Merséla Exil

Merséla and her husband with their cow. Their new latrine is in the background.

Merséla is a CLM member from Viyèt. She is one of the especially fortunate members who received a cow as one of their productive assets thanks to a gift from Bothar. The cow is doing very well. It’s pregnant, and should have its calf in a few more weeks.

Her husband helps her take care of the cow. It’s really big, and would be hard for her to manage on her own. “He’s as happy about the cow as I am. We had never even hoped that we’d be able to buy one.” Her husband is quick to add, “Our neighbors were shocked, especially when they learned that the cow was really ours. I’m doing everything I can to take care of it. Even if I have to go to bed without supper, I’ll never leave it somewhere that it has no food.”

It hasn’t been easy. She used some of the savings that she accumulated from her six months of stipends to buy the right to work a small plot of land, but the harvest was ruined when heavy rains inundated the young plants. They have no grazing land of their own. But she recognizes that taking care of her cow must be a priority if she and her family are to move forward, so she sold one of the pots she prepares meals in to buy grazing rights for her cow on a neighbor’s land.

That means that their CLM assets are not yet generating a regular income stream for them yet. Merséla’s husband is the one who makes sure they eat every day. “I get farming contracts for 1000 or 1500 gourds. We eat through that money, and then go 500 or 600 gourds into debt. The next time I get a job, I pay that off and we have cash for awhile.”

But their lives are changing. A few weeks ago, they moved out of the straw shack they had been living in into a new house with solid stone-and-mud walls and a good tin roof. Now they and their children have a dry place to go to when heavy rains fall. CLM provides members with roofing material, nails, and the money to pay the skilled labor necessary to build a small house, but members have to provide their own rocks, mud, and lumber. They can scavenge the rocks and mud, but many have to buy the lumber. Merséla used more savings from the stipend to purchase hers. They also have a water filter to ensure good drinking water and a latrine, which will combine to help them protect themselves from cholera.

Their asset base is growing. She used the rest of her savings from the stipend to buy two very small pigs. And thanks to those assets, the family has hope for a future. Merséla and her case manager, Alancia, are planning her next move. She hopes to use money she will earn from selling young goats and pigs to buy a horse. The horse, she feels is the key. “I need small commerce, but we live too far from the road for me to build one right now, because I can’t carry heavy loads on my head. If I have a horse, I can start going to the local markets to buy and sell.”

And Merséla knows where she wants to go from there: “The land we live on isn’t really ours. It’s family land. I’m hoping that when our first calf grows up, we’ll be able to sell it and buy a small piece of land of our own.”

In front of the new house CLM helped them build.