Laumène François 5

Laumène has been a CLM member for about ten months now, and she is happy with the turn her life has taken, “M fè sa m vle. Menmsi m pa anfòm nèt, m pa jan m te ye.” That means, “I do what I want. Even if I’m not doing great in every way, I’m not the way I was.”

Her livestock is multiplying. She purchased a goat to go with the two she already had, and added turkeys and ducks as well.

Her home repair was completed some time ago, and she’s pleased with it. Her home is now shaped like a U, with two large rooms along the base and smaller ones, each with a separate entrance, forming the two legs. She feels as though the larger two rooms along the back wall give her the space she needs. She’s lent one of the smaller from rooms to her brother. He’s working on his own home, and she likes being able to offer him space in hers. Especially since the front room is entirely separate from her living space. He isn’t in her way.

She uses the other room to store her small commerce in. She keeps the only key herself. She sells a funny mix of products: bread, rum, laundry detergent, and cooking oil. But it follows its own logic. The rum, for example, she lugs to anywhere there is a gathering of men. It sells well at cockfights, Vodoun ceremonies, and wakes. Bread sells out of home, and moves quickly. She can sell a load in a couple of days, even more quickly if she’s willing to walk around with it. Laundry detergent and oil are staples that sell reliably, if less quickly than the bread.

She started the commerce with money she says she borrowed from her case manager, Martinière. But that’s not quite what happened.

Normally we open savings accounts for all CLM members. But we find that we are working in areas where the costs to our members of any transaction they’d have to make render the accounts impractical. Just getting to the bank could cost more that a withdrawal she’s like to make. So, we have been experimenting with several alternatives, and Laumène is involved in two of them. She’s part of a village savings and loan association, and she has savings in a group account managed by her case manager.

Her savings and loan association meets every week, and its members buy shares at every meeting. The shares are used as loan capital. Group members can take out loans, which they repay with interest. Once a year, the association empties the pot and each member collects a pay-out based on how many shares she’s purchased. Martinière noticed that Laumène wasn’t buying shares, so they talked about her weak cash flow. They agreed that she would start her small commerce, something they had been discussing for several months.

So Martinière gave her money from her savings in the group account. But they also agreed that she should look at it as a loan. She has other things she wants to use her savings for down the road, but this seemed important in the short term.