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Words from West Africa: Lumana Makes “Small Small” into Big Change

Written by Lena Alfi

After a long, scenic drive heading east along the coast of Ghana, our van pulled into a quaint village called Anloga. Positioned alongside a main road, the shops and homes of Anloga are only a five-minute walk from the ocean. As a result, our first whiff of Anloga air was consumed by the smell of dried fish. We arrived at the Lumana house where we were greeted by Eric. He is the Country Director of Lumana in Ghana, and graciously hosted us. Lumana is an organization founded in Seattle that provides financial services and small loans to Ghanaians living in poverty.

The Lumana house is in the center of town and easily accessible to every street shop, food stands and local bank. After dinner at a nearby restaurant (which consisted of chicken and jolof – a delicious tomato based rice dish), we rested up in our mosquito tents and prepared for the following day to meet Lumana loan recipients.

Women fishmongers

We started off the next day by squeezing into a local shuttle (Ghanaians don’t waste any space – there are always seem to be 3 people per seat), and driving up the coast to a farm. There we met our first clients of the day. George and Joseph are brothers who own a few acres of land and mostly farm peppers and tomatoes. They have quickly become some of the most successful farmers in the area and have used Lumana loans to build up their product. Their plans for expansion include farming carrots and onions, which will require pipes for irrigation. Lumana is working on fundraising about 2000 USD to support this. Aside from their farming business, the brothers have come up with some very entrepreneurial and socially conscious ideas, including a fish farm, a hostel, and scholarship money to support schooling for their employees. As we walked through their fields, we were amazed at how different some fruit can look without all the hormones and preservatives we tend to use in the US!

After leaving the farm, we walked to the beach to find Dashi, a local fishmonger who spends hours in the sun waiting for fishermen to reel in their fish nets so she can buy, dry and sell fish in the market. Dashi is one of many fishmongers who are women, and they all surround the beach daily to negotiate fish prices. As the sun was blazing in the middle of the day, we were all amazed at how effortlessly these women endured the heat to make a profit of under $10. We could barely last 20 minutes!

 

Monica, SueJin, Lena and Nancy with Christie and her staff

After recuperating from the heat, we headed down the street from the Lumana house to visit Christie, a tailor who, with Lumana loans, opened a shop where she currently employs 7 young tailors and is one of the most successful tailors in the town. Aside from being extremely sweet, welcoming, and thankful to Lumana’s services, we were most impressed with how beautiful her shop was! She is an inspiring success story of how far a small loan can go – beginning with one tailor and resulting in a business with young women employees and a large clientele.

We visited another male tailor with similar success before heading to Senna and Appalonia’s home. Senna is a successful businessman who built upon Anloga’s many tomato farms. He started a cannery that purchases malformed or old tomatoes that would be otherwise wasted from surrounding farmers, and purees and cans them. Senna has built an impressive clientele of customers from all across West Africa, who he sells canned tomato puree to, and has quickly become the most popular and successful businessman in town. He has benefited from Lumana loans by purchasing equipment, buckets and jars for his business.

Appalonia with a bottle of tomato puree

We had a wonderful experience in Anloga. Thank you to Eric, who was an amazing host who lined up inspirational clients for us to meet. Thank you to Anloga for welcoming us so warmly, and sharing your stories with us! Our time with Lumana was eye opening to the power of “small small” (as Ghanaians often say) loans to make big, sustainable change.

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