SENEGAL

SENEGAL - A parish committed to microcredit for women

Dakar (Agenzia Fides) - A microcredit initiative for women is making a community autonomous. Thanks to small loans, the parish of Palmarin is becoming a model of cooperation for Senegal. It all started 15 years ago with a project launched by Iscos, an NGO promoted by the Italian CISL trade union. The leaders come into contact with the parish of Palmarin, composed of five villages. The local community lives off fishing, therefore support is given to fishermen and their wives. Therefore, pirogues are donated with engines, nets, various materials. Fish drying centers are set up. Women are helped to improve salt collection.

"Over time - explains Dario Roncon, we have created an emporium to store and sell fish and agricultural products. We have created two mills to grind corn and mill the millet. We have also built a kindergarten which is currently attended by 150 Catholic and Muslim children, and a center that is used for trade and for parties".

The community is located in a beautiful nature reserve at the confluence of the Sin and Saloum rivers. Thus, ecoguide courses have been organized. "These people - continues Roncon - help us to control the situation of the reserve and to accompany the few tourists in the area. They therefore enjoy a small form of income that helps them to live. A small step, but our goal is to make the whole project autonomous".

Together with the parish priest, who in the meantime became the on-site manager of the project, the Iscos operators have begun to explore the possibility of creating a microcredit system.

Microfinance is spreading also in Africa. On a continent where less than 20% of households have access to formal services, small loans are fueling the local economy. According to data from the microfinance institutions of the Mix Market, the African continent has one of the fastest growing bases. The African microfinance institutions recorded an exponential growth of 1.312% between 2002 and 2014. In the same period the total amount of loans went from 0.6 billion to 8.5 billion euro and involved 8 million people.

The parish of Palmarin and Iscos create female cooperatives and entrust them three thousand euros. "These cooperatives provide credit only to associated women - continues Roncon -. They are loans of a few tens of euros, but allow women to start small businesses or craft. The things that need to be emphasized is that 99% of these loans is given back and part of what is returned is set aside. "The project is launched towards autonomy" concludes Roncon, a step forward for local women and for the whole community ".

Source :  fides.org

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