FEATURE STORY

Adèle Banzouzi: “Thanks to LISUNGI, I said no to poverty!”

April 4, 2017


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Adèle Banzouzi, an especially enterprising “mother courage.” 

Photo Franck Bitemo/World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Like many women in Africa, Adèle’s husband’s death could have plunged her into poverty.
  • Widowed, with no possessions, in debt, and with six dependent children, Adèle thought she had hit rock bottom, until she received a CFAF 60,000 payout from a social protection project.
  • This sum gradually enabled her to get back on her feet by starting up several businesses.

BRAZZAVILLE, April 3, 2017—A stocky woman who gestures animatedly, Adèle Banzouzi displays the natural infectious bonhomie of these Congolese mothers who do not seem to be discouraged by any adversity. Her boundless energy and entrepreneurial spirit are a source of inspiration. However, this 55-year-old “mother courage” has endured some really tough times. After losing her husband of 23 years in 2009, she was left alone to raise the six surviving children of the eight that she carried. To make matters worse, in a country where women do not have the same land rights, losing a spouse is often tantamount to deprivation of property. Her in-laws seized the plot of land belonging to her late husband, sending Adèle and her children packing. She was taken in by her family who live in a two-room shack in Ngangouoni, a working-class neighborhood in Makélékélé, the first district in Brazzaville. “I had a small grocery shop that helped me eke out a living with my children. But without my husband’s financial support, I could no longer make ends meet. The debt was just piling up,” she says.

 

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Adèle Banzouzi displays the moral contract she signed with Lisungi, as well as her beneficiary cash transfer booklet and payment schedule. Photo Franck Bitemo/World Bank

 

It was then that she was contacted by the targeting community committee, which was set up by the World Bank-financed Lisungi – safety nets project. In December 2015, she was summoned to the local social assistance office (CAS) in Makélékélé to sign her moral contract with the LISUNGI team and receive her cash transfer beneficiary booklet. She then received her first payout of CFAF 60,000 (approximately US$97), subject to conditions pertaining to her children’s education and health. “This was such a relief for me and I was so happy that I can’t even describe it,” says Adèle. With this small sum, her first order of business was to settle a portion of her debts, and pay for the fees, uniforms, and other school supplies for her three youngest children who were still living with her. Her other three children believed that they were old enough to fend for themselves. She invested the rest of the money in a bread business, and gradually managed to break even and turn a profit.


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Adèle Banzouzi selling her bread at the Château d’eau market in the Ngangouoni neighborhood in Makélékélé. 

Photo Franck Bitemo/World Bank

These encouraging results helped Adèle Banzouzi receive two more payments in March 2016 totaling CFAF 120, 000 (roughly US$194). She paid off the rest of her debt and opted to use CFAF 40,000 to lease a plot of land measuring almost 300 m2 to grow vegetables. To lighten her workload, Adele Banzouzi decided to employ a young man from her neighborhood to help her plow the land and look after her field. She now has about 12 patches of green onions and other vegetables, selling each patch for between CFAF 12,000 and CFAF 15,000 (between US$19 and US$24, approximately). “Thanks to LISUNGI,” Adèle Banzouzi declares as she proudly shows off her vegetable field, “I was able to say no to poverty!

 

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Adèle Banzouzi showing off her vegetable field and exclaiming: “Thanks to LISUNGI, I said no to poverty!” Photo Franck Bitemo/World Bank

 

Adèle Banzouzi now manages her small bread business and her vegetable gardening activities. And she has no intention of stopping there. “I bought the shell of an old freezer,” she enthuses. “Once I receive my next LISUNGI payout, I will have a motor installed and I will buy an icebox so that I can also start selling drinks and ice cream.” Clearly it did not take Adèle Banzouzi long to understand that she needed to diversify in order to expand her business… 

 

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Adèle Banzouzi showing the shell of the old freezer that she recently purchased and that she intends to have repaired in order to start up a new business. Photo Franck Bitemo/World Bank

 

Implementation of the US$37 million LISUNGI project began in September 2014, mainly in the country’s two largest cities, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, and in the departments of Cuvette and Plateaux. This project has two objectives: to establish a national safety net program by strengthening the social security system and pilot a cash transfer program to improve access by households to health and education services. Under this program, 4,331 of the expected 6,000 households receive payments every quarter based on predefined vulnerability criteria. 





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