Microfinance Brings Income to the Poorest in Africa
Farmers to Markets is a unique microfinance program that works in the poorest country on earth. Families in the DR Congo who were growing their own food and little more are now earning cash incomes.
Farmers to Markets is unique in two ways:
∗ We not only help the farmers grow better crops, we also connect them with major markets.
∗ We help local people transport and sell the goods, rather than doing it ourselves.
We’ve worked in the northwestern Equateur province for over 45 years, and we’ve seen what extreme poverty does to people. When families have very little money, their children’s health and education suffer. Hospitals and schools can’t pay their employees, and more families slide into poverty.
So, with the help of a generous grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), we created Farmers to Markets–a microfinance chain that connects these remote village farmers with major city markets. Here’s how it works:
- Farmers. Nearly 2,700 farmers are getting shovels, other implements, and certified seed, along with the help of an agronomist to learn new methods of agriculture. As they begin earning money, they gradually repay the $35 value of their tools.
- Transport. Individual entrepreneurs receive bicycles on a loan basis and use them to carry sacks of corn or beans to port. From their earnings they repay the value of the bike over time ($165).
- Markets. Experienced wholesalers receive loans of $3,000-$5,000 so they can expand their business to handle this cargo. They buy from the farmers or the bicycle transporters and take the goods to Kinshasa, the capital, 600 miles away. Over time they repay their loans to us.
And the outcome?
- Everybody earns money. Families all along the line can now pay for medicines and school.
- It’s self-perpetuating. When the loans are repaid, the funds are lent out again.
The people of Congo live in deep poverty, but they are capable, intelligent, and ready to work. All they need is a chance.