Small Business Successes
In early 2012, Discovering Light began a small business development effort in Kalo village, loaning 9 young men funds to purchase a post-harvest thresher. 3 business teams (3 men per machine) were arranged with guidance from the local kebele, or village leadership council. The thresher was equipped with a donkey cart allowing owners to move house to house threshing grain stored following the harvest. This service typically increases grain yields by around 50%, eliminating the need for threshing with cows or horses.
After some growing pains during the first year or so, the program has been strengthened by support from leadership in the Full Gospel Believers Church regional office in Shashamene. Our project manager, Haile, works out of this office under the leadership of longtime partner and friend Lako Bedasso and the General Secretary Azariah Shumi. In the last six months, loan repayment has become consistent for 2 out of the 3 thresher businesses. Haile has organized the businesses, helping each to track their earnings and daily activity. This will allow us to adapt the program and expand it with better knowledge of the conditions such businesses face.
Most encouraging is the progress made by one of the thresher owners Habib. During a recent visit to Ethiopia, we spent some time on the job with him, learning how he’s built his thresher business into a successful enterprise. He first took us to his home, where six or seven family members live, including his wife and two children. He took us past his cattle stall into his mud-brick house, taking us to the back room to show us the large air compressor purchased with earnings from his thresher business. Noticing the need for tire repair in his town, he plans to use this machine in between harvest seasons.
When we arrived at his thresher, Habib’s brother was manning the machine, with about five others passing grain through or doing some preliminary sifting on the other end. This remarkable scene demonstrated the power of marrying new technology with entrepreneurial ambition. Habib was providing a life-giving service, employing his brother and others. Knowing he was also paying his loan according to schedule gave us confidence as we considered expanding the small business program during our visit. When we have the opportunity to ask our Ethiopian friends what their ‘dream’ or hope for the future is, they often have minimalist answers along the lines of having a healthy family. Rarely do we hear things like Habib shared: “I want to be an investor in many businesses.” Not an owner – an investor!
With the Full Gospel leadership team in place, giving strong accountability and support to the thresher owners and the few other small businesses we’ve sponsored, we’re excited to grow the effort this year. During our visit we met with a group of men and one woman interested in the program. We’re presently working with our partners to evaluate their business plans. Finally, the Full Gospel team shared their enthusiasm with expanding the program describing the opportunity this gave them to minister in Christ’s name to families and villages in their region.