Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Africa Day 4: ER-D in Bolgatanga

Organic mango plantation. Carpentry school for the deaf and disabled. Micro-credit loans for women engaging in petty trade. Seed and fertilizer for farmers. Irrigation dam for a whole community. Mosquito nets for families. Where do I start?

About halfway through the day's tour of Episcopal Relief and Development's (ER-D) work in this part of Ghana, I decided that there couldn't be any more. We'd seen enough. Our group had been jumping from one site to another to another in the heat of the African sun. Surely we had exhausted the opportunities for observation. Did I mention that we skipped the dressmakers because we ran out of time? Did I mention that we skipped the demonstration farms because we didn't have time?

I'm fascinated with the work that ER-D is doing here. Mainly, that's because of its breadth. They're doing so much. Because they have partnered with ADDRO (see yesterday's post) and are married to local needs and local providers, ER-D is able to reach so many.

All of our observation today was enlightening. One area, however, was of particular interest to me. I've heard about micro-finance or micro-lending before, but I've never seen it in action. Here, micro-credit is offered to those who can demonstrate success in business or other small operations and the ability to expand that operation with the infusion of capital. Loans of varying amounts are made at interest rates of around 12% per year (compare with 30%+ at local banks). Loans are made for 6 months at a time. If repaid, additional loans are possible. ADDRO's goal for this year was to add 90 new participants to their already over 500 enrollees. They've loaned over $100k to local women, men, families, and businesses. These loans make the difference between a subsistence lifestyle and independence.

We also learned that the work isn't done. A component yet to be added is the savings part. Those receiving loans need to make enough profit to save some so that eventually they will not need loans from ADDRO and ER-D. In other words, the equity in their business needs to grow so that they can become self-sustaining. This, we are told, is the latest development in the global movement that is micro-finance. How can we be lenders who get out of the lending business? That's the work that ER-D is doing, and it's good gospel work.

I'm exhausted. We saw so much today. We didn't even have lunch until 2:45 p.m. because we were too busy to stop. Why? Because of all that's happening here. Why? Because of the work that the Episcopal Church is doing in Ghana and beyond. 

Some of us have begun whispering about what might be next--something big, something exciting. I'm here with a bunch of people who love the Episcopal Church, who love ER-D, who are active at General Convention, and who want to see us grow our commitment to empowering those in need. What will it be? How can we make all that is happening here even bigger? The reality is that for every person we see who is the recipient  of an ADDRO grant or assistance project there are a dozen more who  aren't being reached. The need is limitless. What will we do about it? 

1 comment:

  1. Martha Selmen told me she read your blog this morning, which I had failed to do when I arrived. I asked her what she remembered, she responded, "Well, he didn't eat lunch until 2:45 and he was exhausted!" My reply was that ER-D must be doing a lot for Evan to say that he is exhausted. ER-D is doing amazing work it seems, and my prayers are with you and your group for energy and stamina.