One of Mballa’s outlying communities, Ngourkosso is about as far away from anywhere as it gets... But the long and bumpy dust road that leads to the small village did not deter World Vision to come in, as the only international NGO, to assist the community in its struggle for survival in this harsh, barren environment. A variety of targeted programs and measured in the areas of health, WaSH, education, literacy boost, food security, and resilience have been introduced since 2017, and great strides have been made toward World Vision’s objective of "breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty by 2030 to enable the most vulnerable children to reach their full potential".
Strengthening resilience and providing tools and techniques leading to long-term self-reliance is a vital element in this strategy. The goal is to create “improved and resilient livelihoods of smallholder farmers in drought prone areas through addressing the business systems of farming and market access, the management of productive natural resources and the mitigation of risk through savings, insurance, productive social safety nets and local level farmers information systems”.
Savings Groups Key to Financial Stability and Social Change
In this endeavour, savings groups are a key tactic. By facilitating savings and access to micro-credit, savings groups enable community members to plan ahead, to cope with household emergencies and to develop their livelihoods. This, in return, engenders other results that go much deeper into the fabric of society and ensure that longterm change comes from within.
In March 2018 we visited a group of women in Ngourkosso who had joined the local Savings Group program inaugurated in August 2017. The warm welcome already told us just how much impact has already happened in a few short months.
The women we meet are between 17 and well over 70 years old. The first one to speak up is Mama Damaris. She tells us that villagers had always believed they could better their lot if working collectively but they lacked the knowhow. When World Vision came in to teach them about savings groups, they immediately understood the tremendous potential. They would also be able to set up a fund for the poorest community members, like orphans and widows, and have the means to send girls to school. In fact, the interest to participate was so strong, that the women split up in two groups for increased efficiency.
It all began humbly. World Vision taught them skills based on the availability of local supplies, which they had purchased with a low-interest micro loan. That could mean soap making, or raising poultry – in either case, a product that could be sold in the local market for a profit. That profit would partly be saved, and parted be reinvested in buying more of the base product. In some cases, the turnaround happened on the same day the micro loan had been taken up. The women quickly caught on, became expert merchants, and have since built up tidy savings.
“So tell us, what has changed since?”
“A lot – actually everything,” says Madame Madeleine, a senior member of the group. “We have been able to provide better for our families. Our children no longer go to bed hungry at night. That means they get sick less often, and that in itself has improved our lives a lot.”” and everyone nods in agreement. 14 year old Prudence chimes in: “Since my mother has been doing this, we have more money to buy more and better food. My brothers and sisters now feel better and we participate more in village life and school.” Others add that when someone in the family does get sick, they can now afford to take them to the health center.
Berthe, a widow who previously had no income and was living on the margins of this already poor community, has also participated and now has the money for something that is very important to her: “I can now send my children to school. And when they are off, they come with me and that way are occupied and out of harm’s way.”
Lives have Changed. And so has Mentality.
But there is another significant outcome which is very important for the women, and Madeleine explains it: “Not only our daily lives have changed, but also the mentality overall. Now that we contribute to the family’s finances and can ensure our children’s well-being, the men around here have started to take us more seriously. They now listen to us and we can educate them on matters that are important to us.” The local prefect who is in attendance confirms this statement with a vigorous nod. After the meeting is over, one of the women followed up with me privately sharing that the rate of domestic violence against women and children has also dropped since women hold more financial power.
Asked if they notice an interest among their daughters to participate in these savings groups, several women respond, saying that “this is information we are already passing down to the younger ones. And as soon as our daughters are old enough to participate, they are in. They see for themselves what a tremendously positive impact, short term and long term, this has on our families and our village.” In fact, these young women also benefit from the changing mentality, as they and their mothers now stand up against early marriages, in favour of girls’ education and vocational training.
They are thankful for all the many things that World Vision has brought to Ngourkosso, they all confirm, but to them this kind of knowledge is the most important one, because it allows them to live in dignity and teaches them to find their own way out of poverty. And regardless of their age, they love learning. Many ask for more opportunities to be trained as tailors, gardeners, nurses, or in other vocational occupations so that they can work and provide for themselves instead of being dependent on organizations like World Vision.
“Any knowledge that I am taught is like fresh water that makes me blossom.”
-- Madeleine, village senior
For more details of World Vision’s work in Ngourkosso, visit our donor page https://www.worldvision.ca/our-work/chad/208832
Photos and impact story by Natja Igney, Communications Consultant at World Vision Chad