Mennonites back life-changing Brazilian micro credit scheme

By staff writers
July 11, 2006

Mennonites back life-changing Brazilian micro credit scheme

-11/07/06

From a farmer growing peppers in Brazil's rural northeast to a single mother who gives beauty treatments in Recife, an innovative micro-credit programme is helping people build a better future for themselves and their families ñ reports Marla Pierson Lester of Mennonite Central Committee, the North American aid and development agency.

FRAME, which in Portuguese stands for Rotating Fund for Micro-Entrepreneurs, includes four funds which have aided some 950 families since the programme began in 1997. Each fund operates through community groups or associations, including some within churches. The association is responsible for making sure each member is able to repay his or her loan. Mennonite Central Committee is a key partner in the venture.

This is a programme which changes lives, MCC says. It cites Severino Alves de Melo, of Cha Grande, who was a daily labourer on another man's farm when he received a loan to plant a small plot of green peppers. Funds from the sale of the peppers and from other loans helped him expand his farming and purchase animals. Eventually, he was able to buy his own piece of property where he now raises organic crops.

FRAME has some 425 active loans at any one time. Loans range from 200 reais (85 US dollars equivalent) through to 1,400 reais (596 dollars) and must be repaid after 14 months.

Borrowers begin by taking out smaller loans. The largest loans can only be taken out after smaller loans are repaid. Borrowers pay 1.25 percent interest per month; funds that help the venture operate and create capital to lend to others.

Three of the funds are in rural areas such as Cha Grande, where the majority of the loans are given to families for planting or clearing fields or raising animals.

The fourth fund is in the metropolitan area of Recife, where most loans go to women starting small urban businesses, including handicraft endeavours. Many of them are single mothers, such as Ana Maria Braga da Silva.

Da Silva had begun a small business giving massages when she heard about FRAME through her Baptist church in the neighbourhood of Janga.

Through four successful loans, she was able to expand her services, gain training in additional beauty treatments and attract more clients. Now, she is helping to start a new loan group in the Baptist church she attends.

As more entrepreneurs use the programme to create or expand businesses of their own, FRAME itself is moving closer to becoming financially independent of Mennonite Central Committee ñ a goal for both partners.

Along with Quakers and the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites are one of the historic peace churches known for their social witness and lifestyle.

[Also on Ekklesia: European Mennonite theologians tackle violence and God; Hymnal: A Worship Book ó Mennonite Church Metanoia Books; John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions; Mennonites lend support to the hurricane clear-up; Mennonites to play mediating role in Congolese election; Continuing concern for Vietnam Mennonites; Mennonites describe Indonesian earthquake horror; Mennonites and Catholics seek to cooperate on peacemaking; USA and Iran should pursue talks, say Mennonites; UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites; UK Mennonites board the love train; Cambodian tree project backed by fossil fuel-free Mennonites; Politics of Discipleship and Discipleship in Politics: J¸rgen Moltmann; Iraq peace hostage Loney talks of faith, fear and freedom; From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding; Mennonites work with soldiers who turn their backs on war; Mennonites and other churches step up Darfur relief]

Mennonites back life-changing Brazilian micro credit scheme

-11/07/06

From a farmer growing peppers in Brazil's rural northeast to a single mother who gives beauty treatments in Recife, an innovative micro-credit programme is helping people build a better future for themselves and their families ñ reports Marla Pierson Lester of Mennonite Central Committee, the North American aid and development agency.

FRAME, which in Portuguese stands for Rotating Fund for Micro-Entrepreneurs, includes four funds which have aided some 950 families since the programme began in 1997. Each fund operates through community groups or associations, including some within churches. The association is responsible for making sure each member is able to repay his or her loan. Mennonite Central Committee is a key partner in the venture.

This is a programme which changes lives, MCC says. It cites Severino Alves de Melo, of Cha Grande, who was a daily labourer on another man's farm when he received a loan to plant a small plot of green peppers. Funds from the sale of the peppers and from other loans helped him expand his farming and purchase animals. Eventually, he was able to buy his own piece of property where he now raises organic crops.

FRAME has some 425 active loans at any one time. Loans range from 200 reais (85 US dollars equivalent) through to 1,400 reais (596 dollars) and must be repaid after 14 months.

Borrowers begin by taking out smaller loans. The largest loans can only be taken out after smaller loans are repaid. Borrowers pay 1.25 percent interest per month; funds that help the venture operate and create capital to lend to others.

Three of the funds are in rural areas such as Cha Grande, where the majority of the loans are given to families for planting or clearing fields or raising animals.

The fourth fund is in the metropolitan area of Recife, where most loans go to women starting small urban businesses, including handicraft endeavours. Many of them are single mothers, such as Ana Maria Braga da Silva.

Da Silva had begun a small business giving massages when she heard about FRAME through her Baptist church in the neighbourhood of Janga.

Through four successful loans, she was able to expand her services, gain training in additional beauty treatments and attract more clients. Now, she is helping to start a new loan group in the Baptist church she attends.

As more entrepreneurs use the programme to create or expand businesses of their own, FRAME itself is moving closer to becoming financially independent of Mennonite Central Committee ñ a goal for both partners.

Along with Quakers and the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites are one of the historic peace churches known for their social witness and lifestyle.

[Also on Ekklesia: European Mennonite theologians tackle violence and God; Hymnal: A Worship Book ó Mennonite Church Metanoia Books; John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions; Mennonites lend support to the hurricane clear-up; Mennonites to play mediating role in Congolese election; Continuing concern for Vietnam Mennonites; Mennonites describe Indonesian earthquake horror; Mennonites and Catholics seek to cooperate on peacemaking; USA and Iran should pursue talks, say Mennonites; UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites; UK Mennonites board the love train; Cambodian tree project backed by fossil fuel-free Mennonites; Politics of Discipleship and Discipleship in Politics: J¸rgen Moltmann; Iraq peace hostage Loney talks of faith, fear and freedom; From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding; Mennonites work with soldiers who turn their backs on war; Mennonites and other churches step up Darfur relief]

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