Today I got to sit in on the Community Development Committee’s weekly meeting. I wish you could have been there, then you could understand why I have a collective crush on the CDC. Watching them interact and work together makes me so happy.
They’re organized, proactively solving problems, helping each other brainstorm, cheerfully picking on each other. They laugh a lot. There’s just really great energy in the room. Those who have been on the CDC longer are especially hilarious. The chairman and the managers of the agriculture, healthcare, and water/sanitation programs have been busy lately beginning our scaling efforts. They are meeting with the assistant chiefs and officials of neighboring sub-locations. Next week they will work with the village elders to identify the areas of greatest need. It’s hard to believe that we will already be expanding. But my program, CED, will not scale until the season after the initial programs begin and so we have a little more time.
I think we’ll need it! The CED Program is developing quickly, but there’s a lot to be done. Much of the last month I spent just documenting and working out procedures. What kind of accounting system should we set up? What kind of village bank financial and information management programs are out there? What should my loan contracts look like? What do you MEAN we haven’t been recording member withdrawals?
We’ve made a lot of progress in a short time: from six months’ worth of scattered receipt books and a battle-scarred journal of transactions to reconciled, cross-referenced Excel in a few weeks. Luckily, data entry isn’t a bad word in Kuria like it is in the U.S. Erick, our accounts clerk, sees it as an opportunity to improve his computer skills. I am very happy to hear this. The field managers and I are busy battling a migration of members from Savings Clubs to the Farmer Savings Program.
We are cannibalizing our own programs! Farmer Savings was originally designed for members unable to save on a weekly basis. But now, they are more attractive because members can have an individual account without the pressure to save weekly or the hassle of coordinating with groups. What are being overlooked are the different mechanisms each program uses to link to the credit program. Savings Clubs are geared toward entrepreneurs; loan qualification happens as quickly as three months and loan amounts are based on total savings and guaranteed by the group to facilitate responsible credit management. Farmer Savings focuses on the agriculture program, targeting farmers currently receiving Nuru’s agricultural loan. By successfully repaying this loan and saving enough money to buy agricultural inputs without loan assistance within three seasons, members can access a range of credit options with repayment timeframes appropriate for agriculture-based income. It’s actually a good thing we are being forced to re-evaluate and clarify the different incentives and benefits of each program now. These are definitely issues we want sorted out before our turn to scale comes next year.
In the meantime, the CDC meeting has ended and Philip, Andrew, James, Nelly, and Lucas are pairing up on motorcycles to head to another scaling meeting. For the hundredth time this week, I feel lucky to be working with them and I know we will find other amazing people like them as we expand.