In poor countries like the Dominican Republic, micro-credit is one of the few options many people have to earn a living, according to a report from Global Food Crisis Fund manager Howard Royer. The fund is giving a grant of $66,500 to cover the 2006 budget of a Church of the Brethren microloan program in the DR, called the Community Development Program. The fund is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren General Board and gives an annual grant to the DR program.
“Over 40 percent of the job openings in the DR are with small businesses that hire from one to ten workers,” Royer said. “Loans from the Global Food Crisis Fund enable people who under traditional markets would be excluded from credit opportunities to enter this sector.”
The loan program also draws together committees of local volunteers to facilitate their own meetings, design financial management plans, and oversee the well-being of projects in the community. This enables administrative costs and interest rates to be kept relatively low. In the process, skills are being learned, solidarity is being strengthened, and income allows for health care and education.
“The Community Development Committee and I are excited about the wisdom and experience we are gaining,” states Beth Gunzel, program coordinator and Brethren Volunteer Service worker with the General Board’s Global Mission Partnerships. “Our priorities this year are to continue improving our program’s structure by formalizing policies and procedures, by providing more training for loan groups, by creating orientation manuals and business management guides, and by designing more comprehensive entrance criteria and evaluations that ensure loans are being used for their intended purposes.”
Sixteen communities are moving on to the next loan cycle in 2006, and two other communities have determined they are not ready now but may move forward later. The number of loan participants is 473; last year it was 494.
Since its inception, the Community Development Program has depended solely on the Global Food Crisis Fund for support, with grants totaling $260,000 over the past three years.
In other news from the Global Food Crisis Fund, a grant of $4,000 has been given for Church World Service (CWS) work in Tanzania to provide emergency food relief for the drought-stricken country; $2.500 has been allocated from the Church of the Brethren Foods Resource Bank account for a rural women’s development program in Nicaragua; and $2,500 from the Brethren Foods Resource Bank account is allocated for the Christian Center for Integrated Development in Haiti, to aid rural communities in two of Haiti’s poorest areas.
For more about the fund and its work, go to www.brethren.org/genbd/global_mission/gfcf.htm.