously hectic capital city of the DR Congo. Paying for her four children to go to school once seemed unimaginable. But since she joined the “Bwakisa Carte” program, she started to save 50 cents every day with a Pro-Microfinance staff member, who visits her, along with dozens of other entrepreneurs, every day of the week. Maman Juliette began to save 15 USD every month.  Today, almost a year since she joined the program, she also increased her daily savings deposits to $USD 1.3. Her monthly savings have more than doubled as a result. Previously, she was forced to take a loan to pay for her children’s school fees. Each year, she barely managed to buy their school supplies at the beginning of the school calendar, but today, with her daily savings, she is able to pay school fees on time. In addition, she says, she’s also able to respond to minor emergencies in her family without being forced into debt.

Juliette’s story shows that saving money, even if only pennies at a time, is a life changing habit. Pro-microfinance is encouraging the saving culture in the communities we work with.  As of today, we have over 2,000 micro entrepreneurs in both Kinshasa and Butembo participating in the microsaving program.

With your support, we plan to recruit and train 10 to 15 new Bwakisa Carte collectors early next year to be able to reach out to more micro entrepreneurs.

Thank you for making this happen,

Board officer Julia Smith with staff and clients
Board officer Julia Smith with staff and clients
 

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Organization Information

Pro-Microfinance International

Location: Takoma Park, Maryland - USA
Website: http:/​/​promicrofinance.org
Project Leader:
John S. Kavyavu
Takoma Park, Maryland United States

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