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MICRO-CREDIT FOOD COOPERATIVES
TURTLEWILL COMMUNITY COOPERATIVE PROGRAMS
TurtleWill's Community Cooperative Programs are designed to teach nomadic men and women new skills and generate income. For the women who participate, this is often their first experience in contributing economically to the family welfare. The results are a newfound self-empowerment, increased familial respect and an ability to shape their communities.
Micro-Credit Food Cooperatives
Food Cooperatives have three objectives:
This year Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for his far-sighted work with micro-credit loans. TurtleWill has invested in micro-credit since 2005. We currently have 62 food cooperatives in Niger.
The TurtleWill Food Cooperatives Program started in 2005 as a way to make food readily available in remote areas for the nomadic populations. Prior to the presence of our Food Co-ops, the nomads had to travel great distances to a major town in order to obtain food for their families, often at considerable expense and risk of exploitation. The Food Co-ops became increasingly important during the droughts of 2005 and 2006 when the nomadic herders were gathered at wells waiting hours to take their turns to water their animals. If food were not available nearby, feeding their families would have become almost impossible due to the great distances required.
The request for a Food Cooperative is initially made to TurtleWill by the representatives of an existing local women’s group or association. These women's groups have been formed generally as a local support system to create tiny emergency cash reserves which anyone of the members can use if the situation warrants. Groups can vary in size greatly from as few as eight members to more than 30 members.
The Food Co-ops are run on a micro-credit basis, with monthly reimbursements to TurtleWill over a 12 month period. At the end of the 12 months the Cooperative becomes self-sustaining.
TurtleWill’s initial dollar amount of the loan to each Women’s Group is the same, no matter how many members will be part of the new Food Cooperative. The sales markup is generally 25-30%.
In 2006 we allocated approximately 10% of donations to our micro-credit Food Cooperatives, where contributions work the hardest! We were able to recycle monthly micro-credit repayments into funding an additional five cooperatives, a training program for our Cooperative managers, more dormitory construction, another well, a scholarship program for 12 students and the purchase of a jackhammer and generator for well digging. These repayments will continue into 2007 creating even more funding opportunities!
In April, 2006 we conducted a workshop for the Co-op Managers teaching them the basic skills of coop management. We currently have 62 food cooperatives operating in Niger.
many ways this program serves the nomads!
“With the Food Co-op Program we have learned to manage and run a cooperative. Our husbands see us as contributors, not just part of the household. Life in general in the villages has improved. This is new”. Rhaissa Abardek Tamazalak, Niger
“Really, it's almost impossible to explain the effects of the Cooperatives, they are so great. Now the men are becoming more reliant on us as they see how productive we have become. We have gained so much importance.” We are not from here. We have come on behalf of the women of our village Timouloulout to request that we be part of the TurtleWill Food Cooperatives Program.” Fati Koumalin, Timouloulout, Niger
“The food and sewing cooperatives for women are very important, especially for those women who have no husbands, or whose husbands are sick. Now it's the women who go into town and buy goods.” Azara Ahmed, Mizene Niger
All the women interviewed also stated that the most important objective of the Food Co-ops is to place food within easy reach. This alleviates the need to travel all the way to Agadez or Arlit, which for many can represent a round trip journey of over 75 miles. This can be a great hardship for herders who must keep constant vigilance over their animals. Particularly in times of drought this important proximity of food provides an immeasurable psychological reassurance and sense of economic security. Each family knows that in emergencies food can be taken on credit. Simply put, the Food Co-op acts as the small “corner store” where everyone knows and trusts each other. Credit is readily given because only trustworthy individuals are invited to join a cooperative. Generally the Food Cooperative serves a nucleus of 25-30 local families. Another acknowledged advantage of the Co-ops is that although the women do not yet draw cash benefits from the Co-ops, each member purchases directly from the Co-op at just above the wholesale cost at which the goods were initially purchased. Most women stated that they prefer to reinvest their profits to grow the business sufficiently. In the future they will consider sharing some of the profits.
reimbursements to TurtleWill are reinvested in additional Food Cooperatives
or other projects.
With the money from their first sales the women can buy more fabric and the project becomes self-sustaining. The sewing machines remain the property of each of the Cooperatives and remain on site for ongoing use by the local women.
To date TurtleWill has created 19 Sewing Cooperatives in Niger and one in Mali, training over 225 women and girls. Proof of success of this program is indicated by the several requests from Sewing Co-ops for a higher level training, which we are currently offering.
We now run sewing cooperatives for men as well, including higher level training.
Handicrafts cooperatives are for both men and women!
TurtleWill currently has 18 Handicrafts Cooperatives operating in Niger and Mali.
Budget: $1100 per cooperative
Mini business Program:
Toll-Free: (888) 299-1439 Phone: (480) 488-3688 Fax: (480) 488-3406
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