Leaders of the Farmers to Markets program have been working on ways of teaching the farmers that their loans have to be repaid. Unlike other microfinance recipients, such as micro-business owners in urban areas, many of the subsistence farmers who are at the core of FTM have little sense of the importance of repayment. So a team of FTM staff took the Land Cruiser and drove around to associations and homes of individual members. Here are three stories from that experience, sent to us by our Congo Country Manager, Texa Dembele. I’ve included the comments he added to each story.
Story 1. The man who is the first adviser in the APRIBU Association likes the FTM project. Every time we have a visit or activity in the association, he is always the first person to comply. Often he advised the other members to follow project instructions. When we arrived for the repayments, he was the first person who came with money and made a payment. He told the others, “If you get a loan you have to pay! You got this loan easily, you have to pay easily.” One woman took a lesson from his speech. She went into her house, came out, and paid the totality of her loan. The man saw and said, “Oh! How can a woman be first on the list of those who fully repaid their loans?” He returned to his house and brought back 3,500 FC (Congolese francs) ($3.80), the amount remaining due on his loan. They were the first two in their group who fully repaid their loans.
Texa’s comments: We congratulated the first adviser in the APRIBU Association, and I think he deserves to be first adviser. But you know, the first good example came from a woman. Her example encouraged the man to do more, and he finished paying his loan. We need to focus more of the action through the women, which is also the fifth objective of Farmers to Markets. Also, we need to push the people to pay back their loans. We need to go to them, to their house or the association, like we did on this trip.
Story 2. The FTM repayment team arrived at the ASALO Association. We invited all the members to come and hear why we were there. The chief of the delegation said, “We are here to recover all the payments due on your loans, and we will go house by house.” When one of the women heard that, she said, “No, I would not like you to go to my house. I would be ashamed to see the group at my house asking for the money. Wait for me here.” She went and brought back all the money she owed, 2,800 FC ($3.00), and she paid it. A man who had paid 5,000 FC ($5.43) of the 8,150 FC ($8.90) he owed saw the woman repay her whole loan. He said, “It would be shaming if a woman completed her repayment but no man did that.” He went in his house and brought the rest of the money.
Texa’s comments: We are seeing that the behavior of the women is correcting many men in the associations. When a woman has money to pay back the loan, she doesn’t hesitate. But in the majority of cases, the men hide their money for reasons that we don’t know. It appears that the women have a fear of not repaying the loan. If decisions about how to use money in the households can be made by the women, I think we could make huge progress. As in the first story, the fifth objective of Farmers to Markets is important: “to strengthen the voice of women in the family and commerce.”
Story 3. This is told by animator Guillaume Ngombe: When we arrived at the home of one of the Avad Association members, we found the guy and his wife. We said we were there to get his payment on his loan, which he’d had for a long time. The man said he didn’t have any money. I told him, “OK, today we will bring you to the prison. Put on your pants and climb into the car.” (We were in the FTM Land Cruiser.) When the man heard us talk about the jail, he started to cry. His wife told him to take the rooster they kept and give that to us as a payment on the loan. So the guy took the rooster and gave it to the team. The team bought the rooster for our dinner and put the money in the cash box containing repayments.
Texa’s comments: This story showed us that the woman often has the solution to a problem that comes up in the household. The wife of this man found the solution this time. She rescued her family. That’s a good lesson to share in the Associations. It shows, once more, the fifth objective of FTM. Also, the presence of the car in this campaign was a big motivation and fear for all the members of the associations.
SAJ 27 Mar 2013