A Store is More Than What’s on the Shelves

From a U.S. perspective of gigantic grocery stores, you might not think the local shop is much of anything. Some coffee, sugar, soup, soap on the shelves, a few vegetables and soft drinks in the fridge, maybe some chicken in the freezer. But the neighbors say it’s changed their lives for the better.

When you live in a remote mountain village, getting to town is a huge undertaking. You have to get up at 1 a.m. to walk to the main road to catch the bus. It takes hours to reach your destination even if the bus is running and the roads aren’t washed out. By the time you get back home, it is late night again. You want to make the trip worthwhile, but what if you don’t have funds to buy more than what’s absolutely essential?

With a little training and seed money for inventory from local partner CODESO (Corporación para el Desarrollo Sostenible), six women had the courage to start a modest store in their village. Their original stock was limited, but they knew what people wanted and needed most. As they earned more, they were able to increase their offerings, invest in a refrigerator/freezer, and make fewer but more productive buying runs. Since receiving agriculture training from CODESO, they’re even selling some of the produce they raise in their kitchen gardens. They say the store was a blessing during the pandemic, and it was a great feeling to support their community by providing access to nutrition.

Many of these women are single mothers who feel grateful that running the store makes it possible for them feed to their kids and earn an income without support from a husband. Participating in the program’s savings groups helps, too, because members can take out loans that would otherwise be out of reach if they did not have a bank account (in town!), a co-signer, property title, and the leisure to sit out a 30-day waiting period for approval. At monthly meetings, each person contributes a quota and pays interest on the loans they take out for seeds, house repairs, medical care, and small businesses.

The savings and loans groups teach the communities how to organize and work together while keeping their resources and decision-making power local. In one instance, a member had a loan out but died before she could repay it. The group decided to pardon the loan to help the family. Having the power to do that is the kind of thing that can motivate communities and reweave the social fabric.

Honduras Orocuina and Liure Program Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner CODESO (Corporación para el Desarrollo Sostenible)

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