Learning how to run a business

Ethiopia, January 25, 2011

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  • img_6337.jpg
    Felekech Indriss talks about her experience with the PROSPER Savings and Credit Co-op program in the Konso region of Ethiopia. Photo: Joni Kabana for Mercy Corps Photo: img_6337.jpg
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    Felekech Indriss explains how she teaches other women in her village about nutrition and safe food storage in the Konso district of Ethiopia. Photo: Joni Kabana for Mercy Corps Photo: img_6416.jpg

Thirty-year-old Felekech Indriss lives far out in the countryside in a village called Fuchucha, within the Konso region of Ethiopia, too far from any school where she can be educated.

When she heard that Mercy Corps was going to start a business education center near her village, she quickly signed up.

Through the PROSPER Savings and Credit Co-op (SACCO) program, Felekech learned how to run a small business. Her education consisted of five to six days of training, then an extra four days of leadership training. Through hard work and determination, her skills grew, and today she is the treasurer of the savings and loan co-op.

For years, Felekech and her village friends used to spend any money they got right away, but now they have learned how to save it for future use. Many women from her village save money so that they can buy salts, grains, small livestock, small sheep and goats, fruit and other goods from far away in Konso, so they can sell them for a small profit in villages and at other markets.

As their business grows and after some training, women have the option to join the savings and credit co-op. They can present business plans to a review group in their region and if their proposal passes that review, they can then apply for a loan. A local Mercy Corps team, comprised of Ethiopian loan officers, reviews the plan and determines whether the loan is approved. Loans range from $60-180. One side benefit from this training is a welcomed surprise: the women say they are much more patient with solving problems with respect to their business....and at home.

In addition to her other duties, Felekech is also a Mercy Corps Volunteer Community Health Worker. She teaches the women of Fuchucha village about health education: sanitation, vaccination benefits, and overall maternal health. The village women learn how to better organize their homes, balance their meals with various nutrients, and how to store their food to prevent contamination.

Since Felekech is spending more time with her small business and other responsibilities, Mercy Corps donated a fuel efficient stove to the Fuchucha village. These stoves have a 50% fuel efficiency improvement over burning wood. They also need less fuel, which means less time a woman needs to spend gathering wood.

Felekech, we are honored to meet you. You are a great influence to many.