Nyama Fodie is a 34 year-old woman living in Jokibu village with her husband and four children. Although she and her family had been benefitting for years from key OVP projects like the water wells and a rice mill, Nyama recently developed a more personal relationship with OVP as a member of a women’s loan group.
In December 2011, Nyama and five other women applied for a small business loan from OVP and were slected as the strongest proposal in the village. They used the loan of 1,000,000 leones (about $250 USD) to start a business selling palm oil and rice in Jokibu and in nearby Bunumbu on market days. Nyama explained that the loan allowed the group to explore their business ideas while granting them increased marketing power to customers in the region.
Along with the economic development and improved standard of living, the business opportunity brought the group unity and peace. Nyama believes that their success has created a positive impact on all women in the community. At an individual level, the small but critical profits from the business enabled Nyama to support her family during the difficult hungry season, when food is scarce and malaria rampant.
As is often the case, newfound self-confidence led to further exploration and success. The burgeoning palm oil and rice business empowered Nyama, and inspired her to join a local savings group run by one of the village community teachers. This specific group, known as a VSL (Village Savings and Loan), allows members to ‘buy shares’ in the group with a regular monthly contribution and take loans out at a reasonable rate of interest. At the end of the year, the group collectively decides how to distribute and reinvest the savings and interest accrued. Nyama can build her business with loans from this group, and put away money for critical expenses such as food, clothing, and school supplies.
Nyama isn’t the only member of her family to directly benefit from OVP programs. Her daughter, Jeneba, has received OVP scholarships the past three years to attend junior high school in Bunumbu. She scored well on her BECE, the placement exam taken by all 9th graders, and is hoping to enter high school next fall. Nyama said that she is extremely proud of her daughter’s accomplishments and hopes Jeneba will continue her academic achievement.
Nyama and her group recently finished repaying their loan to OVP on time, with the 5% interest added to the starting capital of the next women’s group in Jokibu. The newly-independent business is running strong, and Nyama has never been more optimistic about the future.