FALL 2018           


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Check us out on Facebook for information and updates: 
  • New Loan Hub Collaboration in Arua, Uganda  
  • WMI Awarded $75,000 Development Grant by Dining for Women
  • Tanzania Loan Hub Expands to Naiyobi Ward
  • Mushrooms Sprout at the Kibale, Uganda Co-operative
  • Welcome to WMI's Fall Intern Akosua Peprah
  • WMI Engaging High School and College Students and IMF Staff
  • Best Wishes to Former WMI Fellow Kirsten Miner on Her Marriage
WMI has partnered with Arua Women United For Poverty Eradication (AWUFPE) to assist in the launch of
a new loan hub in Arua, Uganda.

Arua District, in northwestern Uganda, is bordered by two of the largest refugee-generating countries in the world: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, with over 1.5 million displaced people within its borders. Over 25%  of the more than 1 million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda live in Arua: 85% are women and children. The U.N. High Commission on Refugees also expects the exodus of refugees into Uganda from the DRC to continue as ongoing militia fighting forces families to flee their homes.

The challenges of feeding, housing, educating and providing medical care to this ever-growing population are enormous. Initially subsisting on provisions provided by world food organizations inside refugee camps, families struggle to integrate into their new environment outside of the camps. This in turn stresses local resources: farmland is scarce, schools are overcrowded, access to clean water is limited, and medical facilities are overwhelmed. Natural resources are stressed and deforestation (tree-cutting for firewood) is accelerating precipitously. Constructive and creative inputs are sorely needed to help ease the misery many local villagers and refugees experience as a result of conflict displacement.

This summer WMI was contacted by Nancy Peed, the former President & CEO of Peach Regional Medical Center in Peach County, GA, who retired in 2015 and began serving as a consultant to the Hospital Director in the Ugandan regional hospital in Arua. She also volunteers in the local schools and supports community development initiatives in neary-by villages.   Women in rural Arua wanted loans to start and expand small businesses so Nancy asked WMI for assistance in starting a loan program.  She raised seed capital and helped the local ladies organize and register a community based organization. WMI assisted with training materials, program documents and loan  funds.

Two m onths ago the program started up in Arua and we were delighted to receive Nancy's description of the launch:
"The loan issue was awesome!  Sitting under a shelter issuing the loans in the pouring, freezing rain, eating soggy Rolexes (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in a chapati), drinking scalding tea, hearing the women's excited words and their musical laughter, counting money, doing the documentation, thumb printing, God all around, some singing in English, then Lugbera, a lot of dancing, laughter, bright smiles and a lot of prayer!  That sums up the day! 22 loans issued! 6.7 million shillings ($1,700)!  Wow!   Can't wait to see how this will all turn out and how it grows from these seeds just planted and watered with thankfulness!"

The baseline survey of the Arua borrowers indicated:
Initial businesses include selling honey, beans, fish and tailoring. Household income is less than $300/year.  Households are large with 5 - 12 people; plus, 75% care for from 1 to 3 orphans. Nearly half live in semi-permanent homes. Top household expenditures are school fees, food and health care. Most cook with firewood they collect or purchase. Only 20% eat 3 meals a day. Most obtain drinking water from a shared hand pump or from a spring. 80% had family members sick with malaria in the last year and 50% had family members sick with typhoid in the last year. 85% indicated it's extremely difficult to pay for medical treatment. 

Two of the new borrowers shared their thoughts on getting their first loans:
Beatrice (left): "This loan rescued me from borrowing from somewhere else, where it would be expensive with a high interest rate.  This loan is supporting my business and helping my family. I had no hope, and I was ready to give up but this has given me hope! The loan has strengthened me to do the work and to expand my business of selling cassava flour!  This loan also allowed me to diversify my business too!  Now I will also sell ground nuts. 

Juliet (right): "I sell honey and this loan helps me to promote my business so I can provide for my family, and pay their school fees!  I want them to go to school."




WMI is delighted to announce that we have been selected to receive a $75,000 sustained grant by Dining for Women, a global giving circle dedicated to eradicating poverty amongst women and girls in the developing world! It is an honor to be recognized by DFW for our results-oriented approach to microfinance.

WMI previously received a $40,000 grant from DFW in 2015. Recognizing the ongoing need for capital to develop both physical infrastructure and human capacity, every three years DFW selects prior grantees to receive $25,000/year for a three year period. This sustained funding gives DFW the opportunity to make a longer-term commitment to a previously featured program. WMI will use this generous grant to further develop our existing loan and training programs.  Ww are very grateful to DFW for this ongoing support!
The WMI loan program in Nainokanoka Ward, Tanzania expanded to Naiyobi Ward this fall.  With a
bustling Maasai village at its center, the ward is located just a few miles inside the northern border of the Nogorongoro Conservation Area, near Empakai Crater and Mount Oldoiny Lengai (Mountain of God), an active volcano. 

WMI partners with West Turville Wells for Tanzania (WTWT), a British NGO, to serve 120 women in the area.  The three day training for the new borrowers included extensive dramas and role playing to illustrate the training topics, as most of the women are illiterate. The weather is now cold so a snack of tea and chapatti helped keep the women fortified. 

The existing loan groups in Nainokanoka Ward continue  to do very well. They meet regularly, always sitting together in a large circle to make their payments so that the members can see each other.  Ongoing training continues during the group meetings. Each of the borrowers has a personalized recording book where loans and payments are painstakingly tracked.  This careful record-keeping has built a bond of trust with the community and borrowers. Money is collected in front of the entire group and stored in a metal strongbox.

Recently, representatives of the five existing loan groups met together at a local school for a conference to share information on operations and brainstorm common challenges they face. Networking among the loan groups is an extremely effective way for them to share ideas and develop ties to one another.  Distances between the groups are great, the unpaved roads are treacherous, and transportation is expensive and erratic.  The opportunities for the various groups to meet in one place are limited so they take full advantage of their time together.

One of the big impacts of the loan program has been the installation of solar lighting. A full 10% of the women have now installed solar panels in their homes, reducing the dependence on candles and dangerous kerosene lamps. Training for the borrowers includes encouraging value-added upgrades to goods and products to increase their value and expand profit margins.

In conjunction with the loan program, WMI also supports health outreach to local families. Mbario, a young Maasai woman whom WTWT sponsored through Medical College, has now completed her Clinical Officer training and joined our local team. She is passionate about teaching and hosts classes for the women, covering family planning, vaccinations and basic sanitation. She also teaches classes for students on the effects of child marriage and female genital mutilation. Providing this information to students is helping change local attitudes that perpetuate gender discrimination.  
This summer WMI partnered with 22 women in the Rukundo International Mushroom Growers to launch a mushroom co-operative in Kibale, Uganda. Joseline Korugyendo is the chairperson of  the group and she has organized the women into working teams to run the project. The ladies spend every afternoon tending to their fungi, having spent the mornings digging in their own gardens and managing their households.
The mushroom growing structure is fully completed and 1,000 seeds have been purchased. The first 200 seeds were inoculated (a process that involves cooking waste from fermented sorghum until it is sterile and then introducing the seeds into the sterile material), placed in plastic bags, and put in a dark room for 21 days until they sprout.   After they sprout, the bags are split and tied with strings to the rafters of the growing rooms, where it takes about 5 days before they reach maturity. When the substrate is completely used up (which takes several weeks), the bag with the seed is discarded. One bag will usually produce mushrooms for several weeks.
The women had already harvested two rounds of mushrooms from these first 200 seeds. The first harvest was 15kg (30 lbs.). Newly inoculated seeds will be added at the rate of 200/week until all 1,000 are growing.  
One seed costs about $.70 (plus another $.25 in supplies) and yields about 3-4 kg (7-8 lbs.) of mushrooms.  The ladies load them up in plastic laundry baskets to take them to market, where they can be sold for about $1.50 - $2.00 per kg (2.2 lbs.).   The 1,000 seeds will need to be replaced roughly every three months. Thus, there is strong potential for the women to make a significant profit when they sell their harvests.
Mushrooms are a very popular delicacy in African cooking. People use them for everything from sauce to stew to stand-alone main dish. They are a cheap source of protein (much less expensive than meat) and contain lots of other nutrients. The upfront capital cost to start growing mushrooms is minimal.  Plus, they do not require a lot of land, which is now at a premium in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa.  Down the road the ladies can consider adding value to their product by drying the mushrooms.  Dried mushrooms (stored properly) can last over a year and they command a higher price in the market-place.


Born and raised in Ghana, Akosua is a recent graduate of Ohio State University, majoring in English literature and Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is a founder of the Mmaakunim Foundation in Ghana, which offers entrepreneurship skills training to ten women selected from the ten regions of Ghana, and collaborates with medical officers and lawyers to assist with business, legal and health training. She is also president of the Ladies Unleashed Network in Ghana, which organizes quarterly mentorship programs for 300 women and semi-annual job training for 400 women. 

Akosua is helping WMI with loan program operations through the fall. She wants to obtain field work experience in microfinance in order to return to Ghana and a career in NGO management.



As a small non-profit, WMI believes it is important for us to forge relationships and participate in local events in order to increase our recognition. Presenting to local high school and college students, participating in panel discussions, and setting up informational booths at non-profit conferences help us raise awareness of our mission of investing in the economic empowerment of rural women in sub-Saharan Africa. These past few months WMI board members have had a variety of opportunities to engage with
the community.

Trix Vandervossen ably represented WMI at the annual IMF Charity Fair. The IMF annual giving campaign and Civic Foundation have been avid supporters of the loan program. As a former IMF staff member, Trix continues to liaison with her colleagues to keep them up to date on WMI's activities.

June Kyakobye (center) led the WMI presentation to the International Development Class at St. Andrew's Episcopal School.  A native Ugandan, June's background gave the students first-hand insight into the challenges of operating a village-level microfinance program in a developing country.

This past week, Robyn Nietert (second from right) joined the panel discussion on girl-child education in developing nation's at American University's Girl Summit Day, sponsored by She's The First, a non-profit t hat empowers college students to become advocates for girls' education in low income nations. 

At these events, we have a chance to meet people who are interested in our outreach and to develop a dialogue on WMI's  mission and goals.  They also provide a chance to network  with other organizations and brainstorm potential program collaborations.


One of the unique aspects of WMI's outreach is our vibrant internship and fellowship program for students and recent college graduates. During the past decade, we have hosted over 100 young adults. We enjoy being able to follow their progress as they pursue graduate degrees and careers, and their lives unfold. We are delighted to congratulate our Resource Fellow in Buyobo for 2016 - 2017, Kirsten Miner, on her recent marriage to Juma Bunkeddeko. 

Kirsten is now an MPH Candidate (May 2019) in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her husband is an agronomist. We wish the happy couple many years of happiness together!

Thank You!

WMI is extremely grateful for all of the support provided by our donors. Your commitment and thoughtfulness has allowed WMI to continue to expand and bring the benefits of economic opportunity to thousands and thousands of village women throughout East Africa.  
One of the most frequent refrains WMI President, Robyn Nietert, hears when she visits the far flung WMI loan hubs each year is: "Thank you for remembering rural women."  

A heartfelt thank you to every one for making our outreach to the rural women of East Africa a reality.
The WMI Board of Directors  
Robyn Nietert    Betsy Gordon    Deborah Smith     Jane Erickson  
      Terry Ciccotelli     Trix Vandervossen    June Kyakobye  
Contact Information
phone: 301-520-0865                   
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