The micro enterprises we financed at the beginning of this year included a village cantine (shop) in Mumosho that stocks sacks of rice, sugar and flour together with items that are otherwise available only if people walk 25 kilometres to Bukavu.
At the time we were also helping to start the brick factory down by the river, the internet café in Bukavu and the coffee exports from Idjwi. The shop felt a little mundane in comparison - and it started slowly. The group of ten women running the business did not rush to buy stock. Instead they bought the staples and invited local people to say what else they needed, then built up the stock in response to people’s requests.
Nowadays the cantine is full and thriving. It still has sacks of rice and flour that are divided up so that people can buy in small quantities, plus it has a wide range of things needed in daily life – soap and shampoo, loo roll, toothpaste, torchlights and even chalk for the kids to use at school.
The women say they will continue to build the cantine business in response to real needs expressed within the community. They feel a strong send of ownership and purpose and they are demonstrating a capacity to make real and sustainable progress.
For us, the cantine business in Mumosho (along with the brick kiln and other micro enterprise businesses we support in the community) is a proof point that our combination of finance and advice is working. We have recently started up similar schemes in Bweremana and Minova and on idjwi and are confident they too will prove a success.