Saturday, October 13, 2012

Micro Finance Interviews

Lately we've had the chance to interview the chairwomen of two local micro-finance co-operatives to hear first hand about the impact of these on life in the village. We spoke to the Nala and Patlekhet co-operatives, which have been running for around 6 and 2 years respectively.  These co-operatives both primarily provide loans to their members for agricultural activities - including to buy goats, cows, chickens, vegetable seeds, or to undertake bee keeping or fish farming. We heard that the majority of members who take out loans were engaged in similar farming activities before hand, but that the co-operative has allowed them and encouraged them to expand their business and thereby generate a bigger income. Before, people could not get loans as banks are very hestitant to loan to subsistance farmers!

The co-operatives are only for women to join, but they are supported by their husbands - as only few men in these villages have outside jobs. Joining the women's co-operatives has given them a certain degree of financial independence, and greater decision making power. The women spoke of the increase in confidence that this has given them.  The women speak of receiving greater respect in their villages, and of now being able to speak to other men (outside of their own families) in the village.  The communities are working together better than before, and saving habits have developed with people planning for their futures.    Only a few women in these villages are not part of the co-operative.

One of the big, noticeable changes is that the children's education is benefitting. Families are investing in their children's schooling so that they can obtain jobs - outside of the village.  If they can afford it the children are sent to private schools.

Interview in Nala

Cow farm in Nala
Community Development and Relief Agency helps these co-operatives with regular mentoring and training.  Each month the 10 co-operatives under CDRA's umbrella come together to discuss any problems that they have had and potential solutions. These co-operatives are doing a fantastic job of raising the economic status of the villages, as well as improving the social standing of women. The co-operatives can only work with what they got - and they spoke particularly of the need to access greater capital funding so that they could provide bigger loans to their members.  Members are all responsible to one another to repay their loans, hence defaulting on loan payments is not an issue. These co-operatives would also like to help their members more through offering training programmes for their members - for example on leadership, budgeting, and industry specific courses ie. on dairy farming and seed harvesting.

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