Women are the entrepreneurs of

by francine Hardaway on February 22, 2005

Women are the entrepreneurs of Uganda. Today we visited a microloan fund whose mission was to instill godliness and wealth into every Ugandan household. In the mornings, they pray that their work will bear fruit.

And when we saw three of their “success stories, ” it appears it does. We visited one woman who started with a $50 loan ten years ago and has leveraged it to 600 chickens, laying 30 trays of eggs a day, at an income of $800 per month. With this money she has sent her two children to the university, and sent one to a master’s program. She mixes her own chickenfeed, from maize, millet, and fish and greens. For the baby chicks she includes more fish. For the hens that lay eggs she includes more greens so the yolks are yellow and have more iron.

Another group of women have formed a consortium to borrow money together. They meet once a week to make their payments. The treasurer of the consortium collects the money from all the women and takes it to the bank, where she gets a receipt and brings it back to the others. The women grow all kinds of crops, including aloe vera, vanilla, coffee, and flowers. The leader also has chickens, pigs, and cows, and now owns 80 acres of land on one of the hills outside Kampala. It’s gorgeous!

The last group of women weave baskets and make clothes as well as growing things. They, too, meet once a week to make their payments. It creates a kind of social pressure that raises their average repayment rate to 98%.

Godfrey, the branch manager of the fund, told us that 75% of his loans are to women, because they are the ones who make the households. They do lend to married women, but they lend to the women. The businesses — at least the ones we saw — are home-based.

I was thinking of how little we can do with $5000, let alone $50, to further entrepreneurship in America. It’s partly the costs of doing business, partly the costs of compliance, legal systems, and all the added issues that arise when you get far from the land and the family (hiring, travel, etc). Not that I think we should be Uganda, but it’s something to think about. Would a group of Americans (men OR women) get together and borrow together? Do we have enough trust?

Tomorrow we leave the cities for the game park. I wont be sorry to leave the traffic and pollution of Kampala, although I have loved the people. Animals, here I come!

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