Last week I spent four days doing follow-up visits in the field with recipients of RTC's micro-loan program. It was really great to finally get out of the compound and meet some of the benificiaries of RTC's programs.
We went north, to Kom division, which is stunningly beautiful–green mountains, dense vegetation and numerous waterfalls careening off cliffs. We spent two night in Belo town, which is a bit bigger than Bambui 4-corners, but tiny compared to Bamenda. Belo is very impressive in its level of organization and municipal services. The coolest thing? They have streetlights! Which of course also means that they have a very lively nightlife. The market stalls are neat, clean, numbered and even the outdoor stall has a roof which is a great help when it rains. And the parking areas are marked so that taxis going different directions each have their own area, making it easy to find one going where you need to go. This may seem simple and obvious, but neither Bambui nor even Bamenda is so nicely organized. And there are signs up that tell you this is due to the work of the town Council. Apparently the mayor is a businessman (can't remember what business he's in, though someone told me) and pretty young (in his 40s).
The meetings with the loan recipients went very well. Most loans were past due, some way past due, but everyone understood their situation when we explained it. And almost everyone paid money either for interest or on their principle owed. Those that didn't pay gave promises for when they would come to RTC to make a payment. Beyond that, however, it was very good to get out there and meet them and see the work they are doing. The loans have been universally appreciated, with every person or group telling us enthusiastically of the benefits they have gotten. The loans have been used for everything from buying basic farm inputs (seeds, fertilizer, etc.) to buying produce at harvest time when it is cheap (coffee) to store until later when the price will double or triple to purchasing a grain mill to start a small business in the local quarter. For those whose loans were most long outstanding, it was clear to me that with more frequent follow-up we could have provided assistance to them as they struggled. Mr. Fru (the Principal of RTC) is reorganizing personnel, so hopefully we will be able to do much more frequent follow-up visits in the coming year.
This is the Dzingwa women's farming group, one of the groups that have paid off their first loan. They have now submitted a new loan application because they want to buy a diesel-powered corn mill to serve the local community:
A beautiful photo from Tossam Jerome's house, deep in the valley below Kikfuini, outside of Belo:
Mercy, me and Richard with the head of the "Friends of the Bee" group in Fundong with the corn mill they bought with their loan:
Next week we go east to Ndop and then south to Bali to visit more loan recipients.