Grace Obike

Struggling Amazons of Nigeria's rural economy: Ogbonge Women's Co-operative

Fatou shows her processed products to customers

Stories: Women, Entrepreneurs, Rural Economy, fishing communities.

The first and second Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to end poverty and hunger but in Nigeria, women constitute over 60% of the poor according to a report published by the International Journal of Business and Management.

Nigerian women continue to be more financially excluded than men. Only 45% of women use formal financial services, compared with 56% of men, according to data from Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA).

Also, UNICEF reports that Nigeria’s 40 million women of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years of age) suffer a disproportionately high level of health issues surrounding birth. The latest figures show a maternal mortality rate of 576 per 100,000 live births, the fourth-highest on Earth. 

August 6, 2020. The alkali (the village head) in front of the women farmers at the Bantaba in Samba Tacko Village Upper River Region, The Gambia.
A member making her payment
Ongoing meeting

Focused on lifting their families out of what may be generational poverty, about fifty married women with little or no education, residing in Sheda Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory have divided themselves into two microcredit groups of 25 members each, pooling their scant resources towards the socio-economic lifting of all. With ages ranging from their early 20s to their 62 years old leader, they all come together at 2pm every Saturday to contribute the little money they made during the week into a common purse for further productivity.

Some contribute as much as N50,000 (about $100) and others can go as low as N500 (about $1). The money is, in turn, loaned out to members of the group in need of financial aid to start or expand a really small business or pay children’s school fees. Loan beneficiaries – all within the circle - are allowed to pay in installments at an interest rate of five percent.

For most parents, the news of their children's admission into a higher institution of learning comes with excitement and the feeling that the child is making progress and might be able to assist the family in the nearest future but for mothers of six and small scale farmers, Hadiza Abubakar and her retired husband, the news of their daughter's admission into Nasarawa State University came with more dread than excitement because her husband's pension barely feeds the family and the proceeds from her farm was nothing to write home about.

The Ogbonge women

She ran to the rural women’s group that she belongs to, collected a loan of N30,000 (a little over $50), chose a six months’ period for installment payback, including the three months’ grace period that every borrower gets before the commencement of payment.  Today, she is a proud parent of an undergraduate.

"I did not attempt to go to the bank for a loan because I don't believe banks are meant for people like me; moreover, what will I present as collateral?" she said.

For Rita Augustine's children, this Christmas is going to be exciting because she has been saving money every other week with her group to enable her to buy them beautiful new clothes for the festivity when she collects her savings in mid-December but apart from her savings, she was able to access a loan of N100,000 (about $200) which she invested in her poultry business.

She explained that her business was failing before the loan. She went to the market every day to purchase the feeds she needed but this affected her business because her profit margin was based on the daily fluctuation of prices. With the loan, she bought all the feeds and medications needed for the three weeks period that it normally takes to raise her birds before selling them off in bulk.

"Because I was able to buy the feeds in bulk, the profit that I made this time around was more than I ever imagined that I could make in this business and I was able to pay back all the money in four months."

Rita Augustine searching for her card

Who they are

Food seller Vivian Livinus said the women refer to themselves as the "Ogbonge Women", a pidgin word used to qualify strong, industrious, and dependable women. Specifically, ‘ogbonge’ implies genuineness, truthfulness, correctness, and being original. They came together in 2019, when they could no longer bear the hardship being meted out to them by the country's failing economy.

She said: "We quickly learned to save and lend to one another when we realized that we were on the verge of losing everything we had labored for over the years”.

But the group’s leader, Justina Ihenewengwa, a cassava farmer, explained that the group is actually under the umbrella body of the Small Scale Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria (SWOFON), a coalition of smallholder women farmer groups across the Nigerian federation who are working together to promote women-friendly agricultural policies and women's access to land.

Nice to meet you

Contact us:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Powered by Kagin's consulting
Designed by MI design