By Courtney Kemps, KF8 Peru

1 kg of peeled cocona fruits

2 liters of water

450 grams of sugar

10 grams of stabilizer

2 cups of milk

These are the ingredients for making popsicles from cocona, a bright orange-yellow fruit grown in Peru’s jungle region.   This recipe was one of four distributed to all who attended a recent workshop on how to make ice cream and other frozen treats sponsored by Manuela Ramos’s Pucallpa office.

In my two months working as a Kiva Fellow with Manuela Ramos in Pucallpa I have had the good fortune to attend two educational workshops designed for the organization’s borrowers.  Manuela Ramos takes the educational component of their microfinance program very seriously.  Sonia Mamani Gamarra is the full-time education coordinator for the Pucallpa office and is responsible for organizing these monthly workshops as well as the educational sessions given by loan officers at each communal bank’s monthly meeting.

Workshops are planned far in advance of their execution and are taught by specialists in the particular topic being presented.  This year’s workshops were designed following a survey of about 60-70% of Manuela’s borrowers, who were asked what they were most interested in learning, the best time and location for workshops, and how long the sessions should last.   Some workshops are designed to add value to business ventures that are already common among Manuela Ramos’s borrowers (i.e. home-based restaurants or the sale of beauty products).  Others introduce new ideas based on what is likely to sell well in Pucallpa (i.e. ornamental plants or ice cream).  Prior workshops have instructed borrowers in cooking (particularly regional dishes), making decorations with recycled materials, doing manicures and pedicures, preparing desserts, and giving makeovers.

In June I joined about 30 borrowers at a plant nursery outside the city where an agronomist taught us how to raise tropical ornamental plants for the house or yard.  Participants received detailed instructions about how to grow the plants, make cuttings, treat plant diseases, and produce compost.  The classroom portion was followed by an instructive tour of the facility.

Workshop on Growing Ornamental Plants

Workshop on Growing Ornamental Plants

At July’s workshop devoted to frozen concoctions, a professor of food production from a local educational institute showed participants how to make a variety of different ice creams, popsicles and flavored ices from local fruits and other ingredients.  Pucallpa’s hot climate makes this city an ideal place to sell frozen desserts.  Ten interested borrowers, impressed by the professor’s teaching skills, took the initiative to contract the professor independently to spend an extra few hours studying how to make chocolate cake.

Ice Cream Making Workshop

Ice Cream Making Workshop

Next month’s workshop will be dedicated to sewing/tailoring, another common activity among Manuela Ramos borrowers.  In my opinion, these workshops are an excellent deal for borrowers, who pay a nominal fee of 5 soles (about $1.65) for five or six hours of instruction—another example of an MFI adding value to borrowers.

The workshops described above serve as a great example of the ability of microfinancial institutions like Manuela Ramos to offer their clients much more than just loans.  To learn more about Manuela Ramos’s microfinance program, click here.  To view a list of Manuela Ramos’s current fundraising loans on Kiva’s website, click here.

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