It took us 11 hours of driving mountain roads and jeep trails to get to Khua Hrang, a village in the middle of nowhere where 1,600 people live, most of whom were waiting in a long line in the dark to shake my hand when we arrived. Last year, during my first visit, they had done the same. They are grateful, in light of this year’s poor rice harvest, for Heaven’s Family’s rice bank in their village that makes it possible for them to purchase rice at a significant discount (for more info about rice banks, see my last blog).
When I was here last year, I initiated a startup micro-bank, putting the local Assembly of God pastor in charge. He has since made 13 loans with the $3,000 I entrusted to him, a drop in the bucket of need in this village, but we always start slow, as trust must be earned (Luke 16:10).
I decided to stay two nights in Khua Hrang so I would have time to visit all the borrowers to see how their businesses are faring. Most are growing what has proved to be a lucrative cash crop known locally as elephant foot yam. Buyers periodically come from India (just a few miles away) to purchase, by weight, sliced and dried yam.
I’ve seen elephant foot yam on previous trips, but it was during this trip to Khua Hrang that I first saw what the stem and flower looks like, and I took the photo of it above. It can be harvested as early as 8 months after planting, but the longer one waits, the bigger the yams grow. It’s like having money in the bank that keeps earning interest, a real “cash crop”!
Another interesting thing about elephant foot yam is that it flowers for just five days and, for a few hours during that blooming, it releases a putrid aroma that smells just like rotting flesh, which attracts carrion-loving flies that unwittingly pollinate it. (One of those “miracles of evolution”…) For that reason, elephant foot yam is called “stink lily” in some Asian countries.
Khua Hrang’s borrowers’ loans are due in May, at which time we’ll triple the funds available to borrow, so that the 13 first borrowers can expand their businesses and at least 13 new borrowers can receive initial loans. I also hope to appoint two additional micro-bankers in Khua Hrang so that we can serve a greater percentage of the believers here.
Some portraits of Khua Hrang villagers and borrowers are below with captions. Nice to have you on this journey with me!