Credible Future - Can Micro Loans Make a Macro Difference?

MICROFINANCE GROWS UP

The original Microcredit Summit was held in 1997. When delegates gathered nine years later at the Global Microcredit Summit in Halifax, Canada in 2006, it had just been announced that Muhammad Yunus would share the Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank, the institution he founded decades before. A year earlier, the United Nations had celebrated the Year of Microcredit, and just one year later, the Microcredit Summit Campaign surpassed its goal set in 1997 of reaching 100 million of the world?s poorest families with credit for self employment and other financial and business services. Those were indeed heady times for microfinance.

CUBA: More and More Women in the Fields

When Sara Gutiérrez began working her land, she knew a lot about hairdressing, her first profession, but nothing about agricultural techniques. "The first crops were really bad, until I learned how to get good yields even in difficult conditions," she said.

CENTRAL AMERICA: Beating Mega Challenges with Microloans

Pilar Toc, a 45-year-old Quiche Maya woman, used to work endlessly in a factory making traditional clothing in northwest Guatemala. Even so, her situation was so precarious that she could not enrol her son in school. But her life changed when she took out a microloan from a community bank.

Basket-weavers in Kerala, funded by microcredit.  Credit: ESAF/IPS

INDIA: Microcredit Fights to Regain Credibility

As microcredit institutions - once touted as the vital ‘last mile' in extending credit to poor rural women -fight a government backlash that has encouraged honest borrowers to turn defaulters, hopes for revival hinge on a new bill awaiting passage in India's parliament.

ARGENTINA: Boosting Agribusiness – and Family Farms

A plan to boost agribusiness, but based mainly on family farming and cooperatives, in Argentina is geared to producing and exporting more food – in a more sustainable manner.

CUBA: Self-Employment Expanding, But Not Enough

This month, the Cuban government eased up on taxes and other legal aspects involved in self-employment. But experts warn that there are serious limitations standing in the way of growth of private enterprise, which is supposed to absorb hundreds of thousands of employees slashed from the public workforce.

Almost a quarter of all households in the former conflict zone are headed by single women. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

SRI LANKA: Single Women Begin to Rebuild

For Magei Kasai the battle against hardships did not end when the guns fell silent two years ago in the Sri Lankan civil war. New battles began for survival, for herself and for what was left of her family.

Accessible Micro-Loans Help Poor Women in Rural South Africa

While women still lag grossly behind men in terms of bringing home the bacon, a new entrepreneurship organisation, Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship (FITE), is working to swing the balance of economic power in South Africa by providing micro-loans to hard-up women.

GUATEMALA: All Candidates Jump on the Social Programmes Bandwagon

Although he is accused by the opposition of failing to live up to his promises of transparency, job creation and security, Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom has received praise from all sides for his government's successful social programmes.

Street vendors are the main beneficiaries of micro-loans in Colombia.  Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

COLOMBIA: Microcredit Growing Steadily at 15 Percent a Year

The more than 1.2 million microenterprises operating in Colombia are responsible for around 50 percent of all employment. And many of these small businesses owe their existence to the microfinance system, according to a report by Visión Económica, a local business research group.

Brian Van Slyke, founder of the Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA). Credit: Courtesy of TESA

Q&A: ‘Cooperatives Aren’t Charity’

As industrial production penetrates all corners of the planet and transnational capital gains have unfettered access to virtually every country and community, the United Nations has declared 2012 to be the ‘International Year of Cooperatives (IYC)'.

There are no laws to regulate the activities of microfinance companies in Ghana. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

GHANA: Guidelines for Unregulated Microfinance Sector

When Andrew Poku's mother passed away he needed help to pay for her funeral. So the 35-year-old teacher from Accra turned to one of the country's several loan companies for a 670-dollar loan.

The cooperative plans to have 100 head of cattle in the medium term.  Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

CUBA: Dreams and Progress in a Rural Community

The day that electricity arrived in the Cuban village of Jova, there were shouts, laughter and tears of joy, even among the most incredulous, who had doubted it was possible. "I didn’t know what to do; it actually made me nervous," Carmen Carvallosa confessed.

Development NGOs Face “Existential Challenge”

Buy now, pay later. That's the power Muhammad Yunus gave to the world's poor.

MEXICO: Microloans from Distant Lands a Mouse Click Away

Norma Isela from the city of Piedras Negras in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila needs 500 dollars to expand the merchandise inventory in her business selling shoes by catalogue and to broaden her offer of clothes and accessories. So far she has managed to raise 45 percent of that amount.

ARGENTINA: Worker Cooperatives Reduce “Hard-Core” Unemployment

During the social and economic collapse of 2002-2003, the Argentine state encouraged the formation of workers' cooperatives, which helped mitigate the worst effects of the crisis, reduced hard-core unemployment, and now as independent, democratic, worker-controlled organisations are providing services to the public and private sectors.

Rani displays a fresh batch of the 'toy sweets' that lifted her family out of poverty.  Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Bangladesh Offers Lessons in Microcredit Management

Phulo Rani Pal checks for loose dust around her open backyard kitchen. It’s time to prepare the sweets she supplies to vendors and it will not do for her products to be contaminated.

A beneficiary of the microfinance programme. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS.

BANGLADESH: Women Raise Own Funds for Microfinance

Amidst despair and poverty, women in some remote villages of Bangladesh are raising money and lending it to each other through a unique microfinance programme launched by a local non-government organisation.

From One Computer to Biggest Microfinance Bank in Bolivia

A non-governmental organisation set up by five women 25 years ago in Bolivia gave birth to what is now the largest microcredit bank in the country, catering to those otherwise marginalised from the financial system.

CUBA: Microcredit Knocks on Door…Softly

A microcredit system could begin operating in Cuba as part of reforms adopted by the government of Raúl Castro to modernise the country's socialist economic system.

Some aid agencies use microfinance to "kickstart new markets" for renewable energy products among poor people. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

“Microfinance Can Help Rural Communities Adapt to Climate Change”

Projects to fight climate change are being designed all around the world. But only five percent of them can be financed with the current international funds available, which means resources have to be used more wisely. Microfinance could be one solution.

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