Since the first disbursement on the field in late 2008, we have managed to reach approximately 500 beneficiaries (about 300 in Kakum and 200 in Amanzuri) and to give out a total of 1 275 loans so far. The initial fund that has been collected by Microsfere and is being used as a revolving fund amounts to about 56.000 euros. Microsfere remains the owner of this fund, which is managed on day-to-day basis by our microfinance partners on the field, namely the Kakum Rural Bank in Kakum and the Jomoro Rural Bank in Amanzuri. Those two institutions are responsible for the disbursements and reimbursements, on the basis of specific criteria that have been agreed to between Microsfere and them. Microsfere oversees the whole process and has the final saying in the way the fund is managed.
Through our microfinance project we have targeted beneficiaries in sea fishing, fish preparation and smoking, coconut farming, petty trade and cocoa farming. 56% of our beneficiaries are women.
Most of the beneficiaries, when asked about the advantages they have seen so far through their participation in the Microsfere project indicate that they have managed to increase the benefits of their microenterprises, and as a result they have managed to increase their savings, their investments in their business as well as to have some surplus money to cover school fees for their children, improve their daily food intake and also occasionally improve the housing conditions.
Social microfinance is a powerful tool for poverty reduction. You can read more about it here.
Business and Technical training
Following a Training Needs Assessment, Microsfere implemented in 2010 and January 2011 an intensive training programme targeting its 500 beneficiaries. The aim of this training, implemented with the support of CRAN (a microfinance NGO striving to reduce poverty and its effects among disadvantaged groups and communities in rural Ghana), was to increase the capacity-building of our participants in two areas: business and technical skills.
The business training was addressed to all beneficiaries in both project sites, though only 302 finally participated. It consisted of the following 10 modules: 1) Entrepreneurship & business plan development; 2) Effective communication; 3) Effective time & resources management; 4) Savings & increasing business profit; 5) Proper record keeping; 6) Good customer care & marketing skills; 7) Business diversification & investment opportunities; 8) Cost-benefit analysis; 9) Difference between revenue & profit; and 10) Prudent/effective credit management.
The technical training was addressed to 258 participants who had indicated during the TNA an interest in applying improved techniques or starting new micro-enterprises. The technical topics taught were: 1) Small ruminants rearing; 2) Pig rearing; 3) Improved cocoa farming techniques, 4) “Chorkor” smoker for fish; 5) Agroforestry; 6) Bee-keeping; 7) Grasscutter rearing; and 8) Soap making. Six of the eight technical topics taught (cocoa farming techniques, “chorkor” smoker, agroforestry, bee-keeping, grasscutter rearing and soap making) are “biodiversity-compatible activities” as they either relieve pressure on natural resources or they introduce alternative livelihoods that have no impact on protected resources.
Since then, and due to the high interest, we have repeated training in soap making, grass-cutter rearing and bee-keeping.
Promotion of pilot micro-enterprises
In order to promote high added-value microenterprises that diversify beneficiary's income-generating activities, Microsfere supports the promotion of new types of microenterprises. Given the inherent risk in new types of activities and people’s reticence in engaging in them, we have developed new activities on pilot level in order to showcase their technical and financial feasibility. We have thus promoted the following types of pilot microenterprises: beekeeping (2 units), grasscutter rearing (2 units), soap making (about 10-20 units), sylviculture (1 unit), chorkor smoker for fish (about 15 units) and handicrafts (2 units). The beneficiaries who have started up those pilot units have been assisted by Microsfere with technical training in order to increase their technical skills; they have also received financial support either in the form of microcredit, or as contribution in kind in the start up costs.
A new initiative started in late 2015 with the financial support of the french Agence de Microprojets , the objective of which was to introduce gas stoves to the rural families living in the Kakum National Park. The majority of the rural families use the highly inefficient "three stone" cooking system, in which a pot is simply placed on three stones, and the burning wood is placed underneath. This system burns a lot of wood, leading to deforestation, produces toxic fumes, thus endangering the health of women and their children and increasing CO2 emissions. The introduction of gas cookstoves is a very efficient way to combat all those problems at once. Our beneficiaries have attested that the quality of their lives has significantly improved since using the gas cookstoves: they no longer have some health issues such as sore eyes or difficulty in breathing, and they spend much less time preparing the fire and the food which allows them to have more time for other tasks. Dependence on fuelwood has also decreased significantly; in fact, a great number of beneficiaries no longer depend on fuelwood.
In the first phase of this project, a total of 70 households received gas stoves as well as training on their advantages, use and maintenance. We now have an additional list of 150 people interested in aquiring such equipment. Click here for photos of our project.
Opening of children's libraries
In 2013 we opened two children's libraries in collaboration with the communities of Brahabebome in Kakum National Park and Ekabaku in the Amanzuri wetland. A third library was opened in 2014, in the community of Abeka Nwantaa in Kakum National Park. The communities provided the space and cabinets, while Microsfere provided the books. In Abeka Nkwantaa, Microsfere also made a contribution for the construction of the buildling. A good number of books are related to the natural environment. Microsfere is also providing support and training to the librarians who were chosen in collaboration with the communities. The libraries are having a great success and are being visited also by children of neighboring communities.
In one of our two project sites (Amanzur) Microsfere has been implementing a community awareness programme in two thematic areas: environment and health. As far as the environment is concerned, the Microsfere staff is having informal and interactive presentations addressed to the project participants, on issues of direct relevance to their environment and their well-being, such as waste management, protection of water resources, illegal logging, etc. From time to time we also launch quiz competitions in local schools, around the subject of environmental protection. Concerning the health education, Microsfere is partnering with the local Health Clinic, who sends a trained staff once per month to present issues related to health issues directly affecting our project participants, such as familly planning, hygiene, protection against malaria, nutrition, cancer, local illnesses, etc.
And some information on some milestone events from our archives:
Projects officially launched in both project sites (October and November 2008)
The community and biodiversity support project was officially launched in both project sites. A launching event was held in Kakum, in the Antikwaa community, on the 31st of October 2008, while in Amansuri it was held in Kengen community on the 29th of November 2008. Community members, project partners, local and regional administration representatives, traditional chiefs and other stakeholders were present to celebrate this important beginning.
Opening of Microsfere office in Ghana (July 2008)
As of July 2008, we have a fully operational office in Ghana, where our Project Field Coordinator is stationed. The office space has been kindly offered by one of our national partners, the Wildlife Division and was fully refurbished by Microsfere. The office is located in the Wildlife Division administrative headquartes in the Kakum National Park.