More than 1000 women are now receiving credit and saving their earnings by participating in one of the Microcredit Unions organized by the Disciples Community of the Church of Christ of Congo. More than thirty groups have been formed throughout the Equateur Province with members spreading the news of the benefits they enjoy. One of the first Microcredit Union groups, organized by the Disciples pastors’ wives in Mbandaka, recently distributed six months of profits and savings amounting to over $12,000.
One of the pastors’ wives group members, Mme. Ingesu Likomba, recounted her progress in generating new income for her household
thanks to the credit extended. With her first loan, Mme. Likomba bought an old kerosene refrigerator and began selling cool bottled water. More recently, with another loan, she bought a small generator which will enable her to sell chilled flavored drinks along with the water. She and her husband, pastor of the Disciples’ New City parish in Mbandaka, are now better able to help with the fees and expenses of four children in college.
The master trainer and initiator of the Microcredit Union groups is none other than M. Nathan Weteto, Director of Communications of the Disciples and fellow blogger. In addition to conducting trainings in rural and urban Disciples settings, M. Weteto has trained Baptist microcredit group leaders in war stricken North Kivu province and CADELU church members in Equateur. With many Disciples group members now testifying that they can better feed their families and pay children’s school fees, Revde. Christiane Ikete, who heads the Disciples Department of Women and Familes, plans an expansion of the program.
In a recent meeting in which Disciples President Bonanga and Vice President Mputu participated, the creation of the Women’s Association for Savings and Credit, a new division of the Women’s Department, was announced. The Association’s first step will be the preparation by M. Weteto of at least ten trainers for deployment to organize five to ten new Microcredit Unions on their own.
The potential of this income generating strategy to increase household and parish revenues is best seen in one of the poorest Disciples parishes in the city of Mbandaka. Mme. Micheline Mwani , the pastor’s wife in the Besenge parish, tookthe lead in bringing together 2 groups of 25 women total. In a conversation in July, 2010, Mme. Mwani reported that the only material aid her groups received initially was a “kit” comprising calculators, accounting notebooks and pens. These two groups after a six month period distributed a sum of $1,889 among the members,
representing the six month interest payments and savings of the women participating. Other Besenge Disciples women, and, members of the nearby Catholic church are clarmoring to join.
With the aim of sharing the microcredit concept and benefits with the most vulnerable members of the Congolese population, M. Weteto also trained two HIV positive groups of men and women last December. Forty six persons were organized and trained in two groups, with each group given “kits” and $250 each for an intital fund to be added to by the members. For more on the micro credit process Congolese style, read my next blog coming soon.