Microcredit organizing has already boosted the income of many Disciples households and some congregations and
provides further evidence that the “social economy” can help drive economic development in Congo. “Mobilising microfinance is critical to the success of social enterprises including through savings and credit cooperative organizations” observed the recent U.N. Environment Program “Post Conflict Environmental Assessment Synthesis for Policy Makers”. The UN report touts microfinance as a means to generate employment and allow Congolese to “deal pragmatically with their own development priorities”.
But as is typical of Congo culture, microcredit Congo style is often different from the pattern followed in other countries and often varies from group to group. While some groups begin with seed funding, the Microcredit Union of women in Mbandaka’s Besenge parish began with no funding other than what was brought by members of the group. Twenty five women divided into two groups and met twice a month, each member bringing at least 1000 Congolese Francs (about $1.20) to the meeting. One group of women is invited to take a loan on the 10th of the month, according to group leader Mama Micheline Mwami, and the other on the 25th of the month. The next month the women return the amount taken out plus 10 per cent interest. Some women bring more than the minimum contribution from month to month to enable larger loans and larger profits for the group. Within a year, the Besenge group distributed among the 25 women, proportionate to their “investments”, savings and profits of just under $1900.
In the urban setting, many of the women participating in a Disciples organized Microcredit Union begin small businesses with their loans. By contrast, in the rural setting of Bonsombo (Lofoy is its “mission post”), ten families decided to pool their funds and buy seed and tools to cultivate ten hectares of land, agriculture being the primary source of cash in their experience. In the cash economy of Equateur Province’s capital of Mbandaka, the potential for larger investments and earnings is much greater.
Aided by $1400 in seed funding, the Mbandaka pastors’ wives group enabled group leader Mama Lombe to receive a total of $100 the first three months from her Union’s fund pool. She set up a table on a downtown Mbandaka street and began selling children’s underwear, soap, tomatoes and biscuits and returned $105, 5 % interest being the group profit on the loan. After the “Emmanuela” group’s first six months, $2417 was distributed among the members. More recently, after two years of the growth of the group and of the participants’ small business ventures, $12,000 in savings and earnings was shared by group members.
With no banks now providing credit to the 750,000 persons of the city of Mbandaka or anywhere else in Equateur province, the Microcredit Unions have rekindled the “social economy”, the UNEP report’s term, and
entrepreneurship in urban areas where groups have been organized. Enthusiasm among Disciples for the Microcredit organizing has led to Pauline Ngoy presenting for students at the Bolenge Protestant University of the Equateur a lecture on “Microcredit and Evangelism”.
You can contribute to the Microcredit Union organizing by the Disciples in Congo by sending a check designated for “Microcredit in Congo” to Global Ministries, P.O.B. 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986. You can also make a gift online by going to:
A contribution of $150 will enable purchase of a group’s “kit” – a wooden box with calculator, notebooks for each group’s three “accountants”, pens and pencils. The more contributions received by Global Ministries, the more groups will be started with some “seed” funding as well as the “kit”.
Follow new developments in the Microcredit organizing on Nathan Weteto’s blog; English translation can be accessed at:
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.
“And the leaves were for the healing of the nations…..” (Rv 22:2) Ten years ago Church World Service’s West Africa Director Lowell Fuglie began promoting the growth and use of the moringa leaf to combat malnuturition. Today the tree is widely know across Africa as a drought resistant, fast growing tree used for treating a variety of ailments, including malnutrition. A recent article on the properties of moringa observes, “It is commonly said that Moringa leaves contain more Vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas, and that the protein quality of Moringa leaves rivals that of milk and eggs.”
The bark, seeds and pods of the moringa are also used with the seeds providing a low cost water purification technique. According to the same article, “ The journal Current Protocols in Microbiology published a step by step extraction and treatment procedure to produce “90.00% to 99.99%” bacterial reduction. The seeds are also considered an excellent source for making biodiesel.”
Two or three years ago someone brought some moringa seeds with them on a visit to the Disciples farm at Ikengo. The
resulting moringa grove caught the eye of Equateur Province’s Governor who exclaimed that he uses the moringa leaf for his diabetes. And the Provincial health ministry is now interested in obtaining leaf powder for treating malnourished infants.
A Mbandaka native son now Professor of Biology at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris was fascinated by moringa’s water purifying capacity. Wanting to see the trees, M. BOETSA accompanied me on my return to the Ikengo farm this past summer. More about the reason for his return to Mbandaka in the next posting. For now, those interested in more on the amazing moringa tree can go to the Wikipedia article at:
Our thoughts and prayers accompany the 8 Indiana Disciples who on Sunday begin their journey to Mbandaka for a two week visit. With the aim of strengthening the partnership ties of the Indiana and Mbandaka Regions of the Disciples, the group is led by Susan McNeely and the Partnership Chair Rev. Bob Shaw. Follow Susan’s report and commentary on the trip at her blog
While in Mbandaka they will likely be among the first visitors to dine at the new
Restaurant Maman Entombodji next to Disciples headquarters. Running along the south wall of the Secretariat building, this is an income generating, training project of the Disciples’ Department of Women and Families.
Head of the Women’s Department, Rev. Christiane Ikete Engelete, envisions the Restaurant generating revenues for the Department’s programs of literacy education, micro-credit and agricultural cooperatives. Built with the help of funding from the Disciples/U.C.C. Global Ministries and the German United Evangelical Mission, the building comprises the main dining hall, kitchen, office, pantry and interior and exterior rest rooms.
Restaurant Entombodji was dedicated May 12, forty years after Rev. Christiane’s father participated in the dedication of the dormitory at the Disciples’ CAP (Centre Agro-Pastorale) farm in the village of Ikengo. A dedicated Disciples layman at the time, Joseph IKETE served as volunteer Protocol Chief for the occasion. Now in his 70’s Joseph continues to serve the Disciples as Chief Administrative Assistant in President Bonanga’s office.
In closing, a heart felt “Bon Voyage/Kende Malamu” to the Indiana Disciples as they prepare for their long journey beginning Sunday 5/22. They go with our gratitude for helping strengthen the partnership of U.S. and Congo Christians and our trust that their visit will also strengthen the mission witness of churches in both countries.
The Equator Province is the greenest swath on the map of the Congo. The Province does not have the diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt and other rare metals of the eastern, central and southern provinces. It is the poorest and least developed of the Congo’s provinces. It is the Congo’s Mississiippi.
Dense tropical rain forest covers much of the Province. One flying into Mbandaka for the first time might wonder if anyone lives along the great river pilots follow on their way to Mbandaka, the provincial capital. Congo’s rain forest of the Equator Province was described unforgettably by Joseph Conrad in The Heart of Darkness after his Congo travels in 1890:
“Going up that river was like travelling back in the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings.” (The Heart of Darkness and The Congo Diary, Penguin edition, p.59)
After his own travel up the Congo River in 1925, French writer Andre Gide wrote, “I am rereading The Heart of Darkness for the fourth time. It is only after having seen the country that I realize how good it is.” (Travels in the Congo University of California Press, 1962, pp. 292-293) Forty years into Belgian rule in Congo, Gide was concerned about the effects of deforestation in Equator Province. “I am inclined to think that this continual deforestation, whether it be systematic and deliberate or accidental, may bring about a complete modification of the rain system.” (p. 58)
The following gallery of photos were taken in the rainforest of Equator Province during my Congo visit last summer.
Yesterday, December 9, 2010, the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo completed the launch of the micro – credit for people living with HIV (PVV). Planned for 40 people, the project welcomed the first 44 and
then 2 more were added making a total of 46 beneficiaries.
In fact, the CDCC, with the support of the United Evangelical Mission (MEU) has turned to a new category of persons as part of its program of micro – credit. After women in general and the wives of pastors, it’s the
turn of PVV
The MEU has provided funding for making two kits for the administration of micro – credit as well as U.S. $ 800 as seed money for PVV..
After 3 days of training on the administration of a group of micro -credit, 2 groups of 23 persons each were formed and the beneficiaries have saved, before receiving aid, a sum of 285,000 FC, slightly more than
U.S. $ 300. The cycle thus started will end in June, 2011. We hope that everything will go well, and to the great satisfaction of the beneficiaries.
This was written in mid July after planting rice with the Pygmy young men and children at Ikengo. It’s an attempt to describe and account for the feeling of being so closely observed by one of the Pygmy youngsters while I filled the hole with dirt after planting the rice seed.
Just a pinch of seed/
You take and leave/
In the bed; the earth/
Crumbles beneath your touch./
This earth, a mix rich and strange,/
Teeming and foreboding,/
We handle microbes and nutrients,/
Imaging green shoots from doom./
Joints and muscles sigh/
Moving to rhythms of grace/
In the field to be,/
Now a grid of holes./
A rice harvest in the making/
In foreign fields and laboratory,/
The strain now here well studied,/
A product of microscope and cerebellum,/
From that other realm which yields/
Products but not the secrets/
Of its enthralling power;/
Behold, here now an acolyte./
He plants with us with such care,/
Laborious in filling the earth;/
His industry fascinates;/
It is not our way./
We are sprites from the forest,/
Kin to the fireflies dancing/
Before they lay a constellation/
Of stars in the grass./
To laugh is our industry,/
Our calling to live/
In the darkest, deepest places/
With, but why claim this?, our own secrets./
This one has come to plant with us/
A field of rice, and we stare/
In wonder for he plants differently/
And we all may eat this rice together./