How buffaloes helped build my house

By Marianne Pennings, CUFA Volunteer and Angelo Jong, Timor-Leste Country Program Manager

Credit Unions offer opportunity. Martinho Gomes is one individual who has taken advantage of a credit union and he has certainly capitalized. With five children attending school, Martinho needed to increase his income. In 2011 Martino discovered credit unions and the potential that existed through membership. In 2012, with three of his friends, Martino approached the local Credit Union in LUCA village, in the Viqueque subdistrict of Timor Leste with a plan.  The group members were granted USD$1,000.00 each and started a livestock trading business where they buy pigs, cows, horses and buffaloes in the community, transport them to the city of DIli and then sell the livestock for a profit. Twice every week Martino and his group manage to sell about 12 cattle and make about $500 per trip.

Prior to founding this business, Martinho was living with his parents-in-law and worked as a subsistence farmer, growing crops and raising a few pigs and cows and selling the livestock when he was in need of extra funds.

With the extra income he now earns, Martinho has become financially independent and has been able to provide a better life for his family. He has built a house for his family, which he moved into a few months ago.  In addition, he purchased a motorbike that helps him source cattle in various small villages in his area that he can then purchase and transport to the city. The motorbike also serves as a means of accomplishing daily tasks much more efficiently than ever before – tasks such as going to the market, seeking medical attention or even providing his sons with a lift to school are much easier now.

Martinho and his group are not the only individuals who have profited from this business. Within the same area there are 4 other groups comprised of 4 to 5 members each who are making a living from selling livestock in the city for profit. In addition to the livestock trading business, other enterprises that have started from loans from Ira Luca credit union include small grocery kiosks and phone sellers. This is all possible through the assistance they receive from their local credit union.

The Ira Luca credit union has seen growth of more than 100 members per year since its inception in February 2012 and undoubtedly fellow villagers have seen how membership can positively impact their lives, inspiring them to join as well.

With International Credit Union Day just around the corner on October 16, now is the time to demonstrate the opportunity and success achieved by members, such as Martinho and his colleagues.  International Credit Union Day also offers a chance to showcase the positive impact of credit unions in local communities and around the world. Without the help of a credit union, Martinho may still be living with his parents in law, surviving through the means of his subsistence farm.


Ira Luka is one of the 14 credit unions supported under CUFA’s savings mobilization program in partnership with Federasaun Hanai Malu (FHM), the peak body of Credit Union Movement in Timor-Leste. The aim of the program is to improve membership levels and increase savings in order for credit unions to grow and reach more people in their community. Through the program, CUFA provides credit unions with different incentives when various milestones of growth are achieved.

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