Banking on a better future

POSTED ON 2008-10-24
  by Brian Johnson

The harvest in the Landuma village of Guinea was not looking good. Ali was worried.

He had already gone deeply into debt to keep his family from starving. After paying his debts, less than a three-month food supply would remain. And that was if his family didn't always eat twice a day.

They might have to eat just once a day and he would soon be borrowing money again.

Ali's situation is typical among the Landumas. There are no paying jobs in the area. All of the Landuma people are farmers and they depend on their crops for survival. And at harvest time a large portion of their crops must be sold to pay debts.

Typically their food is gone in as few as two or three months. Then they must borrow money for food, and borrow again to buy seed.

The interest on such loans can exceed 300 percent over a seven-month period.

Because they must sell at harvest time when prices are low and buy at planting time when prices are high they lose both ways.

Most find it impossible to get out of the cycle of debt,no matter how hard they work or how good their crops are.

Missionary Kirk Rogers is hoping this will soon change.

The solution that he and the Landuma church are working on is called a grain bank.

The grain bank will provide low-interest loans. The farmers will bring their produce to serve as collateral.

So, Ali might bring ten sacks of peanuts to the bank. The bank will pay Ali the current price of the peanuts, which may be about $100. When planting time arrives the current market price for Ali's peanuts may be about $200.

But Ali will only be required to bring $125 to redeem his peanuts.

The interest payment will help make the grain bank self-supporting. Ali can sell a portion of his peanuts and have some left for seed.

The believers will run the bank on a volunteer basis receiving no material benefit, something unheard of in the area. They hope to be a living witness to their neighbors.

This year Ali has high hopes. He says he will take some of his peanuts to the grain bank to get the cash he needs to pay back debts.

Ali hopes that soon he can live debt-free and still be able to feed his family.

Pray for wisdom for the Landuma church and Kirk as they get ready to begin the grain bank.

Pray also that the bank can make a real difference in the community both economically and spiritually.

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