This is the first post in a series to outline the many benefits we are seeing as a result of Gemach loans. Some intended, some not and others far more important than our initial goals.
This first benefit is the most obvious and the one that we set The Gemach Project up originally to address. Lifting the poor out of poverty.
First, what is poverty in Africa? We have all seen pictures of starving children on TV and then a plea for donations. Lately we have seen images of people dying from Ebola in West Africa. These are images of the results of poverty but how do we measure poverty. Academics talk about GNP and other economic indicators but I like the way that our loan administrator, Pastor Josue Akowanou, in Benin assesses poverty. When they apply for a loan they have to fill out a questionnaire. The questionnaire asks them questions to determine a level of poverty. The scores on this test tell them who the poorest are and thus who get the loans. I think also gives here in the U.S. a clearer picture of what poverty looks like in Africa.
This system gives a score of from one to three depending upon the answers given. The lower the score the more in need the applicant. He asks questions about their home, health, education, food, economy, communication and what he calls administrative recognition.
I will give you some examples from each category:
Home: Zero points if their house has bamboo walls, one point for clay walls and two points for cement walls. Zero points if they have no electricity, one point if they are pirating electricity and two points if their home is connected to electricity. Zero points for one piece of furniture one point for two and two points for two or more pieces.
Health: Zero points for no mosquito nets, one point for nets in poor condition and two points for nets in good condition. Zero points for no vaccinations for their children, one point for partial vaccinations and two for full vaccinations. Zero points for no access to medical care, one point for access to a clinic and two points for access to a hospital.
Education: Zero points if illiterate, one point for primary education and two points for secondary education. Zero points if none of their children are attending school, one point if some are attending and two points if all are attending.
Food: Zero points if one meal a day, one point for two meals and two points for three meals. Zero points if they get protein less than once a week, one point if they get protein a maximum of once a week and two points if they get protein more than three times a week. Zero points if they cook with wood, one point for charcoal and two for gas.
Economy: They earn less than $1 a day zero points, $1-$2 a day one point and over $2 a day two points.
Access to information: Zero points for no access, one point for a radio or TV, two points for both. Transportation; Zero points none, one point for a bicycle and two points for a car or motorcycle.
Administrative Recognition: Zero points for no official papers, one point for a birth certificate and two points for a national identification card.
This is a sample of the 30 questions that he asks them. It should give you a picture of how we judge poverty on a practical scale. Now that we have established what we consider poverty let us tell you what we consider “taking them out of poverty”.
There are three things that we are constantly told by those that have received loans and started successful businesses. They don’t have to worry about how to provide the next meal, they can pay all of the school fees so that their children can get an education and they can provide their family with medical attention and immunizations as needed.
I don’t know at what level one enters the middle or upper class in Africa. I do know that one gets 70 cents a day in Kenya to pick tea leaves and that in many places where we give loans the average person makes less that $1 a day or less than $30 a month. Time and time again those that receive loans tell us that they are making one hundred to two hundred dollars a month in profit after paying back their loans.
These recipients have gone from having nothing to making 3-7 times the average. So yes I do consider this as giving them a legitimate chance to climb out of poverty. All with just a hundred to two hundred dollar loan that they are expected to pay back. The future prospects of the entire family are changed.
In the next post, Benefit #2, I will elaborate on something else we give them bedsides monetary gain.