Written by Dawn Duncan Harrell
Naba Shuban eases into the crammed cubicle room with three other Turame loan recipients. The stiff blue of her dress billows around an ample frame. In a country where people are more often skinny with hunger and disease, her girth slows her movements to a dignified pace and commands the onlookers’ attention and respect.
“I started with Turame when my second child was born,” she tells us. “My first loan was one hundred thousand BF ($65 USD). I began by selling peanuts, made a profit, and took another loan. By then I had to care for two children, so I moved my market location. I used to go to Kampala [Uganda] to buy socks and clothes to sell here. I worked with other business women. I made a profit and opened a shop.”
Turame is a microfinance offshoot of World Relief, the only MFI in Burundi to meet Kiva criteria. It serves the economically active poor, facilitating small businesses loans through solidarity groups, where the group stands as collateral for its individual entrepreneurs. Turame loan officers verify potential clients and Turame staff provide training in policies and procedures, developing bylaws, and filling out applications. Loans are repaid every six months and increase as the group proves its reliability.
Turame targets women like Naba because women don’t have as many opportunities to get loans as men. With access, they take smaller amounts and repay at better rates than men. Turame’s default rate in 2013 (the last year for which I have data) was 4.7%, better than the US.
While the institution currently operates in 14 of Burundi’s 17 provinces, it continues to explore ways to reach the rural poor, those mostly engaged in agriculture. These loans are more difficult and more necessary because farmers need the money all at once and repay up to nine months later when they harvest. Challenging access to remote locations, the small size of loans, and tenuous collateral drive Turame’s interest rates higher than other MFIs.
On the other hand, Turame acts its name—“turame” is a Kirundi word that literally translates “live long and prosper.” Compared to its competitors, it excels at quick disbursement and has a reputation of listening and responding to clients. In January of 2013, a market fire affected 600 of Turame’s clients. Turame refinanced their loans and adjusted scheduled payments to help them get back on their feet.
Naba is no stranger to such ups and downs. “My business was damaged because I wasn’t around,” she explains, “so I changed businesses.
“Now I have four children. My loan is one million Burundi francs. I am able to buy tomatoes and sell them in the market. I pay for school fees in private schools. I pay rent. I provide food and take care of medical expenses. My plan is to buy my own house.
“I thank Turame,” she concludes. “And those people who support Turame.”
You can loan to a Turame solidarity group like Naba’s using Kiva. Click here.
There are some things we do better together. That’s why Kiva pools your $25-loans to Turame’s solidarity groups. That’s why World Relief and HOPE International started Turame. That’s why Colonial Church partners with World Relief in Burundi.