Too Crude? Or, Just Reality.

Common Latrine in Northwest Cameroon

Typical Latrine in Rural Cameroon

Faith Garlington, KF15

GHAPE (Grounded and Holistic Approach for People’s Empowerment)

Bamenda, Cameroon

This photo may not be recognized immediately as a toilet, bathroom, or water closet. Or, it may be considered indecent for publishing on a civilized blog such as the Kiva Fellows Blog. Justifiably, blogs typically highlight the hardworking entrepreneurs who are fighting poverty. But in the interest of connecting Kiva lenders and blog readers to the true lives of many GHAPE borrowers, I have decided to share an image that many lenders and blog readers may have never seen.

GHAPE (pronounced gop) stands for Grounded and Holistic Approach for People’s Empowerment, and at GHAPE, the motto is “Service and Development.” Borrowers, or members as they are often called at GHAPE, take out micro-loans called “Empowerment Credit,” and the limit on the loan size increases as a borrower builds a history of paying pack loans on time. GHAPE members are classified as Type 1, 2, or 3 depending on how long they have been members and their loan repayment history. First-time borrowers are Type 1, and the loan can range from $1 to $200, depending on the member’s business needs.

In order to target the poorest of the poor, GHAPE uses a Basic Needs Test to screen potential members and then, instead of traditional collateral, members begin saving for the first three months and then join a self-selected Group of a total of 5 members. In addition, members must attend a 2-day training before receiving their first loan. Members of a Group must be all the same gender, from the same geographic area, no close family members, and of similar socioeconomic status. If one Group member cannot make a loan payment, the others cover their group member. Each year, the Group elects one member to be Chairperson who represents the Group at Center meetings, and the position rotates each year.

The next level in the GHAPE organization is the Center. A Center includes 8-10 groups, and repayments are collected at Center meetings every other week. The Group Chairpersons elect Center officers. Center leaders then elect Branch Center officers. At the Belo branch, for example, there are 14 Centers. Each Center has 40-50 members (8-10 groups of 5), so in Belo alone, GHAPE is empowering approximately 630 households to fight poverty, increase education, and improve health.

GHAPE leads training and leadership sessions every year for members and leaders. The setting for “easing oneself” will certainly change for a borrower as he or she progresses through GHAPE’s trainings and “Empowerment Credit” that grow both their income and business profits.

Faith Garlington is a Kiva Fellow volunteering with GHAPE (Grounded and Holistic Approach to People’s Empowerment) in Bamenda, Cameroon.  To learn more about GHAPE, visit the Partner page at Kiva or the GHAPE website.  Get involved by lending or joining Team GHAPE!

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