Empowering Women in Nkawie: Listening to their Needs

John (center) with Comfort (left) and a customer (right)

“This motivated me to advertise Self-Help to others making them know how reliable and effective the organization is; ready to help them improve their businesses also.”

While the vast majority of Self-Help’s micro-credit loans are issued to women, there are times when we make exceptions to best serve the needs of the women we serve. In Nkawie, we were issuing micro-loans to women who process palm oil as their primary source of income. By processing at a mechanized facility, they could process four times as much palm oil as by using traditional methods. They used the loans to purchase the palm fruits and pay the processing facility before selling the oil at the local market, and found it to be a very good source of income. Word spread, and the number of customers patronizing the facility increased.

Three years ago, the women came to us with a challenge: there were so many of them patronizing the processing facility that it was getting too crowded. The wait times for machinery were too long and were affecting their profits. They requested that we issue a loan to the owner of the facility, John, so he could purchase more equipment so they could process faster, and extend the roofing so they could continue to work safely even when it rained. No one wanted to be responsible for the machinery operation or maintenance herself, each preferring to instead focus on processing, and they liked that the fee they paid covered that maintenance. They insisted that John charged a fair price for them to use the processing facility and they trusted him and his wife, Comfort to use the loan as intended. So we met with John and Comfort to find out more.

Processing oil using a screw press

John and Comfort have six children: Rabi, Prince, Christina, Akosua, Kwaku, and Beskus. All of his children are enrolled in school. Alongside the oil processing he farms as well, growing rice and quality protein maize. His wife is a trader and she also helps him in the palm oil processing business. We explained how the micro-loan works and expectations for repayment, and John submitted a loan request detailing how he would use the funding. Based on his business plan and demonstrated customer satisfaction, we decided to make exception and issue him a business expansion loan that has become a wonderful partnership for both John and the women we serve.

When John started his business about ten years ago, he had just five customers. Today, he has three employees including himself, and he serves 36 customers with hopes to grow more. Customers pay weekly based on the number of batches of palm oil they’ve processed using the equipment at the facility. He reports his income at about 200 GHC (~$50 USD) every week.

“Three years ago I met Self-Help International and my life turned around. The organization helped me attain most of the working tools. I used to use manpower and it wasn’t good for my health. And, because my equipment was inadequate, it delayed the processing. I started this business with a lot of challenges and did not have enough money to fund it.

The new shed built with the loan

Self-Help International helped me obtain new and more effective equipment through the loan I received from them. I was given a loan to expand my shed for the women to have a place to sit and work. Part of the loan was used to purchase roofing and the rest was given to me to purchase wood and other materials for the shed, which now serves as a place for the women during work hours and rest periods. I was also given another loan to purchase two screw presses for palm oil extraction. My current loan which was 5,000 cedis was used to acquire a multipurpose oil extractor which my processing business more efficient and profitable.

I’m very grateful to Self-Help International and really do appreciate all that they have done for me.”