Community Development Foundation, Nigeria

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Whoever coined the English word 'terrible' must have had something close to the road from Ido Ekiti to Erinmope Ekiti in mind when he or she did so. There couldn't possibly be a more apt description of the road. Things didn't get better in the village itself - if anything, the few roads the village did have were worse! But, the warmth and grateful recognition with which we were received more than made up for the rough, dusty, bumpy (the list goes on) journey to this typical Ekiti village, with its dilapidated buildings whose charm had faded along with the colour of what ever paint once adorned it. On hearing that we were from the Community Development Foundation (CDF), the treasurer of the Erinmope (Ekiti) Itesiwaju Co-operative Multipurpose Union Limited, Mrs Ajisegbede Ayorinde, to whose shop (a mini supermarket) we had been directed, rose up quickly from her afternoon nap, falling over herself to welcome us. She promptly busied herself arranging for hospitality and sending messages to members of the Union. Before long, her shop was filled with people, all eager to tell their story.

When the three founding members of the Union first came together to form an Esusu savings and credit group in 1977, they did not know just how far they would go. By 1996, the union had evolved into a large organization consisting of 21 societies representing 851 individuals, mostly formers and traders. However, all the union could boast of asides owning their own office building/hall, was a loan fund of a little over a N100,000, savings of about N62,000 and shares worth N66,091. Not much considering the large membership strength. To make matters worse, many of the members had become old and for obvious reasons were unable to contribute as much as they used to. Many withdrew form the union altogether. The union, hampered by lack of funds, could not do much to achieve its objective of helping members to grow their businesses. Despair and hopelessness born of hardship loomed over many. With little or no ideas of how to get out of their situation, the executives of the union appealed to those who could to increase their savings. The response was weak, not because the people were unwilling, but because they just did not have more to give. They had the mind of giving, but there was no power was how the President of the Union put it.

It was at this point that a Mr. S. O. Kayode, an indigene residing in Ilorin, introduced the union to CDF who gave them an initial loan of N500,000 and a N100,000 institutional capacity building grant.

Eager to prove themselves worthy of this assistance, members repaid their loans on time. The Union in turn paid the quarterly interest amounts promptly.

As the group got towards the end of its loan period, haven made progress in meeting CDF set performance indicators, another round of loan assistance was recommended and approved for it, subject to full repayment of the first loan.

1. Members, still basking in the euphoria of this new lease of life, looked forward to the next round of loans. All the societies repaid their loans in full.

As they waved to the officials in the CDF vehicle that drove into the village some time after they had repaid all loans, expectation was high. Plans made, no doubt flashed through minds poised to take action.

The news the CDF officials brought was however not what they were expecting. Unknown to them, the very much-trusted Manager of the Union had embezzled part of the repaid loan fund. He had gone to CDFs office in Lagos to try to negotiate his way out of his misdeed and had been detained in Police custody after writing a confessional statement and signing an undertaking to repay the embezzled funds.

The news was first met with shock and disbelief. Anger and disappointment set in later. Elder Olayemi, President of the group, showed exemplary leadership in the face of this crisis. He took personal responsibility for the misdeed and set about the business of righting the wrong done. Members of the Managers family were duly informed and they joined hands with the Union to solve the crisis. They negotiated with the Manager and recovered what they could from him, tasked themselves to refinance the loan and repaid the money to CDF.

Undaunted by this experience the Union stuck together, survived the incident and are now on their fourth cycle loan of N1.5m. Cumulatively, it has received from CDF, a total loan value of N4.2m and institutional capacity building grant of N400,000.

The union currently has a loan fund of about N1.65m (about N155,000 of which was raised internally). Savings have also increased to N173, 587.88 plus shares worth N208,858. Put together, this represents an increase of almost 200%, an indication of the level of growth that members have experienced in their businesses to date.

In addition, the state of administrative affairs has been greatly improved by the training that they have received courtesy of CDFs capacity building grants. According to the Manager of the Union, “The difference (compared with before) is clear! Members now have a better understanding of their functions and benefits and are thus more cooperative.

Temidayo is one of the societies affiliated with the union. It joined the union ten years after its inception in 1981. It is essentially a farmers’ group. In spite of a membership strength of about thirty (30), many of them old men, the group’s annual loan fund only amounted to a meager N1,600, an indication of the level of their penury. Even when they joined the union in 1991, all they were granted was a loan of N2000 on their N1000 savings with the union.

Today however, courtesy of CDF intervention, the group has built up its savings with the union to N6000 and have a current group loan fund of N10,000. With over half of its members now dead, the group currently has membership strength of eighteen (18), six of which are new members. The group has also been instrumental in the emergence of new groups and have themselves become employers.

2. The story of Mr. Mustapha Yusuf, President of the group, provides interesting insight into the kind of life that these poor farmers lived and the transformation that took place with CDF intervention. When he was made the Chief Imam of the village, Mr. Yusuf left his job as a driver in an Ibadan based company and moved to the village (with his family) where he took up farming the joined Temidayo Farmers Group. Things were tough. With family commitments including those of his extended family (feeding, school fees, training fees etc.) on one hand and the demands of the group (little as it was) on the other, he felt stretched on either side and often had to go borrowing to meet up with his obligations. Soon, he became an object of ridicule even among his friends in the village.

Fortune smiled at him the day the group joined the union. With CDF intervention, he has been able to build up his personal savings with the group from N500 at the point of joining the union to N8000 as at now. With the expansion of his farm and the extra help he can now afford, his income has improved significantly. He has just purchased his very own cassava-grinding machine.

Sets of his children and wards have either graduated from school or from their apprenticeship. His improved income made it possible for him not only to sponsor their graduation ceremonies but also to buy equipment for them as well. He has also sponsored wedding ceremonies for them. While there are still some of them that are yet to finish, paying their fees is no longer a problem.

Now the needs of his family, including those of his aged parents, are met with ease and meeting up with his financial obligations to the group is no longer a strain on him. The sniggering smiles on the faces of those who ridiculed him have been wiped off by his good fortune, now evident for all to see. He sums it up himself this way, “Now, I have money to spend when I want to, I wear good cloths and I am at peace. God has done it!

Other members of the community have also benefited from the boost in the businesses of union members. They no longer have to travel to the neighboring villages of Otun and Ifola Ekiki to grind their cassava, Dried yam (Elubo) and even pepper (Good news for housewives who no longer have to go through the backbreaking chore of grinding pepper with traditional mortars.) as union members now own grinding machines that serve these purposes. Nor do they have to embark on long journeys to main towns in the state to purchase their aso-okes (Traditional woven fabric used at festivities) as local weavers have now emerged courtesy of the unions improved loan funds.

In addition, groceries of all kinds are now available at local supermarkets owned by union members. Employment opportunities have also been created as businesses and farm owners have employed extra hands to cope with expansion. The order of things has become reversed the hitherto patronized neighboring villages now patronize businesses in the village. The community now sees the union as the finance center. More people now understand the workings of the co-operative and are willing to join.

CDF MCP Participants   This is wishing our MCP candidates a prosperous and happy new year 2018.
CDF Nigeria enlisted amongst the Nigeria Network of NGOs    ~ networking for development
Mission Statement   ~ "To be an enabling foundation, supporting institutions that facilitate the socio-economic development and self reliance of the poor in a sustainable manner."
Vision Statement    ~ "“To be a leading development organization for sustainable livelihood"
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Community Development Foundation Nigeria Enlisted amongst the West African Management Development Institutes Network (WAMDEVIN) Member Institutions