"I have a stronger voice in my community, when you have nothing no-one wants to listen you"
'When you have nothing, no-one wants to listen to you'. This is Lucy's story
Story told by Bryony Spooner
When we meet Lucy she is cross as we are two hours late and she is hungry. She wants her TZ (Tuo Zaafi) for lunch, it’s a thick heavy dough cooked from maize that is popular in Northern Ghana. It fills the stomach.
When we apologise and explain we are from Deki and were held up by meeting other Deki entrepreneurs a large smile breaks across her face. ‘Ahh Deki Deki Deki’ she says and starts to laugh and clap.
Lucy Dongdeme lives in the town of Jirapa in Upper West Ghana, I met her in July on a trip to see first-hand the effect of Deki loans. She is 44 years-old and has five children with her husband, who is a farmer. She also cares for her elderly Grandmother.
Lucy used to work on a farm and brew a local beer called Pito. She was working on average 48 hours a week, but still couldn’t make ends meet for her family. She had been trying to expand her business but found if she took a loan from a commercial bank the interest rate could be as high as 42%. Lucy was relying heavily on credit which was resulting in her having to buy goods at a much higher price.
Her husband’s farming work was very sporadic and he was having to travel further and further to find a piece of fertile land he could farm. This location was dictated by the village chief.
Lucy had seen an opportunity to start her own business cooking hot snacks and selling food supplies in the town of Jirapa on the main road, near the market, but to do this she needed stock and needed to buy in bulk.
She heard about Deki from St Joseph’s Co-operative, Deki’s field partner in North West Ghana and quickly applied.
I ask Lucy what life was like before her loan. ‘When I didn’t have a loan I couldn’t take care of the children myself. We only ate one meal a day. I didn’t have any say in how things were run in the family. I couldn’t see any way out of the state of poverty we were in. If you don’t have any capital what do you do? Where do you start?’
Lucy’s first loan from Deki was for £200 and she firstly used some of it to clear her debt and the rest to buy beans, shea nuts and firewood for cooking. The snacks she made were tasty and very popular, she worked hard and she soon re-paid her loan.
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As well as now being able to ensure her children were eating two meals a day and that they went to school, Lucy also found was that she was able to start to make choices for herself. ‘I have a stronger voice in my community, when you have nothing no-one wants to listen you’.
Lucy was keen to sign up for a second Deki loan to expand her business further. This time she applied for a £320 loan which she used to buy goods in even larger quantities, meaning that she could make even larger profit margins. She also could also an even wider variety of foods.
Again Lucy worked hard and she has now already paid back two thirds of the second loan.
‘Now I have had a Deki loan I can decide where the money I make is spent, my children will get a better education and won’t have to suffer like me’.
When I ask Lucy what message she would like to give to the Deki lenders who supported her she chuckles loudly ‘I can honestly say you have helped me greatly and that I would be very grateful to be helped more!’
Lucy loves baking and with her next loan plans to open a bakery in the town. She may just be Ghana’s answer to the next Mary Berry!
for Taking Pictures, Changing Lives C.I.C. www.tpcl.co
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