Leela Shanti, programmes and development manager, at Action Through Enterprise shares how its work has been impacted by the pandemic
Action Through Enterprise (ATE) has been buzzing since winning a silver Global Good Award earlier this year in the Community Partnership category. The award was in recognition of our fantastic small business development training programme, BizATE, in rural Ghana, supported by partners the Commercial Education Trust.
Founded in northern Ghana eight years ago, the charity aims to tackle the cycle of rural hunger and poverty by improving access to education, enabling enterprise, and improving inclusion for marginalised disabled children and their families in Lawra Municipal, where the majority of the population farm for their food in order to survive.
Today, ATE has supported 95 small businesses to grow from ideas, or small struggling businesses, to sustainable small enterprises through its award-winning programme of grants, training and mentoring. Grants kickstart the business with materials, equipment or rent for premises whilst tailored, inclusive training within trade groups, peer-learning and integrated mentoring ensure success in an extremely challenging economic environment.
This year in Lawra, life has been harder than ever due to Covid-19. Through the crisis, when both the UK and Ghana were closed down, we responded to urgent need by organising and distributing food, enabling vulnerable children and adults to access vital healthcare, and advising small business owners how to adapt and survive.
“The virus has intensified the suffering of the poor. There is fear and restrictions everywhere making life difficult for deprived communities to be able to make any living and our constructive support is especially needed now,” commented one of ATE’s in-country leaders, Rexford Benon.
As the impact of coronavirus is being felt by all businesses around the world, the ATE team have been out in the community, talking with all of our small businesses, monitoring how they have been affected by the crisis and what we can do to help.
Rufina, a weaver in Lawra who received a BizATE grant in 2016 found that with the restrictions set out by the government of Ghana in March, putting a stop to all social gatherings, her business was greatly affected. As a weaver, the ban on markets, churches, funerals and parties (for which her material is often sold) meant that she had no customers to sell her products to.
Her ATE mentor Nicholas Naawe explained: “Depending on weaving to help her husband feed the family, was a challenge. She had to rely on her savings for food and to sustain the business. Now, she is producing more material, and hoping to sell more as social restrictions are eased. Her business is currently sustained, and she is hoping to improve it further, but the market is very tough at the moment”.
Many people like Rufina, who had spent a long time building their savings from their business, have had to use them all during the crisis. This means that if a lockdown happens again, business slows further, or an emergency happens – they are stuck. With the average household size in Lawra over six people, this has knock on effects on so many.
ATE has since launched a Rebuild campaign to help people like Rufina get their businesses back on track.
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