Two years ago, the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda (EPR) received a grant from Self Development of People (SDOP) to help small farmers to increase their income through saving and credit. A large portion of the funds received from SDOP was used to benefit existing savings and credit groups. These groups had existed for two or three years, but the amount the members had been able to save was still too small to have a significant impact on their lives. The infusion of money from SDOP had a large impact on the ability of these groups to help their members.
In this article we want to show the progress realized by groups supported by the SDOP funds. For example, we would like to tell you about Bavumiragira Verdianne a member of Twisungane group, which is composed of 19 members both men and women.
Who is Bavumiragira Verdianne ?
Bavumiragira Verdianne is a 24-year-old orphan who has lost both of her parents. Her father died when she was one year old and her mother died in 2005. After the death of her parents, she was taken in by a family headed by Mukamusoni Belancille, a widow who has no living adult relatives to help them.
How was the life of Verdianne before she joined the saving and credit group ?
Verdianne and Belancille preparing cassava in front of their kitchen.Verdianne and Belancille preparing cassava in front of their kitchen.
An orphan and very poor, Verdianne was often ashamed and afraid to go out among other people. What work she was able to do was always low-wage work for others, which gave her no independence or ability to control her own future. With so little, there was no opportunity for her to generate any sort of reliable income. She said that she had no hope for the future. How is Verdianne after joining the group of saving and credit ? She said that when she was made aware of the advantages of saving and credit, she decided immediately to join others in the group. She said that it was not easy for her to get the weekly contribution on top of daily necessities. To get that contribution, she continued to work for others.
How is Verdianne now ?
Verdianne had managed to save a small amount of money and had a big dream. After joining the group of saving and credit, this young woman took 17.000 Rwandan francs (approximately $25) as a loan to complete the budget of the agriculture project she had planned. She invested in seeds and fertilizer, rented a small plot of land and planted a crop of tomatoes, providing all the labor herself. The first harvests sold for 300.000rwf (approximately $450) with which she bought the piece of land she had been renting and started to build a small house.
This is the land bought by VerdianneThis is the land bought by VerdianneHouse under construction House under construction
After investing the money that she earned from her first harvest on buying land and constructing a house, Verdianne took another loan of 50.000rwf to reinvest in tomatoes. From the second planting, Verdianne harvested tomatoes which had a value of 400.000rwf. She used this money to buy a house that was being sold by a neighbor and a bicycle which will help her transport her tomatoes to the market. It is important to know that the period between planting and harvest of tomatoes is three months.
The new house Verdianne bought from her neighborThe new house Verdianne bought from her neighborVerdianne with her bicycleVerdianne with her bicycle
She said that she cannot use two houses, so she will sell the house which she has not finished building. Today, she continues to cultivate tomatoes and she said she now is an expert with tomatoes. Just as important, the shame of poverty is gone. Verdianne sings in her church choir and is considered an important member of her community.
Verdiane in the tomato fieldVerdiane in the tomato field
Verdianne is just one example from just one saving and credit group. She says that the SDOP funds have strengthen the capacity of her group to save a big number of people. Today her group has 800.000rwf in its treasury for lending to members. Verdianne said that the secret of success is to apply the wide array of advice given by EPR technicians concerning saving and financial practices, agricultural techniques, etc. “The training that we received about how to initiate the small business helped me to put in action my project of tomatoes.” Verdianne encourages other girls and women to join saving and credit groups and initiate small businesses.
I would like to thank all the people and organizations who contributed to the success of this project, especially SDOP through PC(USA), EPR technicians, and all the members of Twisungane group.