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Women’s cooperatives

Togo is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2010, 62% of the population lived below the national poverty line; 22% of the children under 5 years old were malnutritioned; and life expectancy was 57 years (1). In too many Togolese families, mothers have to endure watching their children die due to lack of proper health care.  Without a secure source of income, bringing food to the table and getting the health care needed for their families, become “mission impossible”.
A group of women, who work in the field of agriculture in the Maritime region of Togo, have developed projects that have a lot of potential. Due to the lack of investment capital as well as knowledge within the field of finance and business management, these women struggle with discontinued businesses, that are not very profitable and that do not really have any potential of growth. Since these women lack economical security, micro-finance companies do not grant these women loans. Not even the wealthy people have access to credit in the isolated rural areas of Togo. In some cases the husbands feel threatened by their women’s businesses, and therefore they do not give the women their support, financially nor emotionally. Other women’s husbands cannot support their wives financially because they lack the economical capacity of doing so. Due to all of these circumstances, the organization Solidarité Enfance et Vie (S.E.VIE) (2), an NGO from Togo, and the Swedish NGO, Action10 (3), have decided to intervene. In March 2012 Action10 gave a workshop on small scale business management in the small city Tsévié in the Maritime region. One outcome from the workshop was a proposal from 30 women in a rural village called Foulani Kondji on how to initiate a small scale business cooperative. In August 2012, Action10 in collaboration with S.E.VIE agreed to support the proposal and therefore started up a new program called the “Women Cooperatives in Small Villages”.
The short term goal of this program was that Action10 and S.E.VIE were going to grant loans, with a 10% interest rate, as well as training in financial administration, accounting and business management to a group of women living in Foulany Kondji over a period of 25 weeks. The loans have been given the women and the training has taken place. The training has strengthened the women’s skills in the earlier mentioned areas and it has given them tools to work with, that has opened up the possibility for them to become independent business owners. If the first pilot project was successful, the plan was to set up a larger scale operation by offering the same kind of loans for other groups of women in the surrounding villages e.g. Tokpo, Kondo Kopé and Lomé.  The long term goal of this program is to have a regional (or even national) fund established that all the women will contribute to. This regional fund is used to offer investment capitals, in an efficient and effective way, to any woman who needs it. This will make women more independent, and make their businesses grow and prosper, and thus strengthen the villages and the communities.
The first pilot project was started thus in August 2012 and it will end in the beginning of January 2013. 30 women in Foulany Kondji were gathered in what is called an “Assembly”. In the “Assembly”, a president, a secretary as well as a counselor were elected. The women of the “Assembly” are called “Cooperative chiefs”, and they each represent a group of 4-6 women that are working together, running their own business projects. These groups of women are called “Cooperatives”. The “Cooperative chiefs” received, in the beginning of this project, a specific amount of money that they invested in their businesses. In total, Action10 provided the financial capital of 1500 € at the start of the project, and the organization provided another 700 € in October 2012. How much money each woman received was agreed upon by the women themselves, Action10 as well as S.E.VIE.  The “Cooperative chiefs” are responsible to pay back all the money that their “Cooperative” has borrowed with the interest.
In addition to offering loans, Action10 and S.E.VIE will keep on supporting the program by giving advice regarding financial administration and accounting as well as business management. Action10 and S.E.VIE  have also contributed by offering amongst other things, a planning strategy, help coordinate as well as an evaluation procedure. Support and advice is also offered when an unforeseen challenge arises.
S.E.VIE. has the local knowledge and the advantage of being located in Togo, therefore the responsibility has fallen on them to offer these women consultations, to deal with local management, and to collect data.
According to the set goals, all initial loans should be reimbursed by the beginning of January 2013. The good news is that all the loans as well as the interest rates up to this date, have already been paid by the “Cooperatives”. The money received for interest rates have been used to cover management costs incurred by S.E.VIE.

 

(1) Togo-at-a-Glance

(2) S.E.VIE is based in Tsevié, Togo and their main objective is to strengthen the development of child care in Togo.

(3) Action10 was founded in 2009 in Stockholm, Sweden and its vision states that extreme poverty can be eradicated in all countries within a limited period of  time.

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