The straw basket and handbag makers of northern Ghana are drawing a lot of attention lately– enough, in fact, that two of my clients have each sent me to the region on separate occasions in recent months to get a close up glimpse of these fashionable totes. The groups that make them have banded together in cooperatives in order to buy supplies in bulk and save and lend amongst each other. Some groups have even managed to find financial backing and gain certified Fair Trade status, which would explain why Shared Interest, a fair trade investment firm, sent me there to capture these entrepreneurs at work. The colorful hand bags and baskets are crafted by groups of women using straw that is first rolled and split with their teeth, then dyed in vibrant colors before being woven into intricate patterns by hand. It’s a tradition that’s long been passed down through the[…]Read More
Post Tagged with: "micro-finance"
You may have had the unfortunate experience of having your seaside vacation interrupted by a thunderstorm, or worse, a hurricane. Imagine if such a storm were responsible for wiping out not just your vacation, but your family’s income and food supply for the coming year. This, while unthinkable for us in the developed world, is a menacing possibility each year for families in Madagascar, an island nation of 22 million in the Indian Ocean. With 3,000 miles (4800 km) of coastline, it’s hard for Madagascar to avoid being a stop on the itinerary for cyclones sweeping through the Southern Indian Ocean. I recently spent time here with CARE documenting some of their disaster risk reduction programs. A cyclone, as a hurricane is called in the Indian and southern Pacific Oceans, can destroy acres of the rice paddies that produce Madagascar’s staple crop. But what if farmers could harvest their crop[…]Read More
Africa will never develop without the expansion of the free market. Through small and medium sized loans and business mentoring, Accion gives people in Sub-Saharan Africa and other developing areas of the world the financial tools they need to improve their lives through development of their businesses, thus expanding the free market one entrepreneur at a time. I recently spent a week in Tanzania with some of those who benefit from Accion’s loan programs. The size of their enterprises varied greatly, from the young mother selling fruit in the market to the middle-aged man and his chicken-feed factory that employs dozens. All have benefited from services that are still scarce across the developing world: access to finance and capital to start a business. Tanzania’s GDP is growing by 6.5% annually and almost no markets are saturated. My assignment here coincided with the state visit of President Obama, whose remarks here[…]Read More
It’s hard to believe that as much hoopla as this guy has stirred up, as much attention as he’s garnered in the media, that the problems he caused are still not yet fixed. Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army plundered Northern Uganda for over a decade. The rebels killed tens of thousands of Ugandan civilians, displaced millions, and turned the peaceful farms across the region into heaps of ashes. The war against Kony’s LRA ended in Uganda in 2006. It’s still ongoing, albeit on a smaller scale, in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the rebellion most families in Northern Uganda were forced to flee their homesteads and livelihoods for the security of crowded refugee camps. Still largely dependent on handouts from government and relief organizations, they’ve returned to their land with nothing. Economic and psychological recovery has yet to be realized. When you’re[…]Read More
My most recent video assignment is truly a story of success. The Kimaro family has graduated from poverty thanks to the programs of the environmental NGO Plant With Purpose. Several years ago Jacob & Joyce Kimaro were small farmers living in poverty and trying to make ends meet on the foothills of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Things became even more difficult when Mr. Kimaro’s brother and sister-in-law passed away, and they had to take in seven extra children. It was then that the Kimaros joined VICOBA, the Village Community Bank organized by Plant With Purpose. There the family received training in sustainable agriculture practices, organic farming, and earning income while preserving the environment. VICOBA members are also able to save money jointly and access credit each week. Today the Kimaros not only have their bills paid on time, but are eating healthy and balanced diets while preserving their natural surroundings.Read More