Savings-Led Microfinance in San Marcos, Guatemala

Ben Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs.

I just returned from a site visit to our savings groups in San Marcos. Three women’s saving groups have already been formed in two communities of San José Ojetenam. Two other groups in a third community are slated to begin after the Christmas holidays. In addition, two representatives from a women’s association in another community recently attended one group’s meeting to observe how it functions. Their association plans to implement the savings-led method as soon as possible.

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The secretary of the Nuevo Amanecer (New Dawn) savings group takes attendance during a meeting in San Marcos, Guatemala. The group is one of three women’s savings-led microfinance groups formed with help from CRS in San Marcos. Photo by Ben Hess/CRS.

The group names represent their members’ aspirations and motivation: Nuevo Amanecer (New Dawn), Avances de Mañana (Tomorrow’s Advances), and Ahorrando para Crecer (Saving to Grow). Each group has approximately 20 members.

I observed a Nuevo Amanecer meeting during my visit. This group had the great idea to meet weekly on “market day.” Since many of the members sell their wares at the market, they set aside a portion of their earnings for the savings group. Most were saving between 20 and 50 quetzals a week (approximately $2.70 to $6.70). The group’s fund has already grown to more than $200 in a single month.

Several children were present at the meeting. I learned that a couple of the children had already started saving by contributing small amounts of money to their mothers’ accounts.

The most exciting part of the visit, however, was learning that the project coordinator has also discussed the savings-led microfinance methodology with youth groups. Representatives from four groups were present for the first discussion, but there are a total of 24 groups in the municipality’s Youth Pastorate. Forming savings groups among youth would be an exciting new direction for us here in Guatemala.

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