Mikerlange: Almost Twelve Months

Mikerlange lives in Ramye, down near the spot where the canoe-ferries land. She’s just twenty years old, and she and her partner share their small home with their single small girl.

In some respects she has done well in the year since she joined the program, but not because of the assets the team transferred to her. She chose goats and a pig, but with pigs in her neighborhood dying due to disease, she asked Fonkoze to give her a third goat instead of the pig. One of the goats, however, died in a fire in the woods near her home. Neither of the others has reproduced yet.

Her more important success has been with her business. She borrowed 5000 gourds from her Village Savings and Loan Association, and bought garlic. She takes it around to local markets, where she sells it. It can me traveling as many as five days a week, but garlic sells, so the business works. It enabled her to buy another goat and some turkeys as well. She repaid the loan easily and on time.

But the turkeys are the beginning of her problem. She had three, but one got into a neighbor’s freshly-planted garden of young plantain trees, and started feasting. The neighbor promptly cut off its head. Not aware that the turkey he had killed belonged to Mikerlange, he made a well-intentioned decision to visit her and encourage her to keep her turkeys tied while local gardens are starting to develop. He wouldn’t want her to suffer losses.

So she’s done just that with her two surviving turkeys, but it isn’t really a good solution. Turkeys don’t like being kept on a leash, and hers have been losing weight and, therefore, value even though she is careful to feed them.

So she’s left with a difficult decision to make. If she lets the turkeys loose so they can graze freely, they might gain weight again, but they could easily be lost as one of her animals already was. If she continues to keep them tied up, they could simply lose value. If she decides to sell them, however, she will certainly lose some money. She bought them at a moment when prices were high. The pair cost her 3000 gourds. The most she thinks she could get for them now is 2000.

She should make a decision one way or another, but she’s inclined to hesitate. She’s so unhappy about any potential loss that she could end up losing much more than she needs to. So her case manager, Enold, spends some extra time with her, drawing out her thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of each choice she could make, including the choice to do nothing. She’s generally negative about all of her options, and with good reason. It is easy enough to go through the choices and explain why each is a bad idea. But Enold works hard to help her see that she has to choose something.

She eventually decides to sell the turkeys, but this just brings up a second question: what would she like to do with the proceeds from the sale. She’s inclined initially to buy more livestock. And one can see why. It’s relatively cheap right now. And she likes the way owning livestock makes her feel like a woman of means.

In the meantime, however, her garlic business has been steadily shrinking. Not because it isn’t successful. Nor, as we often see in other families, because her household is too dependent on it for daily expenses. Her husband is hard-working and helpful. Her problem is that she keeps taking money out of it to buy livestock. She bought a goat, the turkeys, and has purchased several chickens as well. That’s all well and good, and she can do that if she really wants to. But Enold wants her to see how successful she is already as a business woman and how she could make further progress by keeping more capital in her business.

By the time Enold and I leave, Mikerlange has agreed to put the money into her business. She says she’ll let him know when he comes next week what merchandise she decided to buy. But, at bottom, the conversation Enold needs to have with her will be long and, probably, drawn out over numerous visits over the coming weeks and even months. His job will be to help her see herself as the source of her success in a way that gives her enough confidence to keep taking appropriate risks. It is the best way he has to help her grow,

1 thought on “Mikerlange: Almost Twelve Months

  1. Linda Boucard

    Mikerlange sounds determined to succeed, but can get discouraged by so many setbacks. I hope that doesn’t happen. She deserves to succeed. Looking forward to know what business she ends up with.

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