Fantsuam Project Update
By Greg Jones (22) 66-68
The Fantsuam Foundation has recently been awarded a N40 million (more than $250,000) loan by Partners for Development (http://www.pfd.org). This is good news in that it confirms that FON found a trustworthy organization that has a microlending program others endorse as well. But it also strains their capacity to effectively put that much money to work in microloans. We thought we were doing a good thing extending their capital from $50,000 to $56,000 during the last year. How about quintupling their capital?
Since this is explicitly a loan, Fantsuam needs to put the money to work earning interest in order for the deal to work for them. But it also means that right now they don’t need any additional money from FON for microlending. However, they do need additional money for other aspects of their microlending program. For example, their loan officers often have trouble traveling to remote villages. They have one four-wheel drive vehicle and two Peugeots. The Peugeots are not designed for the Nigerian roads, so they frequently break down. This results in missed appointments or delays in returning from servicing remote loans. Upgrading their cars would significantly improve their chances of putting the $250,000 to work. Consequently, the major focus for the FON – Fantsuam relationship will likely be shifting away from microfinance.
Fantsuam (Director John Dada specifically) is a font of new ideas for attacking poverty in Southern Kaduna. Furthermore, with VSO working on site at Fantsuam, we have excellent communications so we will be well informed of what our money is accomplishing. Once again the confluence of VSO and Fantsuam comes to the fore.
Other recent Fantsuam accomplishments include winning the NPCA’s Africa Rural Connect competition (http://arc. peacecorpsconnect.org/ Round1Winners). The idea is to use internet and communications technology to provide better information to guide rural farmers to the best time to bring their produce to market. For details, see http://arc. peacecorpsconnect. org/view/299. Cicely Brown, the VSO volunteer who wrote the application for the Africa Rural Connect competition, was interviewed on Voice of America September 9th about the program. The program was called Zittnet (Fantsuam’s name for its communications network), so if you hear a British voice talking about that or Agricultural Network Centers (where the market information will be communicated) on National Public Radio, you will know that they are talking about Fantsuam’s project.
VSO volunteer Cicely Brown with Isaac and Haruna at the Fantsuam Foundation.
Fantsuam has also been selected by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to provide one of 109 Community Communications Centers. This will make use of and allow them to extend their internet services and enable local entrepreneurs to create cyber cafes. They are also building a Food Store funded by another international agency to improve their nutritional support program for people living with HIV/AIDS. So Fantsuam has many things going on in addition to microlending that FON support can extend or enhance.