Micro credit project

The Micro Credit programme of the Eva Demaya Centre helps the inhabitants of Northern Malawi to increase their income from agricultural production.
In Malawi most people live from small scale agriculture.
The most important product is maize, which is grown for personal consumption and as cash crops, as are beans, soya and peanuts.
Other important agricultural products grown especially as cash crops are tobacco, cotton, tea and coffee.
EDC Photos 24-01-2014 196

Growing maize has become more difficult for the people in northern Malawi because of changing climate conditions.
People have to change their farming methods.
The Malawian government supports them in this because it is of national interest that enough food is produced.

For some years now, the Centre has been helping the community to increase their production of maize and soya by means of its micro credit facility. The micro credits are given to groups of people who have organized themselves to act as a team in the production of their crops and who will stand as guarantors for each other in the repayment of the loans.
In just-ended growing period almost 120 people, organized into 12 groups, received a small credit to buy their seeds and fertilizers. These loans can vary between 75 and 250 Euros per person depending on the individual’s financial strength. EDC Photos 02-04-2014 239

The season just ended has been good for the maize crop. Between May and September all the crops will have been either stored or sold. The balance of the harvest is used up and repayment of the loans takes place.
It is expected that over 95% of the outstanding credits will be paid back and reinvested for next year’s agricultural production.

Rainy season ends too soon

Dried up maize
Dried up maize
In the area around the Centre, the rainy season has come to an end much too soon this year. It hasn’t rained since the beginning of March and nature is drying up. Apart from witnessing the sad spectacle of young trees and shrubs withering, the premature ending of the season’s rains is going to be very bad for this year’s maize harvest.

In a good rainy season most people manage to grow enough maize for the whole year. Fresh maize is normally available from the end of March or the start of April. The full-scale harvesting of dried maize takes place in June and July. This dried maize is then stored for the coming year.

Now that the rains have stopped far too early, the maize crop has not had a chance to come to maturity, so that the harvest here will not be a good one. This means that many people will suffer food scarcity after a few months. If these same people also have little or no income, then they will be facing a serious famine situation.

Dried up maize crop
Dried up maize crop

This premature end to the rains affects an area within a radius of 15 kilometres from the Centre. The area lies in the so-called rain shadow and is almost always drier than other parts of the country. Unfortunately, this year that difference has been big enough to be disastrous for the crop.

In the year to come, we as a Centre will inevitably be involved in offering food relief to those among the population who would otherwise have no way of feeding themselves.


Rainy season: always difficult

The first months in Malawi are important due to the long awaited rainy season. Everyone is busy planting products and the scenery is wonderful. However, now a days it is also a doubtfull period, because the rain is not self-evident anymore. When the rain comes later for only eleven days, as was the case in 2013, this does great damage to the crops. Crops which are necessary for their food security and income for the next year.
It is not only the future which is at stake these first three months of a new year. Food also becomes a scarcity when the old supplies are starting to run low and the harvesting is done in April. Almost nobody in the village has money at this time and people live day by day. Problems arise when a family member gets sick. For the family it is hard to find the money to get the family member to hospital, due to which weaker and sick people often do not survive.
During these months it is not uncommon that people come to the center to ask it for help. Many of these can be helped with corn, plastic to repair roofs, soap or blankets. If necessary people can be treated without charge in the clinic or the homeopathy room.
The end of February the Malawians start to make money buy harvesting tobacco and selling it. But this depends on the rains. Therefore the first three months of the new year it is a matter of survival till the rains start to fall.

600 Trees and Esperanza stoves

Watering trees
Watering trees
The Eva Demaya Centre has planted 600 trees on the grounds the last couple of weeks.
These trees are meant as firewood, since firewood is used every day for cooking. Due to the amount of children born in Malawi is higher than the amount of trees being planted, deforestation is becoming a big problem. A problem which is clearly seen on the mountains surrounding the center where many trees have disappeared these last decades.
In cooperation with the heads of the surrounding villages and the community, Eva Demaya Centre started protecting the hills around the center. Right now no more trees are chopped down and the hills are protected during fires. The results are visible to everyone and is very much appreciated.
However, we cannot protect all the woods and deforestation is still happening on a rapid pace; People need firewood to cook their daily meals! Therefore Eva Demaya intends to plant many new trees every year. These last weeks that were 600 trees, but hopefully many will follow!

The interior chamber of the stove
The interior chamber of the stove
Another project to protect the trees are the stoves which are being built at the center. To cook food this stoves only need half of the trees which are normally used to cook food. This way only little branches are needed which fall from the trees instead of chopping complete trees which cannot regrow. Since the beginning of the project over 500 stoves are built at the Eva Demaya center.

By spreading the Esperanza stoves in Malawi, deforestation is reduced!

Microcredit focuses on improving food situation

The start of this month also marked the beginning of a new year for the micro-credit project.
In the year to come, 80 people and their families will be helped by the provision on credit of fertiliser and seed. Fertiliser has become hugely expensive in Malawi, so a loan that allows people to buy it is a real help to people.
At the same time, alternatives to fertiliser are being sought. The authorities are now promoting agriculture with the help of compost. The use of compost also helps with water retention in the earth, something that is increasingly important now that there is less rainfall in Malawi than in the past.
However, it will take a huge effort of will to convince most farmers to change to this new way of working.

Heat and drought come early this year

The weather situation is Malawi is becoming increasingly worrying.
It is far too warm for the time of year and it has been bone dry for four months now, where it would normally have started raining by now. At the Centre this unprecedented warm spell has caused trees to bud, something that usually happens in November.
It surprises me that few local people seem bothered by this; they just take life as it comes.

Aftermarket for agricultural products

During the last rainy season many people grew soya in place of tobacco. Tobacco prices have been rock-bottom in recent years and the government also has encouraged the growing of alternative crops.

In our micro-credit project we have stopped offering loans for tobacco growing; instead we give loans to people growing soya and maize.

Those who participate in the micro-credit project repay their loans in kind, with the crops they have been growing. As a result, we have been looking around for a market for these products.

While looking for reliable buyer it became clear that people were having real difficulty in finding a market for their products. Since soya is a relatively new crop here, no proper exists yet for selling it.

To help people find markets for the soya they have grown, we are, as a centre, trying to set up a structural arrangement with a buyer of agricultural products, Export Trading Group. This is a company founded and run by people from India; they are active in 40 African countries and appear to have a clear strategy for stimulating African agriculture.

The Centre is busy organising three depots where the people can bring their products and where the buyers come to buy them. To ensure the proper functioning of the depots the Centre pays for security personnel and for a clerical assistant. For this the buyers pay us 5 Kwacha per kilo of soya sold.

If this initiative to create an aftermarket goes well, we will consider repeating the exercise next year.

Micro-credits 2010

All those who are participating in this year’s micro-credit project have now organised themselves into groups. A total of 110 people are involved in the project. This is 40 fewer than last year; some of those who benefited from this project last year did so well that they now don’t need a loan in order to buy fertiliser – an ideal outcome! Others are not involved this year because group members decided they could not work with them. These credits are given to people who have organised themselves into groups, whose members are prepared to stand as guarantors for their fellow members when it comes to repayment of the loan. If a member is not felt to be serious, others in the group may decide not to work with that person. The project leader himself decided to exclude two groups who did not fulfil the criteria of the micro-credits project.
The new participants have now received a six-day training.
This year participants will each receive 4 sacks of fertiliser. This compares with the two bags per person given last year. When we distributed the bags last week it was obvious that the participants were very happy with this amount.
The repayment of these credits was extremely successful, with more than 99% of the loans recovered.

Rainy season and climate matters

In November we though that the rainy season had started early this year.
Alas, after two weeks the rains suddenly stopped and the intense heat and dryness returned (35° C in the shade). Those who had already planted their maize saw it withering. Since 19 December 19 it has begun to rain again and now everyone has planted their maize; now everyone has to wait anxiously to see if they will get rain enough for their crops. The effects of climate change are being felt in Malawi too. The government here is also deliberating on the best policy to adopt in the face of the changing climate patterns the country will experience. One initiative being considered is a large-scale irrigation project around Lake Malawi; others stress the need to promote different sorts of crops which are less dependant on regular rains. In the last two years a lot of work has been carried out irrigating land lying beside rivers. This has also happened in areas near the Centre, with people able to grow maize and vegetables also in the dry season, though for the moment the scale of such initiatives remains small.

Micro-credits successful

The organisation of the micro-credit project was a notable success in 2009. The tobacco and maize harvests were good and this allowed good prices to be realised and the participants to repay their loans in good time. And their enthusiasm is great for a continuation of this project in the coming year.

This will be the second year in which the micro-credits project will run. Three groups with ten members in each have withdrawn from the scheme because they can take out loans elsewhere. The project policy is to allow loans exclusively to those who cannot get them anywhere else. This means that 120 participants from last year will continue their participation for a second year. One new group will be formed, so that we will be able to help a total of 130 people with a loan. With the extra funds that have been made available to us we are able to increase the size of the loans. The best farmers and the best-organised groups will be eligible for these loans. The newly formed group will receive a 6-day training, just like last year, in aspects such as budgeting, saving, repaying credits, group dynamics and group organisation, and also farming best practice. All those involved in this project are extremely grateful for the extra funds they get and support the project wholeheartedly. Farming is the only source of income for 85% of the population of this country and so it is all the more worthwhile to be able to support them with such a project.