Smiles in Ghana as Deki visits entrepreneurs
We asked our founder, Vashti Seth, to take us through her memories of her recent trip to Ghana - who she spoke to, how she can be so certain that Deki loans are transforming lives, and how all Deki lenders are supporting communities in need.
I've just arrived back from the most amazing but exhausting trip to Upper East and Upper West Ghana, with my dedicated colleagues Bryony Spooner, Marketing and Communcations Director and Adam Dickens, Photographer and videographer. Together we travelled over 8,000 miles in 8 days as far north as the border of Burkina Faso and as far west as the border of Togo to some of the remotest of villages. Here we met 100s of Deki entreprenuers, collected and documented dozens of stories and Adam took over 9,000 photos all to better tell you how our loans are impacting Deki lives.
The memory that stands out the most for me is the vision of all the gorgeous children we met and how happy and grateful they are. Life is tough in rural northern Ghana, but life is also very simple and community means everything to the people there. Extended families live in compounds together and eat and care for the children as a team.
During the first few interviews we listened to what life was like for people living in farming villages. Families work on the farm together. They have a short window around June to plant their maize crops before the rainy season really sets in. They need to prepare the land by hand, which is backbreaking work leaning over to dig trenches for the seeds to be planted with a wooden hoe.
Historically the land used to be very fertile, but after decades of deforestation, caused by the desperate need to use the wood as fuel or make it into charcoal to sell, the land has now become very infertile. Lucky families could expect to harvest one bag of maize. They would sell a bit to buy supplies and eke the rest out over the year often only having one meal a day. The meal consisted of a maize porridge called TZ designed to fill hungry stomachs as opposed to providing a nutritious meal.
We spoke to many families who had been used to eating just one meal a day. Some had breakfast and then went hungry for the rest of the day and others saved it for the evening meal which meant going to work or school (if they were lucky enough to pay the school fees) on an empty tummy.
As we discovered during the welcome dancing and singing that we received when we arrived at the villages that things have now changed. Families are no longer going hungry, they eat two or sometimes even three meals per day. Children are at school and every member of the family can afford a health care card (£4 a year), so they are no longer turned away from the hospital because they can't afford treatment.
They sang as they danced 'Deki you have bought our community together, Deki you have sent our children to school, Deki we now have peace in our houses as our tummies are now full'.
It was overwhelming to see their gratitude and to hear how we had changed the lives of whole communities.
Deki's loans in Ghana are used to mostly fund agricultural businesses. First our entrepreneurs are trained in sustainable farming techniques by our partners IDE and they then use the loans to pay for fertiliser, seeds and other farming needs such as labour, so they can plough more land and extend their crops.
Before the maize looked weak and yellow, now with training on the right methods and the use of micro fertilisation techniques the crops are tall, dark green and flourishing. They now produce around 5 sacks of maize. They keep 2 and sell 3. This brings in the income they need to pay for the basic needs of their families.
They are grateful beyond imagination for the opportunity we have created for them. They work hard and repayment rates are near 100%. I will always remember Ghana as the place of many smiles. However much they struggle to feed their families, wherever you go, you always welcomed with a huge smile.
They continued to sing with gratitude asking us to continue supporting them and wishing for Deki to grow to support their neighbouring communities too.
It's Deki's vision to change 100,000 lives in the year 2020 and now with even more passion and enthusiasm we aim to grow our partnerships in Ghana and make the dreams of new friends come true.