Wednesday, December 28, 2005

TRICKLE UP PROGRAM : Creating A Flood Of Microenterprises

One place where I can usually find interesting players in the international NGO community is the Global Giving web site. Whenever I am not sure what I want to write about, I just take a look at their list of partners, and project sponsors and I never fail to find something that inspires me. Today, I found the "Trickle Up Program".

Trickle Up was founded in 1979 by two widely recognized workers in the field of international development - Mildred Robbins Leet and her late husband Glen Leet. The Leets, founded Trickle Up to help alleviate poverty and empower the poor because they recognized the limits of "trickle down" economics, because the huge sums of money given at top levels never seemed to find its way to the people who need it the most.

Trickle Up applies small amounts of money - combined with basic business training - directly to the poorest of the poor to help them initiate microenterprises.

The Leets began Trickle Up's first projects in Dominica (one of the Caribbean's poorest countries) with $1,000 of their own money. They traveled to Dominica and with the assistance of several local agencies, helped to launch ten businesses with ten $100 conditional grants. The first entrepreneurs started their own microenterprises. Some sold various items including eggs, building blocks, school uniforms, and jams and jellies. Through the use of business plans and reports provided Trickle Up, the entrepreneurs were able to carefully plan and track business expenses and earnings.

Almost 25 years later, some of these entrepreneurs are still in business today, and Trickle Up has helped the poorest people in 120 countries to start or expand over 135,000 businesses as a viable route out of poverty.

Trickle Up Program's mission is "to help the lowest income people worldwide take the first step up out of poverty, by providing conditional seed capital and business training essential to the launch of a small business". Since 1979, Trickle Up has started over 135,000 businesses in more than 120 countries. Currently, Trickle Up focuses its efforts in Cambodia, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Mali, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, and Uganda and the United States.

Trickle Up has been working in Africa since 1979 and has helped in the launching or expansion of 46,417 businesses on the Continent. In 2004 (fiscal year) alone it launched 3,823 businesses. This was done through by working with 42 Coordinating Partner Agencies in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Uganda.

Trickle Up's efforts support and complement their partners' programs in a variety of areas including: community development, agriculture, conservation, women's empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness, civic and nonformal education, and inclusion of people with disabilities. Trickle Up provides vital capitalization for sustainable farming, enterprises that conserve natural resources, and businesses that empower women economically and socially. The organization also assists families that have fallen victim to HIV/AIDS by helping them to cover medical costs. Additionally they give AIDS orphans tools for survival. By offering opportunities to people with disabilities Trickle Up opens a door for them to self-reliance.

Data collected by Trickle Up and published in its FY 2004 Report show:

78 percent of the Trickle Up entrepreneurs in Africa were women.

37 percent of the entrepreneurs were under the age of 27.

84 percent of the entrepreneurs considered their Trickle Up business as their primary source of income.

The best way to give you a clearer picture of what Trickle Up is doing is to give you examples. So, I have posted verbatim text from their web site regarding several of their projects. Below are stories from five different countries where Trickle Up is working.


"At 5:00 am, Adane Debekoye starts to pound the millet and other diverse ingredients, such as baobab fruit and pepper, which make up the locally popular cream drink. By 7:00 am, she is forming the ingredients into balls which customers then buy to mix with water and drink. Her busiest time of day is between 10:00 and 11:00 am, when people, especially women, are looking to supplement their morning meal and tide them over until lunch. Though she has been doing this for a long time, the Trickle Up grant has allowed her to work independently throughout the year. As Adane testified, "before the grant I had to take small credit from neighbors and family. Now I can work and resell at ease." In addition to independence and continuity of work, she is now able to buy more meat and rice for her family and better clothes. Trickle Up has also increased her "courage de travailler (courage to work)." In addition to ameliorating conditions within her family, with her profits she has slowly been able to diversify the products she sells - to onions and lemons, as well as put aside some money for savings. As the 'crème locale' helps nourish people in order to continue their busy lives, Trickle Up has helped nourish Adane's enterprise to self-sufficiency."

Burkina Faso
Agnes Yanogo and Françoise Ouedraogo

"Agnes and Françoise are two young women who live in an informal settlement area in the capital city of Ouagadougou. Their parents are too poor to pay housing costs in the city center where land prices and rents are high. A few years ago, they spent most of their time at home helping their mothers with various household tasks. After hearing about a training program at the local Centre de Formation de Jeunes Filles (Training Center for Young Women), they enrolled and studied their respective craft for three years -- Agnes learned to knit and Françoise learned to embroider. Because their parents are so poor, the women struggled to produce the crafts they were trained to create. Agnes, for example, would sometimes sell her old clothes in order to buy only a small amount of her most basic materials.

They heard about Trickle Up through GRADE, a Coordinating Partner Agency based in Ouagadougou. After participating in a talk on human rights and a motivational seminar on running a small business, Agnes and Françoise received their first grant and were able to buy all the necessary materials to get their activities going. Initially, they obtained clients through family relations, but in time passers-by and friends of clients were impressed by the quality of their work and started to place orders. GRADE also helps them sell their products by bringing samples to events attended by wealthy Burkinabé and expatriates. When Agnes sells her products, she takes out the price of yarn and cloth and then gives the profit to her mother to hold. When her father is unable to give the family any money, Agnes helps them buy food and other necessities. Françoise is also able to assist her family when times are difficult and both entrepreneurs are able to buy themselves new clothes and other goods they would never have been able to buy before. Grateful for the independence that the grant has already allowed them to attain, Agnes and Françoise dream of opening a large boutique so that they can devote their time to crafting instead of cooking and cleaning."


"Aïssa Moussa is a Peul woman living in Lamorde, an impoverished neighborhood on the periphery of the capital, Niamey. For the last ten years, Aïssa has gotten up early one morning each week to go to a rural area, to buy milk and butter from other Peul, who are traditionally cattle herders. The journey takes Aïssa the entire day, but she says it is well worth her time since she is able to sell the dairy products at a high price in Niamey.

When Aïssa received her Trickle Up grant early in 2002, her business had been faltering and she did not have enough money to buy as much milk and butter as she could carry each week. With the Trickle Up grant she bought a new pail and was able to buy more milk and butter and increase her profits. Aïssa says her business is doing well, especially during Ramaddan, when women prepare special meals and celebrate each night."


"Grace Kabatambuzi is a polio victim who has difficulty walking. She has a little stand along the main road, and has somebody carry all her stock to the stand every day at about 4:00 PM, when she starts selling. Grace was visited by the village committee of Kweterana Disabled Association, who selected her to receive the Trickle Up grant. She used it to buy groundnuts, beans, soda, tomatoes, soap, salt and paraffin. Since her brother is very ill, Grace uses part of her profit for his medical care. She lives with her mother and one child, conceived after rape. Because primary education is free in Uganda, her child is able to attend primary school. However, Grace still has to pay for books, pens, lunch and a school uniform-all of which she can afford, thanks to her business. Grace has also bought a goat and reinvested some of her profit in her business. In addition, she has received a loan of 10,000 Uganda shillings ($5.70) through a local savings and credit program. She keeps meticulous records of both her savings and her loan payments so she can track both. Grace's progress towards self-reliance, in spite of her disability, is inspiring."


"Once a day laborer for neighboring farmers, Duncan Mwangi Mukoga is now the proud owner of MM Glass Mart. Duncan first went into business for himself as a photographer, renting a camera from a friend. He soon expanded into making wooden frames to accompany the photos. When Duncan received funding from Trickle Up, he decided to respond to customers' demands to stock glass for the picture frames. He purchased glass sheets from Nairobi, shaped them in his workshop into frames, and soon expanded into windows, mirrors, and other custom orders. Duncan's customer base has grown ever since, his being the only glass shop in town. Before he started his own business, Duncan's family struggled to makes ends meet. Now, with the profits from MM Glass Mart, Duncan helps to support his parents and younger siblings with food and clothing, and he also saves regularly with the Mwicingiri group. If he can access a loan in the future, Duncan hopes to buy his own camera to increase his profit margins in the photography side of the business.

Now, these are five stories, Trickle Up has135,000. I'm not suggesting that you read all 135,000, but there is a lot more to learn by visiting their site.


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