Women mixing the pickle in their workroom
19 November 2009
The Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative (CYCI) is a holistic development model that provides enterprise training, affordable loans for small businesses, life skills development, mentoring and support to young entrepreneurs with the potential for self-employment
After it was piloted in Guyana, India, Solomon Islands and Zambia, some components of the initiative have since been replicated in a further 12 countries. In India alone, more than one thousand businesses have been set up as a result of loans from the Commonwealth.
Getting out of a pickle
Six years ago Kamala Varma depended entirely on her husband to provide money for even the simplest household purchases.
‘I was just a housewife looking after the children and waiting for my husband to cater for everything we needed,’ she recalls.
Today, the mother of two has a steady income, part of which she uses to offset some of the family’s expenses, while saving the remainder for further investments in the future.
Her turn of fortune has been steady and gradual ever since she decided, together with nine other women in her village, to form a self–help women’s group making seasonal pickle, which they sell at a profit.
These Indian women set up this business known as Pragathi (Progress), which makes seasonal pickle, after receiving funding from the Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative.
‘This opportunity [to work] has helped me contribute at home and even lend money to my husband. We enjoy a much better relationship at home now,’ says Maya Devi, another member of the group.
Baking a better future
Pine tarts, cheese rolls and Guyana’s famous black cake, consisting of rum and fruit, are just a few of the delicacies on sale at Paul Lennard’s bakery.
Set up over four years ago in Alness, a buzzing village in the heart of the County of Berbice on Guyana’s east coast, his business caters for a wide variety of local customers. Mr Lennard is another beneficiary of the Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative.
Before establishing his bakery business, Mr Lennard would ride around local villages on his bicycle selling ‘popsicles’ to the local community. During this time he admits that although he knew he was turning over a small profit, he never understood how much it cost to make one of these ice-lollies.
Since then his business knowledge has developed through training he received on how to efficiently operate a business, which was facilitated by this Commonwealth initiative.
‘I now feel more well-rounded and can confidently sit down and write out a business plan. I am able to market what the community wants,’ he says.
His bakery shop was given an initial loan of £350, which was paid back within a year, followed by a further £450 that he fully repaid in 18 months.
The Big Picture: Why don’t entrepreneurs just get a loan from a bank?
Most banks find it too expensive to administer the small loans usually sought by small-scale entrepreneurs. This leaves young entrepreneurs in a tough situation. Without access to funding from banks they lack the credit to start up, or build on their businesses.
CYCI was envisaged to be a model for youth enterprise initiated by the Commonwealth in partnership with local organisations. It is based on the perspective that there needs to be a more enabling environment for young people to access credit and a better understanding about youth entrepreneurship in particular. The CYCI model has since been replicated across the regions in which it was piloted and also taken up by other Commonwealth countries.
Many young people in the Commonwealth now have the funding and training to start their own businesses. They can earn a decent living and break free from the cycle of unemployment and poverty.