Johanna brought Vivian home with her this morning. This plump, vivacious woman is the secretary to the director of the Mindola Ecumenical Foundation, a large institution. She also operates a small farm of about 25 acres some distance from town, and a two-hour walk from the main road in the rainy season. She is out there most weekends and employs several people to work there during the week.
Vivian grows corn, soybeans, pumpkins and other vegetables. I don’t doubt she is a hard-working woman. We pass by her house every morning on our walk. Large banana plants hedging in a bountiful garden of vegetables and corn make her place stand out from all around it.
When Vivian heard that we are working with small farmers, she asked if we would be willing to help her buy a bag of fertilizer to top dress her last planting of corn. Her first planting is already making cobs.
We were happy to give her a loan for the $50 Cdn the bag would cost. We know that MEF is in financial difficulty and all the workers have taken a 50 percent wage cut while continuing to work full time. Vivian plans to repay the loan in mid April. We will draw up a contract and bring her the bag by Friday.
This isn’t our first small farmer loan. We gave Zhita, who heads the banana plantation at Heart of Africa Mission, two bags of fertilizer as a loan last week. Zhita is another one whose house stands out. Every bit of space is used to grow neat rows of corn and vegetables. Some miles from his house, also far from a good road, he has a three acre field of corn. He had money to put some fertilizer with the seed, but was lacking the top dressing. He’ll take the 50 kilogram bags of fertilizer out there on his bike.
Zhita has eight children to feed and put through school. He also took a pay cut recently.
We never planned to become a small farmer lending office, but these are hard working farmers who have proven their worth. We are happy to give them a boost.
why are people like Vivian and Zhita different than those you have come to help? Do they just think different, (ie are by nature more entrepreneurial and hardworking) and as a result act differently, or have they made certain choices knowingly, and learned to think and act differently? Is the process for change from living as they always have, to becoming more responsible for their livlihod any different than the change any person has to go through to go from old destructive lifestyles to a better one?
Vivian is an educated woman, who has been exposed to many different ideas. Exposure seems to make a big difference. Zhita is a hard worker – it seems it is very important who raises these people. Often it is a grandmother who has a major influence.
And like in our own culture, there are people who get ahead, and others who don’t. Character? Upbringing?