Sunday, 25 October 2020

Sarafu Credit’s Ruddick and Dama: Community currencies create a stable medium of exchange tied to local developments during covid

By Emmanuel Daniel

Will Ruddick and Caroline Dama, board directors at Grassroots Economics Foundation, discuss how community currencies are helping the poor to exchange goods and services and incubate new businesses, without relying on scarce national currency and volatile markets

In 2010 Will Ruddick founded Grassroots Economics Foundation (GEF), a non-profit organisation that seeks to empower marginalised communities to take charge of their own livelihoods and economic future. A development economist focusing on currency innovation, Ruddick pioneered community currency programmes in Kenya since 2010. He is the founder of the award winning Bangla-Pesa initiative which uses a mutual credit model where there is no longer a need for national currency or donor funds to keep it running. He believes empowering poor communities is key to ending poverty.

Caroline Dama is co-founder and director at GEF. Dama is passionate about women and children rights and loves to work in programmes that improve their social and economic welfare.

Together they have introduced community currencies to over 4,400 businesses and schools across Kenya. The Sarafu Network, operated by GEF, is among the first community currency programmes in the world to pilot liquid community currencies (LCC). Between 2010 and 2018, community currencies were issued as paper vouchers unique to each community. In August 2018, the organisation partnered with Bancor to migrate its community currency network from physical vouchers to LCCs on the blockchain. Today, all community currencies on the Sarafu Network are 100% digital and transactions occur through US dollar codes sent between members’ feature phones and the local telecom network.

The following key points were discussed during the interview:

  • Sarafu network comes from an aid perspective but does not follow a top-down approach, instead it develops the community by tapping its own resources
  • The alternative community currency provides liquidity based on a voucher or a promissory note against future production
  • The programme creates stable markets based on local development and trust
  • While the concept has worked well in rural areas or communities that have strong and basic institutions, its implementation in urban settings was quite a challenge
  • Blockchain technology provides underlying protocols that allow community currencies to trade with each other directly and maintain collateral in national currency-pegged assets
  • Investments and donations provide funding that lead to the development of local industries and infrastructure
  • Community currency programmes increase local productivity and help directly develop the local economy
  • As a socio-economic development tool, community currency offers an innovative way to improve living standards of the poor

Here is the full transcript of the session:

Emmanuel Daniel (ED): I'm very pleased to speak with Will Ruddick and Caroline Dama. And I'm very excited to speak to both of you, because of this unique thing that you are doing. Many people around the world are familiar with M-Pesa currency that originated out of Kenya and has been promoted widely as an inclusive finance platform. But more than just that, is the whole idea of sustainable development and community creation and sustaining community at a local level. And what both of you have pioneered in a way or taken it to a very developed extent, is the whole idea of community currency. So I want us to have a conversation which is part educational and part issue-centric. Maybe both Will and Caroline, you can start with the organisation that you lead, Grassroots Economics, and the whole idea of sustainable development and how you originated this movement that you've created.

Coming from an aid perspective and tapping community’s resources

Will Ruddick (WR): We started working on community currencies in Kenya in 2010. And the basic premise came from a long history of community currencies and study and which basically said that there is goods and services people can be trading, it's just that there's not enough medium of exchange to enable that to happen, and there's not enough price elasticity to deal with meeting supply and demand. Because prices tend to be fairly fixed, you end up with people just sitting around waiting until they get an income. But in the meantime, they could have been doing daycare and haircuts and offerings for their church. There's so many goods and services people could potentially be doing, that they just don't because there's this lack of money. And that's at the heart in a way of a lot of our thinking of, can the supply of a medium of exchange do more to support development than just air dropping them, US dollars or Kenyan shillings as a lot of aid does. We came in from an aid perspective and we mobilise the community by providing a liquidity source.

Caroline Dama (CD): I would say that yes, we came from an aid point of view. But then we had to ask ourselves some fundamental questions, like most of the time aid is more of a top-down approach. So it's someone else deciding what is good for the community. Most of the time that's not sustainable. Once you decide to go away when the funds are run out, what happens to the community? I use, maintaining them in sort of a loop whereby they're constantly looking outside. And can we look for programmes that encourage them to look inside that are more bottom up rather than up down? I was traveling around and had heard about the ideas of commodity currencies. So the question was how could we adapt it to the cultural and social context in Kenya? And what would that look like? And how would we be able to run it in the community, and how can you look at resources that are within the community? So that's the whole idea behind community currency. It's about communities, tapping into their own intrinsic value, and showing them that they have a lot of capacity, and essentially, everything that they need is within the community, and then to rally them to answer that.

ED: So let me take a view of a layman. The whole idea of creating value from a closed community that doesn't get created, if you use fiat currency or the national currency, the currency in its original form. So community currency is a form of value capture, would I be correct to say that?

The voucher system and collateral pool behind community currency

WR: We are providing liquidity based on a voucher or essentially a promissory note, a promise against future production. So a community is coming together. They are committing their future production into a voucher. So they're creating a voucher like a credit and there's a social process on that right now that's not on chain but there's a piece of paper gets signed by them and the local chief and there's a dispute resolution around it. Just like a business creates a voucher these people are creating a voucher against their future production, like their goods and services, their goats, anything that we're showing in a rural place here, but in a city, it's very similar. And not only that, but there's also a collateral fund. And that collateral right now is on chain asset. And what happens is we take some Kenyan shillings from let's say a donor like Red Cross and the community can also put in some into this reserve as well. And that forms this collateral pool. The currency is 100% backed socially by goods and services. They're creating a credit that is bringing the community together to decide how they would like to create this credit, how do they back it, but then what would they like to do with it? Some of it goes to the people who are putting in commitments, and some of it goes into community projects. They can say some of this goes to helping the elderly, some of this will go towards planting trees. Some of this will go toward supporting kids’ education. And so they spend it then into circulation, they do loaning, they do all kinds of activities with those tokens. It circulates among the entire community. And at any point, someone could basically tap into that collateral behind it. There's an exchange process as well. And then exchange can go in both directions so people can add to the reserve, or they can also pull out from the reserves. Reserve gives it collateral and it also connects it to the economy. 

ED: You said the value is created on future activities, not on past activities.

WR: Yes, absolutely. It's very much kind of a promissory note. We're creating a credit against future production. That's the primary backing and in order to safeguard that we have a collateral as well. And right now we use 25% as our full collateral pool level. So if they're creating $4,000 of tokens here, they need to have $1,000 of collateral here.

ED: When you say a thousand dollars of collateral, is that thousand Kenyan shillings, or a thousand US dollars’ worth of collaterals for $4,000 worth of value? Is that what it is? 

WR: I'm putting it all in US dollar terms. 

ED: And that extrinsic value, who determines that value? You said the community agrees and it's 100% guaranteed. So how does that come about? 

WR: The most innovative thing here is that the bonding between these tokens that they create the community inclusion currency (CIC) and the reserve is managed by an automated market maker and essentially, it's an equation. So there's an equation, they often call it a bonding curve that basically says, if I have these tokens, and I liquidate them, how much of the reserve do I pull out? And it's a dynamic curve, meaning that the more it's like a diminishing returns equation, the next time someone tries to extract for liquor tokens, the less they will get from the reserve for the same amount of tokens that they're burning essentially or liquidating. And vice versa, if I add money into this reserve I'm actually going to create new tokens. There's an equation for that minting to burning ratio and that's called a bonding curve. So there's an automated market here. But essentially, these people with their commitments, they're backing it one to one with their future capacity until you end up with an arbitrage opportunity. So if the value to cash out to the reserve is quite low, well, that means that there's an advantage now, to put money into this reserve in order to buy these products. The market stabilisation basically requires that there is an advantage to put money in or pull money out based on the local value. And so the local value and its exchange value, they are decoupled in a sense, but they're also coupled together. That in a way is the most interesting thing that we're doing on the community currency level because it connects a community currency to the national currency. 

ED: What assumptions do you need to make about the community for this to be a stable project where everyone trusts the system and maintain the value? And for it to be a collateral, it needs to carry the information of what's been promised. What needs to exist for all of these things to be in place?

WR: If I'm holding one of these tokens, and I have a choice to buy, let's say I have 20 CICs here, and there's a shop right in front of me and I can buy 20 shillings of chapatti or I could cash it out right now and get 10 Kenyan shillings. There's a choice there depending on that current bonding curve. What keeps the price stable, because that person could also now put in 10 shillings here in order to get more tokens to buy those two chapattis? And that will raise the curve back up. The community is what stabilises that price. 

Creating stable markets based on local development and trust

ED: Around the world when we look at rural, semi-rural, poor communities, some of them are very stable, and some of them are not, they're transient, outside of major cities, and some of them are agricultural, and so on. What needs to exist for the community in order for a project like this to succeed? It seems to me that the trust and the function of the community is critical in this programme.

CD: Emmanuel accurately pointed out that the first aspect is trust. Ideally we make assumptions that this community is close knit, they know so much of each other, and that they are really interactive.  Essentially, for it to work, you want to link communities. So people are willing to buy and willing to sell. And apart from that we also look at what institutions already exist in their communities. For most of the community that has really worked for us, our communities have strong truly basic institutions. They have savings and loan schemes that are local. They have what are called village loans and savings associations.  Strong leaders say it's really this small things that work and get the currency mobile.

ED: When I studied the Grameen Bank model in Bangladesh, that model worked very well when you had groups of six women in social configuration. When that model was exported to India, it just blew apart because the stable community of trusted six women did not exist. In your case, in terms of community currency, is there an optimum size in terms of the community? And how migrant is the community and were there communities where this programme did not work?

Urban settings pose a challenge to programme implementation 

CD: We're working really well in the rural areas and communities. We had more challenges in  urban areas  where they have more people migrating so often that you'll have people that are coming from maybe rural areas to come live for a short while so that they can work and then they leave. And so for us, it's just a learning experience. It's about how you can win that community currency now and create those social systems that you find in the rural areas that need help and add trust to it. There's really a difference between like rural and urban for us. And when we have more challenges in the urban settings than in rural settings, because somebody would come join, and then they decide not to, and life is not looking for me, let me go away. And how do you make sure that the community can deal with such scenarios? What happens when that takes place? And it's up to us to be more flexible and versatile, and to be able to land and make sure it's a tool that's working for the different sectors.

ED: The collaterals that you create in each of these areas, are they interchangeable or are they different and operating at different levels of trust? Do you know of intrinsic value in each one of them? Is it unique to each one of them?

WR: They all have their own collateral and their own currency pool because they're all connected to Kenyan shilling in that way, the reserve, they can all interchange with each other too. So if I have a currency  called  ‘Will Tokens’ and Dama has one called ‘Dama Tokens,’ they're in two different communities, I can still trade with her. And what happens is that some of my collateral moves over to her community. And she has a trade advantage now to buy back from my community. The collateral pool and the connection with many currencies help because we're not trying to make one currency that rules them all. The idea is to have every village have one, maybe even two and they can merge, they can grow together, one can consume the other. It's a natural sort of market that plays with all of the village.    

ED: How is the information on the commitment carried on the token? And you mentioned blockchain, which is relatively new, was there a time when that information was carried differently on an actual physical voucher or was it always digital? And some of the security features that are required for that information to be captured and easily transmitted at the same time secure.

Blockchain allows ease in trading among community currencies 

WR: We used to use paper vouchers and we did a lot of security features on them like ultraviolet ink, watermarks and metal in them. And it's very expensive to do that, and very hard to manage that vault of cash printing it and all that stuff is a logistics nightmare. It's definitely not very scalable. This was backing up from 2010 until we started moving digital starting in 2015. And then we went fully digital in 2019. 

ED: And you had this idea long before blockchain and that's very interesting because blockchain feeds into it so nicely, doesn't it?

WR: We got into bitcoin way back in 2015. And we were trying to use it piggyback on bitcoin to do this stuff and the technology wasn't there. And also, we're using US dollar as well. So to connect people with no internet right to the internet to the blockchain, that was also an expensive challenge back then but it's gotten much cheaper now. And a lot of the technology like the bonding curve, like to be able to store collateral on chain, to do that on Bitcoin, like it's the technology just it still isn't there. It was very alphabet on the more modern stuff you can store very interesting contracts like social contract. But in terms of knowing the social commitments behind it, that's what we're working right now to develop around doing dows like decentralised, autonomous organisations where people can actually have  a commitment token or a vote and track that but right now it's being stored in a social way. 

ED: Do you physically support the so-called Dow yourselves? As in you buy servers, it sits somewhere in the village, and then it captures all the transactions that are taking place or does it exist as ethereum in the cloud?

WR: All the transactions are being done on a side chain of ethereum.  It's a public blockchain every single person has a blockchain address, they all have a private key. Every single transaction is anonymous but transparent on the public blockchain. We also have a server right now that basically takes their feature phone request and pushes it on to the internet. And so we're facilitating that role. But there's a lot of communities where we can start using a web app where the user has all control completely on their web app, so they don't need us at all. Our main goal is to take technology and train communities how to use that technology.

ED: Can new tokens be created out of the transactions meaning outside of your control? And maybe even without the fiat currency involved in the beginning they create a new contract and then that gets carried. And you can actually add value to that as you go along. Is that possible? 

Investments and donations aid in the development of local industries and infrastructure

WR: Almost anything's possible. But if we're going to be facilitating this process, and especially if we're bringing donor funds in, we want to maintain standards. So if you want to create a trillion ‘Emmanuel tokens’, you can go to the blockchain and just do that right now.  But if you are going to convince people, and if we're going to help you, in terms of marketing that with your community, we want to make sure that people can have some assurance. Our role is in one way to make sure that when people are issuing and using these, they're following certain standards. We're keeping a standard of 25% reserve when the tokens are created, and that's in dealing with Red Cross and just dealing with the risk in that. There's a minimum amount of tokens that are being created in terms of what's going to be the volatility. People are cashing in and cashing out of those tokens compared to the circulation.

ED: So the reserve includes a liquidity pool, a portion of it, which is set aside so that people can buy and sell as they like? You've never gone through a liquidity crisis that you had to review the liquidity pool.

WR: No, we haven't yet. But I can imagine that there's the case where everyone in the community decides it's in crisis, or they all want to cash out, so they all liquidate their tokens. There will still be some tokens that basically are leftover that just essentially have no value anymore. Now, either that's an opportunity for someone to buy into the community. If there are tomatoes on offer, that means they're very cheap right now. If I feel back up that liquidity pool or Red Cross can come in and support that community at that time. That's a natural market function. We're not going to stop that from happening, but we can buffer it.

ED: What are the stress points that you worry about and especially now with the pandemic? 

WR: Let's say there's no more liquidity in that pool, what they're left with now is a basic community currency which is even more dependent. I've got chapattis, and you can work on my roof and I can take care of your kids. The fallback in a way is always community trust. The collateral pooling is meant in a way to bootstrap that it can help bring businesses on board. But ultimately, the goal is not to depend on that. But it's to build community in the process. So one way we're looking at crisis response and another way we're looking at how communities recover and build trust and grow together.

ED: What do you worry about in terms of rural communities in Kenya? How is that evolving and do you worry about situations where a close community like this can become unstable?

Increasing productivity and developing the local economy 

CD: There's always uncertainty like when you look with COVID and all that. As we'll talk about the ability for them to have something to fall back on is also something that we are really proud of. So if a committee member goes to town, it's almost like that's the lifeline out there. And now towns are all closed. Yes, like in Kenya, Nairobi and Mombasa, the first to be contained. And then it has been really good to see that. Maybe we really need to present it on building rural communities. Maybe they are the future.

In Kenya, we are looking at rural communities to be able to be food secure. For them to be food secure, they have to have access to farm inputs, they have to have access to the information that they get from agricultural extension officers. So most of the time, it's the power of that access to that information, and also in terms of access to input so that they can be better. But then if you look, even at our data lake, there was a lot of spending of their community kindness, which was good, which means that these people, even with their loss of livelihood, they're able to go on with their trade. They are able to meet their daily needs, and apart from that, they're able to come together as a community and pull resources together, if you see more of savings, especially in their social groups, what you call village loans and savings associations, it's a good indicator. What I like most about us having used the blockchain is the access to data. And the fact that you can use data to make informed decisions. So Red Cross have come in, they want to do something for the community. 

We don't have to worry about them using phones that are internet based. Even with a basic phone, it's just as simple as sending a message. My biggest worry is making communities disillusion whereby you're bringing something that's meant to help them, but sort of makes them feel disempowered. If you go to a rural community they have to use their CICs on a smartphone that they don't know how to access, that they have no money to buy internet for. You're not really adding value to them. You're almost telling them they're alienated from their world. The fact that they see CICs can work on a simple phone, it's really good so for the fact that it was really simple. 

ED: I'm getting the sense that it works very well in a closed community where the transactions are between trusted parties.  For example, if someone outside the community wanted to plug into the community to look at the production of wheat or agriculture and make a commitment on that, and then buy from the community. Is there a way to externalise the data so that it's used for trading commodities outside the community?

CD: Yes, because William told you that one of the good things about us having even the blockchain and then being to share is that now we opened up the communities to each other. So it's possible. 

WR: We have a website where you can actually look at all of this stuff. So there's a dashboard where you can explore some of this data and all of it is anonymous. We're working with Accenture and some other partners in terms of the different methods people, like a donor or impact investor or local governments, can use to access this data and act on it. An impact investor could come in and say I want to support the reserve of this community and by doing so, they actually increase the liquidity of that whole community and then they could donate those tokens into particular sectors or genders, or different activities. So, there's a lot of power in blockchain data.

It's not meant to, in any way, replace the national currency. The idea is for it to be counter cyclical the national currency. As I have less national currency, I start using these networks more.  One way we've integrated with governments is that essentially, the backing of these currencies is in national currency. We're using an on-chain asset right now. But that could easily be an on-chain Kenyan shilling or rupee. So the idea of tying these local credit systems into collateral, and doing that in a way that's more secure than the current banking system, I think that's a really key aspect.

ED: What trouble did you get into with the central bank? At which point did they become interested in you? 

WR: I mean, just lack of information. Essentially this was back when we were printing notes. And those notes look nothing like Kenyan shillings certain voucher on them like it was very clear. But at the same time there was like terrorist stuff going on with Al Shabaab on the coast. We got a media crew came in and said, this was a secessionist plot that we're trying to create another government and another country and it was just the sensationalism.  And when the government got involved, they essentially got to the point where the director of public prosecution came in and said, there's no laws being broken. From that perspective, they said there's no law being broken. And they recommended that the central banks start to regulate this space. And by the time we were invited to the central bank to talk about these things, they were doing a blockchain task force we had moved on to blockchain already. 

ED: Are you regulated today as a result? Is it a regulated activity? Do you need a license for what you're doing now?

WR: Not yet.  There's no official regulation for what we're doing yet. And that's what we're working with Red Cross now is self-regulation. 

ED: Would the promissory note be a tradable security? Would it fall under a classification of that?

WR: This is one of the realms like Red Cross is piloting this stuff right now and they want to do in all these places. And the question is, within what regulatory environment does this fit and is it a security? If I go to a supermarket and they issue a paper voucher to me, is that a security?  It's a bit vague.  I think those are the parts where we need a lot of help, especially when we're looking at doing this in India or some other country. I think the hardest part for us has been that lawyers are way too expensive. 

ED: It appears to me that in terms of capturing value in a closed community, this programme works amazingly. A critique would say to you that this is not a programme where you generate wealth.  It's a value-creating programme, where value has not been recognised before. 

WR: It's not like we're totally against capitalism in that sense. We're saying that can we decentralise monetary issuance? And can we do it to a point that benefits local villages and communities? Can they keep track of that and if one person in that village ends up being an extreme profiteer and they end up holding a lot of these tokens?  Those tokens are only valuable if there is something they can spend them on right in that community. 

ED: In each of these communities that you run this programme, do you have committees where they make those decisions?

WR: So when these women's groups come together, they already have a history together, they already have a lot of practices. So we're not trying to really add anything to them, we want to give them something that fits into what they already know and use. And if there's other options they could think of, we present those things, but it's for them to design these things themselves.  There are some things that we hold in terms of our regulatory space, internally, like with working with donors, like Red Cross, but otherwise, the goal is for them to design this stuff as much as possible. We've had a million dollars’ worth of trade last year. 500,000 transactions and 26.7 thousand users. And a lot of it's just jumped up because of COVID. People are looking for ways to trade with each other because they just don't have national currency. We've had a lot of good results so far. 

ED: When you say a million dollars in a year?

WR: I would say 90% of that is just last year. But we started in 2000 at the end of 2018. 

ED: So 2018 and in total is about a million dollars’ worth of transactions or value. 

WR: Like I said the assets volume - that would be volume of trade between users.

ED: And that's including the value created and the underlining, currency that protects that. So it's also the fiat currency that sits underneath.

WR: Right. So the fiat currency that sits underneath. We're still in the process of doing that connection so they can cash it out directly. As they want to cash out, we've been doing manual, e-money transfers essentially to them.

ED: How are the donor agencies receiving this whole programme? Given how donor agencies have traditionally been running their programmes and the role of NGOs, Grassroots Economics doesn't sound like an NGO unless you are.

Community currency offers an innovative way to improve living standards of the poor

WR: We're a foundation. We're a nonprofit foundation. So kind of like an NGO. But essentially with Red Cross, we've been working a lot with them over the last year and they have been doing voucher programmes for a long time.  So the idea that you go into a community, you distribute a voucher, and then they can go and buy food with it, and then you restock that food over there. It's not that far from what we're doing in a way. Sarafu, the currency that we're using with Red Cross right now, that's not created by a community group. That's created by us with Red Cross and that's very much like a bootstrapping or an aid token. So the idea is that we go into a community that is having issues and we airdrop $4 worth of these tokens on to everybody in that community. We do awareness building campaigns and when Red Cross is walking around with their volunteers, and they're teaching people about coronavirus, they're also saying, here take these $4 and you can buy soap over here. And they go to the soap lady, say, here take these $4 and you can buy water over here. And so they're just helping connect those communities together. And it's a way of bootstrapping. And then those communities can take the collateral out of the Sarafu and use it to make their own tokens now. So that's going from crisis response into recovery. 

I think some of the biggest questions include how do we scale this? What's the risk appetite? Yes, this seems very good for people but what would happen if the government just decides they don't like it the next day?  That is the big challenge right now there is political, there's no liability kind of challenge around that stuff. 

ED: Are there any issues in a way that blockchain is evolving in itself that either lends itself to what you're doing or is a potential threat because of the way in which blockchain is evolving?

WR: There's a big push right now for something like a humanitarian blockchain that is really like a pure kind of social service infrastructure. Because as blockchain has been monetised in certain ways that it doesn't actually need to be. So if we want a distributed ledger that the world can use to create credit systems, and we want that to be public infrastructure, we need to protect it from profiteering as well. 

ED: How much of this do you think is exportable to other communities? So it's this ideal conditions for a programme like Sarafu Credit to operate that may not be transportable to other parts of Africa and other communities. How big is the population that is involved in the villages that you operate in?

CD: They are quite big. Like we have a Miyani (a rural area near Mombasa, Kenya) that has up to almost 14,000 people on it that may be in rural settings. You'll find that people are beat, then are so densely populated, like in towns, so they tend to live really far. And so it calls for unique ways of doing their community currency, having them come up with markets so that they can interact with each other. In terms of you asking what part of it is exportable? It's us. We've had a lot of interest, especially from other African countries. For instance, Red Cross as for a feasibility study in Tigre, Ethiopia, and then to see if this is something that could work there. And this is a tool that could work for them there because these people want to be integrated. So the question comes, can you also use things like Sarafu Credit in places where you're having refugees? Even when people move from one place to another the first thing they want to do is business. They are looking for ways to survive. They're looking for ways to give what they have, whether it's a service or it's a good. 

When I go to the local village saving a loan scheme. Usually they gift 20 shillings a week. It's really smaller 20 cents.  I think most of the time people don't have that money because they have to choose either to make those savings or feed their family. 

ED: Have you integrated Sarafu into the savings and loan schemes in the villages? Is that an accepted currency in there?

CD: Yes, it is. They have double books. 

ED: A new book and a shilling book. But when you buy something like a capital intensive like a generator, how do you monetise in order to buy it from outside the system? 

CD: We have this farming community where people grind their maize and then the community saw that need and they knew that you can offer this service in Sarafu Credit. So it's also balancing what portion can get services within the community. What percentage will require hardware or electricity that's from outside of the community running? It's not that this is an initiative. We don't want it to be a strategy. When you talk about people making profit, want them to make profit for the good of the community.  So when the mill makes profits, it reinvests back in the community in the form of labor. 

ED: I'm curious what you will look like when you're wildly successful in the future.  Have you seen it? Have you seen the programme result in change of behaviour in the community? You'll see a distinct change in attitude towards work, value and exploration.

CD: For me, it's changes in attitude, especially on the part of women. When I started most of the projects in the community, we would from a group that has a membership of 280 and all the leaders are men.  For me to be able to see them, the empowerment that comes with being able to pay every single time. It gives them a good sense of self-esteem. The idea that I am able to feed my child three meals a day, or that I can buy them fish once a day. That way you are able to free women from that anxiety of meeting their basic needs. And to be able to see them after many years makes us proud. There’s one who has been empowered that before she would just sit so quiet. But now we are using her for peer to peer trainings, like when we wanted to start other projects.  She came and she stood in front of a crowd of almost 400 people. And she said, “This works for me, and then it can work for you.”  And it comes with that sense of, “I can meet my needs, I'm able to make savings.” 

And so now for this era for credit to be able to bring back value to that, such that if they take part in initiatives like tree planting, they come back. They're paid back and set up for credit. And they're able to feed their families. And for them, that was a sense of empowerment. So I think those are few cases that echo that test.

ED: And you host a community together.  I get this sense that you have not achieved the scale that you want. Is there a scale that you wish to achieve?

CD: Maybe for some communities but for us it's having as many communities as possible and having those committees do the peer to peer trainings. Yes, it's a proof of concept. People are calling from other communities and they want to know how we can do this in the community. That for us is already success. 

ED: Thank you very much to both of you. I hope that we will be able to build on this conversation. 



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