June 2007: Microfinance Progress in Ethiopia's Epicenters

Jaldu Epicenter meeting_opt.jpg

During my recent trip to Ethiopia in May for The Hunger Project-Africa conference on the epicenter strategy and microfinance, I had the opportunity to visit Jaldu, Debre Libanos, and Mesqan epicenters to meet with partners of the African Woman Food Farmer Initiative (AWFFI) and Strategic Planning in Action (SPIA) Microfinance programs.

In Jaldu, which is the first epicenter in Ethiopia, the repayment of both men’s and women’s groups stands at 100%. There are currently 36 women’s loan groups consisting of 444 members and 8 men’s loan groups of 106 members. The community continues to be highly mobilized and committed to the program and to establishing their own government-recognized rural bank at the epicenter. This was my third trip to Jaldu, and it was the most well-attended microfinance meeting to date. Partners overflowed the benches, were seated on the stage, were standing in the back, and were even looking in from the outside.

Several loan groups at Jaldu will be finishing their second year loans at the end of June and will be entering their third loan cycle. As the program progresses and partners are increasing their savings and proving their credit worthiness, loan sizes are increasing. First cycles loans are 300 birr (~$34), second cycle loans are 600 birr (~$68), and third cycle loans will be higher. In addition to the impressive repayment rate and the increased savings, what also impressed me about the partners was their level of engagement and participation at our meeting. As I posed my questions, I found everyone to be more comfortable expressing themselves and responding.

At Debre Libanos epicenter, I met with AWFFI and SPIA partners in the meeting hall of the newly constructed L-shaped building. Loan disbursement began in Debre Libanos in the third quarter of 2006, and as of now, there are 11 women’s groups of 132 members and 8 men’s groups of 113 members. Photo: AWFFI Project Officer leading a meeting at Mesqan epicenter.

At Mesqan epicenter, where the epicenter building is currently under construction, I met with AWFFI and SPIA partners on a hillside under trees. Loan disbursement to women began in the third quarter of 2006 for women and in the fourth quarter of 2006 for men. As of now, there are 12 women’s groups of 145 members and 8 men’s groups of 106 members participating in the program.

At both Debre Libanos and Mesqan epicenters, I reviewed with the partners the link of the current Direct Credit program to the future rural bank. Loans have yet to fall due at these two epicenters, but the AWFFI team is expecting these epicenters to perform as well as Jaldu epicenter. During the next quarter, more men’s and women’s loan groups will enter the program and receive loans, and once groups enter their second cycle, their loans will also increase in size.