Thursday, January 26, 2017

65. Ejo Heza Women Improve Their Lives with Microcredit

January 25, 2017
Members of the Ejo Heza microcredit group and cooperative.
Today I had the joy and honor to revisit the leaders of the Ejo Heza women's group - a sub-group of the KOPAKAMA cooperative in the Rutsiro district of western Rwanda. [See this earlier blog post, too.] On this sunny day at their hilltop washing station overlooking stunning Lake Kivu, about 20 of the women were meeting with their microcredit savings & loan facilitator Claude.

To be a member of the microcredit group the women commit to putting their bonus money from coffee sales into their microcredit savings account. On top of that, they contribute 500 RWF (about $.60) per week. They asked me to help them get more buyers for their coffee so that they can put more money in their savings accounts. I told them I would try! There are about 125 women in the microcredit group and 280 in the women's coffee cooperative.

I asked if they would be willing, and they agreed, to share a couple of stories of how microcredit has helped them augment the income they have from coffee. The average woman in the group has 500 coffee trees.
1. UWIMANA Teresa: "I didn't have a good life before. But then with my saving and my coffee bonuses, I was able to get my first micro-loan of RWF 30,000 (~$36). I bought goods that I sold on the Kibuye-Congo Nile trail to travelers. I was able to pay back that loan, and get a new one for RWF 150,000 (~$180). With this loan I could open a small boutique shop which makes me happy. I am able to make my loan payments on time."

2.  MUKAGIRWA Vestin: "I borrowed RWF 30,000 (~$36) to buy beans [the edible kind] during the peak season for beans. I stocked these beans until the season when there are not so many in the market. Then I was able to sell my beans at a higher price. I was able to use the money to pay back the loan and to pay school fees for my children. Now I am using another loan to buy beans again."

Ideally we could gather statistics on the payback rate of this fledgling microcredit program or a study to show that it is having an overall positive impact. Without these things it is inaccurate to say the program is a huge success for the community. But certainly from these two stories and the smiles and interest I saw on the faces of the women who were there that day, it seemed that microcredit and their coffee cooperative was definitely a benefit to their lives.
A sample page from the ledger the coordinator keeps, recording each 60 cent savings deposit.