Small Loans Return Big Gains for Women in Chad

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As Maira Mafakassou unlocks the door to her home on the outskirts of the city of Bol in Chad’s Lake Region, she can't help but smile.

“I always dreamed of having a home made from concrete,” she says, waving at the exterior of her house. “And a tin roof,  ... metal doors and windows—not like the straw homes I grew up in. They always had to be rebuilt. This is a real home, and I built it.”


woman stands outside home in Chad

Maira Mafakassou was able to build a cement house thanks to the loans she took from the Savings and Internal Lending Community, or SILC, group, as part of CRS' STaR II program in Chad. Previously, she lived in a house made of straw, which had to be rebuilt each year.

Photo by Jennifer Lazuta/CRS


That this dream came true is thanks, she says, to her participation in a Savings and Internal Lending Community, or SILC group, which is a part of Catholic Relief Services’ Stabilization and Reconciliation in the Lake Chad Region, or STaR II, project.

SILC is a savings-led microfinance approach that provides a safe place for people to save and borrow money, which they could then use to invest in, or start or grow their small businesses. Participation in SILC increases social cohesion by building trust among members. This consequently results in greater financial inclusion of marginalized groups who are often excluded from formal financial services.

“At the beginning, it was complicated, but after the trainings [from CRS], everything goes smoothly,” Maira says. “This is like a savings bank for us, but we don’t have to meet any of the hard criteria [at a bank for loans].”


women examine register in Chad

Maira Mafakassou, center, president of the Ndoutada savings group in Bol, Chad, checks over the register, where each member's weekly savings deposits, loans, penalties and solidarity fund contributions are recorded.

Photo by Jennifer Lazuta/CRS


To access bank credit in Chad, one must be a customer of a bank and have an employment contract or real estate guarantee, which is not usually feasible for many low-income individuals in marginalized communities. However, in a SILC group, it is the trust among members that matters the most.

Maira is the president of the 26-member group called Djoutada, which means ”help each other” in the local language. It is now in its third cycle of loans. Maira was able to use the money she borrowed last year—around $650—to buy the cement and other materials for her house.

Other members have used their loan money to jump-start their projects and earn extra income.


woman processes peanuts in Chad

Agnes Morsadi, a member of the Ndoutada savings group in Bol, Chad transforms raw peanuts into peanut butter, peanut oil and other snacks, using loans to buy peanuts in bulk, which reduces her costs and increases her profits.

Photo by Jennifer Lazuta/CRS


Agnes Morsadi, a 27-year-old mother of three, says that she uses the loans to buy raw peanuts in bulk. This reduces costs and allows her to increase her profits after transforming the peanuts into peanut butter, peanut oil and other peanut-based snacks.

“Life is so much easier now.” she says. “Having some extra money, I can afford more food and pay for my children’s school uniforms and fees. I am so grateful for this group.”


STaR II is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development via the German Development Bank. Phase I started in 2019 in Chad, Niger and Nigeria, while Phase II launched in September 2021 and includes Cameroon. The project has four components, including infrastructure development/rehabilitation, economic revitalization, social cohesion and local governance. In Chad, CRS partners with a local partner, Caritas N’Djamena, to implement the project.