April 2014—White smoke is spiraling up into the sky as dusk quickly falls in the village. In one of the huts, Radiata Ibrahim, a young unmarried woman, has just put the cooking pot containing the evening meal on the stove. She is far busier than before now that she has embarked on a new and rewarding activity.
Ibrahim lives in the village of Bibavou, a 20-minute drive from the city of Moroni, the capital of Comoros, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean about 550 miles from Madagascar. She became a seamstress, but there was not much work, except on special occasions like weddings or other major village events. Ibrahim felt discouraged by the small income she received from her irregular and informal activity, which did not bring in enough money to cover her basic needs and to take care of her aging mother. Money was always in short supply.
Ibrahim's life took a new turn in 2012 when she heard about a small finance program run by a USAID-supported organization, PlaNet Finance. The program offered training for poor and vulnerable groups to generate income, including creating and managing businesses, as well as access to loans.
USAID's mission in Madagascar extends to Comoros in the absence of a separate mission in Moroni.
Ibrahim applied for the training program and was one of 40 vulnerable women selected for a few days’ training in food processing and business management. The training helped her understand and master the techniques of processing raw farm produce into value-added, marketable finished products. Then, she took training in income-generating activity management and finance.
Using her newfound skills and knowledge, Ibrahim mixed fruit into juice and syrup, sliced potatoes to make chips, and mashed up tomatoes to make purees. When USAID Madagascar Mission Director Susan Sawhill Riley visited her house in March 2014, Ibrahim was very proud to share her new products, which she now sells to children in nearby schools.
“My life has improved. I know this is an ongoing process and that one day I will definitely succeed,” said Ibrahim with a determined tone.
To extend her nascent business, Ibrahim applied for loans from the Association Amie, which means "friendly association" in French, an organization that works with PlaNet Finance and supports small business creation and access to small loans. The Association’s board has approved the request, and Ibrahim is now eagerly waiting to receive the money so she can expand her business.
Other training programs similar to Ibrahim’s took place on the three islands of Comoros. Beneficiaries increased their skills in electrical works, making essential oil from ylang ylang plants, and harvesting and roasting coffee. The programs helped train 1,659 vulnerable people in business and entrepreneurship, improving skills to manage businesses, facilitating access to credit, and promoting entrepreneurial spirit.
The USAID/PlaNet Finance microfinance program, which ran from December 2012 through March 2014, focused on increasing access to microcredit and loans for the poorest and most vulnerable women and youth in Comoros, helping them to achieve financial independence and sustainability.
Last updated: April 14, 2016