This article records the story of Rhoda Markos as told to David Klassen, MCC Nigeria representative.
JOS, Nigeria — Rhoda Markos, her husband and three children lived in a rural village near Jos, Nigeria, working as subsistence farmers – eating what they grew and selling what they could to generate a minimal income. Like 60 per cent of Nigerians in 2011, her family survived on less than $1 a day.
When Markos’ newborn baby developed a high fever, she had no money to purchase medicine. The local pharmacist refused her credit because half the village already owed the pharmacy money. A kind person gave her enough money for transportation to the nearest hospital and back, but at the hospital her child died.
In Nigeria, a dead body must be carried in a special hire vehicle, which Markos could not afford. So she strapped her dead baby on her back and boarded the next public bus back to her village. The family buried the baby the next day.
Markos was deeply troubled by this experience. She vowed she would do everything she could so that she and her family would never have to experience that kind of vulnerability again.
Around that time, Markos learned that a woman was coming to her village to teach income generation skills. The woman was Margaret Ahmed, executive director from Home Makers, a long-time partner of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
Home Makers is an interfaith organization that empowers Nigerian women to financially support their families. MCC supports Home Makers, helping Ahmed and her staff offer income generation and business development training, co-operative savings groups and microloans.
Markos knew this practical training was what she needed. She still had no money, and the cost of the training, she heard, was 200 niara ($1.22). She tried to sell the potatoes she had just harvested, but found no buyers.
The next day Ahmed arrived in the village and began setting up for the five-day workshop. When Ahmed saw Markos hanging around the edges, Ahmed asked her if she would be joining the group. When Markos explained her predicament, Ahmed bought the potatoes.
Ahmed taught the women business skills they could use to generate income– making bread, doughnuts, pomade, soap and hair cream. Markos was inspired by making doughnuts, so she accepted the 10,000-niara ($61) start-up loan Ahmed offered.
During the next 10 months, Markos built a successful business selling doughnuts to the students of secondary and primary schools and was able to pay off the loan.
Three years later, Markos has expanded her business interests and is now raising pigs as well. She left her leaky, thatched-roof, mud hut and built a permanent cement floor and tin roof house. She pays the school fees for her children. As a recognized businesswoman in the village, she is frequently consulted by the leaders.
With her developing skills, Markos is determined she will never again experience poverty.
David Klassen is MCC representative in Nigeria.