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Here's an example of a micro-enterprise that has matured and expanded beyond what is sometimes called a "survival business." This stand in Iringa, Tanzania, is owned by a woman named Hamida and offers everything from soda pop to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Five Talents' micro-enterprise development project in Tanzania serves only women and offers both microcredit and microsavings services. Our partners in the country are the Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF) and the Anglican Diocese of Ruaha.
Iringa, meanwhile, is a town in central Tanzania with a population of approximately 115,000 people, many of whom rely on small enterprises like this one to provide an income for themselves and their families.
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Perhaps you already have 5 books on your must-read list for 2013. Or maybe you have more like 50. Either way, we hope you'll read at least a couple of the following picks over the next 12 months. We're recommending titles that approach poverty from a variety of perspectives. Whether you are a development specialist or someone who simply loves a good story, we have you covered.
The Dragon's Gift
If you're interested in Africa and would like to learn more about the aid and investments that are flowing into the continent, then Deborah Brautigam's The Dragon's Gift is a must-read. The author has spent decades studying China's investment and aid packages to African governments. Besides offering a timely and ground-breaking analysis of China's activity on the continent, Brautigam also provides context so that we can understand how China's approach to aid and investment differs from that of the United States and other Western nations. For a great review of the book, click here.
Where China Meets India
If you'd like to learn more about one of the countries where Five Talents works, we recommend this book about Myanmar (Burma). Last year, the Burmese government made news by launching a series of reforms, including a loosening of media controls and an embrace of democratic elections. What was once one of the most closed societies in the world was suddenly opening its doors to the West and inviting investment to help spur development. Where China Meets India, by Thant Myint-U, is an engrossing travelogue that shows just how fast Myanmar is changing.
A Free Man
If you want to read a profile of an individual who is struggling to escape a world of poverty, look no further than Aman Sethi's A Free Man. The author, a correspondent for The Hindu, focuses his non-fiction narrative on the life of a homeless day-laborer in Delhi, India. The fast-paced story takes the reader into a world that few of us in the West have ever seen. Esther Duflo, co-author of Poor Economics (another great book that we have written about), calls Sethi's book "a beautiful work of journalism," adding: "What starts as classic ethnography becomes a gripping story, and ends as a homage to a lost friend."
Through the Eye of a Needle
If you enjoy history and would like to learn more about the early church and Christians' view of wealth and poverty, read Peter Brown's acclaimed Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD. Brown, a respected historian, excels at evoking the life of the ancients through colorful prose and through profound readings of saints like Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome. As Christianity Today puts it, Brown lets us "hear the heartbeat of late Roman and early Christian civilization."
When Helping Hurts
If you'd like to learn about how the Christian church has helped – and hurt – the cause of the impoverished around the world, then pick up Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert's When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself. The book was re-released in 2012 with a new foreword and two new chapters. Readers interested in learning more about the philosophy that informs Five Talents' approach to micro-enterprise development will find this book particularly helpful.
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We recently blogged about Carolina, who runs two micro-enterprises in Tanzania. Here, she's working at her poultry enterprise, which produces about 30 eggs per day. She also runs a soap-making business that targets the university student population in her community of Iringa.
Carolina is in her 4th loan cycle, and her most recent loan of 200,000 Tsh ($125) was used to improve the cleaning process for her poultry project.
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We're excited to share with you our 2011-2012 Annual Report for the fiscal year running from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. Click here to download the PDF.
In the report, you'll find all of the latest financial figures and program statistics, as well as stories, photos and highlights from every one of Five Talents' programs.
The report also features beautiful illustrations from one of our volunteers, Laura Bauder. So a great big thank-you to Laura, who also took on the task of designing the report.
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In this photo, Hidaya is preparing the legumes that she uses for her pastry business in Tanzania. She sells her pasties at a nearby school and to others in her community. Before joining a savings and loan group with Five Talents' partner, the Mama Bahati Foundation, Hidaya could not afford to buy the legumes in bulk. Now, with the help of a loan, she is able to buy her ingredients in bulk and, thus, save money and increase her profit margin.
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In this photo, Carolina in Tanzania works with her assistant to make a batch of soap, which she packages and markets to university students who live in her community in Iringa. The nearest university is just a few kilometers away.
Carolina also has a poultry micro-enterprise, for which her 32 hens produce approximately 30 eggs per day.
She is in her 4th loan cycle, and her most recent loan of 200,000 Tsh ($125) was used to improve the cleaning process for her poultry project.
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Editor's note: Several members of our UK team, including the author of this post, Mahoo Lyimo, just returned from a program visit in Tanzania. They brought back some incredible stories about the women Five Talents and its partner, the Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF), are serving in the country. Here is one such story. For more on our Tanzania program, click here.
Carolina was among the first women served by Five Talents' partner in Iringa, Tanzania, the Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF). She attended the first training session conducted by Five Talents back in 2006.
Initially, she did not take out a loan because she was already paying off one from another provider. Following the death of her husband in 2009, however, she decided to join MBF because she required a more manageable loan. Previously, she had been a housewife; now she needed to support her two children.
Carolina has since developed two main businesses. For one, she keeps poultry. Presently, she has 32 hens and 4 roosters. They produce approximately 30 eggs per day, which she sells locally. More recently, she has also started a liquid soap business. She makes the soap in her house (approximately 10 liters per batch), packages it and then moves around her local area selling it.
Carolina has also managed to make some additional income by renting part of her house to two families.
Most importantly, she has witnessed a growth in profits in both businesses – especially with the soap. She has been targeting the large student population who live within the local community (a university is 5 km away). Carolina also employs a helper to assist her with her businesses.
Carolina is in her 4th loan cycle, and her most recent loan of 200,000 Tsh ($125) was used to improve the cleaning process for her poultry project. She now feels that she is producing more nutritious eggs.
She used one of her previous loans to purchase a sewing kit, which she used to produce and sell furniture coverings.
Since joining Five Talents' local partner MBF, Carolina has learned to think on a much larger scale in terms of what she is capable of doing. She has also been able to share her experiences and lessons learned with the members in her savings and loan group. Lastly, she has been able to track improvements in her living standards.
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Entrepreneur Stan Kriz has set up five or six businesses in his time, but he almost certainly has never faced a challenge quite like this one: training Burmese church leaders, housewives and farmers to set up their own micro-enterprises.
Myanmar, a country of 60 million, is in the early stages of opening its doors to political reform, which will help its economy begin to mirror those of other developing Asian nations. Currently, about 15 million Burmese are living on less than $1.25 a day.
Five Talents has been invited by the Anglican archbishop in Myanmar, Stephen Oo, to set up a network of business training seminars that can help locals find new ways to provide for themselves and create a sustainable living.
During the recent July trip, the Five Talents team was asked to give advanced training to church and community leaders who would in turn train local parishioners on how to come up with a business plan.
"It was our goal to train a dozen people who were church employees ... so that these dozen people would themselves take ownership of the curriculum, practice it, and go out and present it with us so that we knew they had actually captured it," said Kriz, who authored the training curriculum that Five Talents uses in the field.
The team encouraged the trainers to take ownership of the curriculum. For example, in one activity, they asked each group to identify an example story that did not quite fit within their culture and replace it with one that did.
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Editor's note: We've asked guest blogger Chad Jordan, founder and chief consultant at Cornerstone International, to write about a topic that is close to his heart – and ours: building the capacity of locals so they can lift themselves out of poverty. Chad, who has a book coming out on August 8, shares Five Talents' vision for empowering women and men so that they can create a sustainable living for themselves and their families.
I have a secret. It's sort of hard to admit: Empowering the underserved isn't...about me. There, I said it. Development and poverty eradication strategies aren't about us in the West – at least they shouldn't be.
The goal of empowering the under-served should be to build local capacity and encourage local solutions to local problems. Western actors shouldn't be in the driver's seat.
Let me tell you a quick story. I helped set up a microfinance bank in Tanzania. I drafted the mission statement in conjunction with local leaders, we met with lawyers to obtain a banking license, we sat in meetings to determine the bank's direction, and I drafted an English version of the business training materials that would later be translated into Swahili.
It was a very collaborative atmosphere. We all worked together, we all participated, and we all got on the same page. I knew what my role was – it was to share the knowledge I had of what worked and what did not work in other places. I was there as a strategic advisor. Things went very smoothly.