Proximity’s infrastructure projects are designed to have two-fold benefits: in the short term, families receive daily wages for their work at a time when jobs are scarce, and in the long term the village benefits from new ponds, footpaths, and embankments that increase connectivity or improve access to water. We were amazed, however, to see one village in the Dry Zone turn the daily wages into a long-term village fund that two years later, is still helping families access free education.
When Dar Hat’s 43 households gathered to renovate their village pond in 2012, village leaders collected $5 USD from every family – the equivalent to 1-2 day’s work on the pond. They inaugurated a village fund, whereby anyone in the community could borrow up to $200 USD at an interest of 10% per month. Though this is quite high, it’s actually lower than the customary 20% per month interest rates offered by other informal moneylenders in the region. The village then used the interest income from the loans to pay the schoolteacher’s salary, freeing families from the burdensome fees they had to pay to send their children to primary school.
Up until this point, families had to pay variable fees to send each child to school. These fees increased as students got older, making it more expensive and difficult for families to send students to upper elementary classes. Now, however, all the villagers in Dar Hat can send their children to elementary school for free.
Since the pond renovation, the inhabitants of Dar Hat village have water for household use year-round. What’s most remarkable, however, is how village leaders continue to use the initial cash injection from the pond renovation to work for the community.