Marcelline: Almost a Year

Marceline lives with her three children in a small house just below the main church in Ramye, a small community across a muddy inlet from downtown Laskawobas. She is happy about the new home she just completed with the CLM program’s support.

Back when she was with her children’s father, the couple had a home. Her partner would farm and fish, like many of the men in Ramye. She would sell his harvest and his catch. Eventually, she joined Fonkoze’s main credit program. She started taking out loans with four other women. She established a business buying vegetables at the nearby market in downtown Laskawobas and selling them at the international market on the border with the Dominican Republic, in Elias Piña. The family was doing well.

The man decided, however, that he no longer wanted to live in Ramye, so they sold their house and moved downtown to Laskawobas. When she saw, however, that he was beginning to spend time with another woman, she decided to leave. She took the children, and erected a small straw shack on family land back in Ramye. Initially, the children’s father would visit, bringing money to help her with expenses. But the visits grew less frequent, and he eventually stopped coming at all.

Her business started to shrink when one of the members of her loan group failed to repay their loan. The other four members couldn’t get a new loan, so she tried to keep her business going with her own funds. But as the sole support for her kids, the business began to shrink. By the time she joined the program, it had withered away.

She chose goats and a pig as her enterprises, and received two nanny-goats and a small sow. When the sow died, she was able to sell the meat for just enough to buy a third small goat in its place. Two of her three goats are now pregnant.

She thinks of her livestock as a long-term investment. “The goats can buy me a cow and, eventually, land.” She plans to add to this part of her investment buy using money from her savings and loan association. When its one-year cycle closes at the end of the year, she plans to add her pay-out to what she raises by selling a goat or two to buy a cow .

She used savings from her weekly stipend to re-establish her business. The training she received from the program helped her manage the business better, and now it’s starting to grow. It was shrinking for a while as she was spending money to build a better home for herself and her kids, but now that work on the house is finished, she should be able to build the business back up again.

She strengthens the business by belonging to three different sòl. A sòl is a savings mechanism common in Haiti. Its members make fixed weekly contributions. Each week, one member takes the whole pot. If she were to count only on herself to keep revenue in the business, it would be too easy to spend the money in other ways. But the three sòl provide social pressure that helps her avoid unnecessary expenses, and so her business can grow. “M ap kite komès la lè m mouri,” she says. “I will give up commerce when I die.”