Rosana Mitil is a 42-year-old woman who lives with her husband, their eight children, and their oldest daughter’s baby in Fon Desanm, a mountainous area that rises on the north side of the road to Savanèt. She and her daughter both received recommendations to join the program from the case managers who did the initial selection in Fon Desanm. But the daughter was disqualified because she is entirely dependent on her parents. Rosana and her husband do everything for the family.
Rosana has spent virtually her whole life in Fon Desanm. She was born and raised there. Her parents brought her up her on their own land with her sister and five brothers. They farmed and raised livestock. Though the children didn’t go to school, they ate well. It wasn’t until she moved out to live with her husband, until she was an adult herself, that she began to have problems. “Tè a pa bay ankò,” she explains. “The land doesn’t yield [what it used to yield].”
Rosana chose goats and small commerce, and she and her husband have started taking good care of the goats. There are a number of CLM families in the small corner of Fon Desanm where they live, and competition among them seems to have driven them to construct especially good huts for their goats. Rosana’s is no exception: solidly built with well-chosen support posts made of rough-hewn lumber, walls of woven sticks, and a roof of palm-seed pods.
They have always supported their household by farming, and in good years they’ve been able to buy livestock – usually goats. But they use their goats to invest in farming, too, selling one each time they need money to plant, and it’s been some time since they sold their last one. For this year’s spring harvest, they had to buy the beans – five coffee cans full – on credit, which was payable in beans with 100% interest at harvest. But they made a bad guess, planting their beans too early, and harvested less than they planted. They’ll have to repay the debt when they can.
Rosana is anxious to start her business, but she knows it will take some thought. The easiest thing would be to sell groceries in the market and out of her home, but she’s afraid that, with all the mouths she has to feed, her merchandise would just disappear. The temptation to reach into it to prepare her meals would be too strong.
So she wants to start a business in beans. If she buys them at the market in Savanèt and carries them to Lascahobas she can make ten gourds – about 15 cents – per mamit, or coffee-can full. She will initially have enough capital to buy about five mamit, so the whole trip, including the hours of hiking with a sack of beans on her head, should net her about 75 cents. The two markets’ schedules mean that she can only make the trip once each week, so she will use her sales in Lascahobas to buy sugar there that she can then sell at a profit by carrying it across the mountain back to Kolonbyè. She thinks that even such small profits can help her get ahead because she won’t think of the money as hers. “Li p ap pou mwen,” or “It won’t be mine,” she says. She’ll just leave it in the business to grow.
Even though she hopes to move forward, she hasn’t been able to imagine what that will look like yet. She has no specific ambition. “Se lè m gen nan men m, m ap wè sa m ap fè.” “When I have something in my hands, I’ll see what to do with it.”