This week we talked to the women’s groups in Mumosho whose 12-month loans have just completed. They have repaid 100% of the money and they told us about their hard work and the lasting benefits the businesses have bought to their families. Many are now able to pay for their children to go to school and several were proud to have been able to build a new and better house for themselves. Mwavita, one of the women working the brick-making business, said she has been able to build a new house for her family with bricks. She said she never thought she’d see the day.
It’s not quite so positive for Claude and the team running the boulangerie in Luvungi. For a couple of months at the end of last year they were the only bread making business in town. Now there are three competitors copying Claude’s approach and undercutting his prices. Claude says his business will be unsustainable if he responds with the same price-cutting approach. He’s looking at ways to add value.
Such challenges are familiar to many of us and we can draw on experience and usually we have at least a bit of time to put in place a solution. But for the team in Luvungi it’s tough when the food on the table each evening depends on the revenue generated by the bakery that day. They have little capacity to try new ideas and risk losing money. And the economy in Luvungi is too poor to respond to nice ideas that don’t compete. The bakery has to work in a town where everyone is struggling to live with no margin for the niceties of life.
The team have reduced some costs and used the savings to trial new products and we’re pleased that there is now a sense of forward momentum. They are following the lead given by the women’s groups in Mumosho who run the cantine and the brick-making business and who dealt positively and proactively with the challenges and who now have sustainable businesses.
But it’s clearly a struggle for Claude and the team – as it everywhere else in Kivu. For them the work-life balance is not concerned with long hours at work leaving little time to enjoy other aspects of our life. Instead it’s to do with long hours at work to live at all. The loans and support we provide do not change this situation, but as shown by the women in Mumosho, they make it more possible to succeed.