Friday, June 15, 2007
Hi everyone. We've left Kampala (although this photo is a photo of the group in Kampala with a friend of mine. I thought maybe some people would like to see it), and I'm in Kasese, a city on the western border of Uganda (near Congo), and I've started working at the CBO, Center for Environmental Technology and Rural Development (CETRUD). Everything here is quite laid back and there is no schedule here that compares to the type of work schedule we expect in the U.S. To put it simply, you work when you have work to do and you relax when you don't.
That said, there's a couple of projects that I'm working on. The first is that I'm updating the CETRUD website, but this will take a while to complete. I'm not too familiar with the website interface, so I'm trying to get a good grasp of it before I make any real changes.
The second project is a project I'm more excited about. They have asked me to set up a microlending program for the farmers in the nearby village that CETRUD works with. I have read a good deal on savings programs and microlending, but I've never actually thought of establishing one myself.
So, I'm finding myself reading up on different case studies (some in Uganda) and asking various people that work and do research in the microlending field about different methods that have been most successful. I've found that the most successful microloan programs are organically initiated groups of people that lend to themselves. How do they lend to themselves? By saving money over a period of time (30 people contribue 1$ a week for four weeks), and then lending the money to a group member to use to buy capital for their business.
I had a conversation with the leader of a group of women here that has a business catered around making clothes. This group has applied for numerous loans from the local microlending bank, but the interest rates and the return deposits are too much and too frequent for them to be benefiting from any of the profits of their work. I suggested that instead of making a saving deposit with the bank (that the bank can take if they default on their loan), they could save money within the group for about 2 months and they would have the same amount of resources to lend money to themselves. She was very excited about the idea and she said that she was going to her group right away to discuss with them this idea. This likewise made me excited!
I had a conversation with a Kenyan man who is staying at the CETRUD compound (see picture), who just happens to be a microfinance expert who works with over 1,000 coffee farmers in the region. He says, "the difference between you and a peasant is that you are able to save money. If they knew the benefits of saving, they would not have the problems they have today." I've learned that the fundamental purpose of microlending is to train people about the importance of saving money in order to eventually earn an income. Tomorrow, I will be going to the village near Kasese to talk to various groups about savings options in their village (via savings groups, microlending, etc.). I'm excited to hear what they have to say! I'll keep you posted. Where are the other AGRADU interns?
Finally, a picture of me with Godfrey, the executive director of CETRUD.