Posts Tagged ‘microfinance’

Catholic Relief Services: Faith. Action. Results.

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

At a glance:

CRS staffer Ross Tomlinson, in tan CRS vest, hands out plastic tarps at a CRS and Caritas Norway distribution of 700 emergency shelters in the town of Palo, on the east side of the island of Leyte in central Philippines. Along with the tarps, families receive nails, a hammer and rope, and each group of 10 families also receives additional tools: two handsaws, a shovel, a crowbar, a digging bar and measuring tape. Palo and the surrounding area were struck by Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. It is considered the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Jim Stipe/CRS

CRS staffer Ross Tomlinson hands out plastic tarps at a CRS and Caritas Norway distribution of 700 emergency shelters in central Philippines. The area was struck by Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. Jim Stipe/CRS

Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 to feed European refugees during WWII. Now, CRS works in 93 countries around the world. CRS currently implements Farmer-to-Farmer projects in its core countries in East Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Where did CRS come from?

CRS was originally founded by the Catholic Bishops of the United States to serve World War II survivors in Europe. Today, CRS has expanded to reach almost 100 million people in 93 countries on five continents. As part of the Universal Church, CRS works with local Catholic institutions around the world, but also participates in development and humanitarian initiatives undertaken by a wide range of groups, including governments, other faith communities, and secular institutions.


Microfinance: Moving Out of Poverty

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Microfinance is a powerful means of empowering poor and vulnerable people to improve their families’ standard of living. We are proud of our programs, but they can always improve. That’s why we’re so excited about a new initiative CRS is working on with the Grameen Foundation and other partners in Africa. The Progress out of Poverty IndexTM is a simple and accurate tool that measures poverty levels of groups and individuals. Using the PPI, microfinance institutions can better determine their clients’ needs, which programs are most effective, how quickly clients leave poverty, and what helps them to move out of poverty faster.

Work on this initiative is progressing nicely. We’ve just received work that CRS is working with a  partner, the Senegal National Microfinance Association,  that is reaching beyond its borders, training practitioners from Uganda and Kenya in the Progress out of Poverty Index methodology. This collaboration represents an important transfer of knowledge that will help improve the effectiveness of microfinance in these East African nations.

Microfinance: Lost in Translation

Monday, February 1st, 2010

By Bernice Yalley
In a lot of circumstances, I am confident. I walk with an easy glide, I am not shy in meeting new people, and when the moment is right, I can even dance a little jig in the middle of the supermarket. But in managing this savings and lending project, I sometimes get the feeling that I am play acting and figuring stuff out as I go along. Kind of like, the real project manager took a year off but before that her computer crashed with all of her meeting agendas, budgets, scheduling and planning notes lost into the great internet ether. And now I am filling in for her.

Reader Question: Are There Permanent Solutions to Poverty?

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Nancy Fitzpatrick: What projects sponsored by the “first” world hold the most promise for helping people permanently lift out of poverty – or at least out of extreme poverty?

Microfinance programs–in which people are given small loans (usually under $100) to start businesses–have lifted thousands of families out of poverty. People in the developing world are just as entrepreneurial as those in the developed world; they just don’t have access to the money they need to get started and make their ideas reality. It’s inspiring how relatively quickly a family can move out of extreme poverty once they’ve launched a home-based business like a poultry farm or snack kiosk.

– Laura Sheahen, CRS regional information officer

Microfinanced Kids Turn Profit for Rice Bowls

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Check out this story about “Catholic Kids Catechism Club at St. John Mary Vianney Parish in Kirkland, where each grade-specific “clubhouse” of about 12 kids was given a loan of $20 to start a business to raise money for Rice Bowl….”

Microfinance: The Power of Saving

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Greetings to the readers of the CRS blog! My name is Melita Sawyer, and I work at CRS’ Baltimore office, providing technical advice on savings-led microfinance projects. This is my first blog of what’ll be a regular post. I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences, challenges, and successes in expanding access to financial services to the people CRS serves around the world.

I’ve just gotten back from a great conference at Tufts University–Microfinance from Below: The Power of Savings and Savings Groups in Frontier Economies–sponsored by the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University and Oxfam America. Readers of the CRS blog, and in particular Ben Hess’ great posts from Guatemala, might know that what we call “savings-led microfinance” is now a central focus of our microfinance programs at CRS. Why?

Helping Poor Farmers Cultivate Markets, Income

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Dear Friend,

A few years ago, we were looking for ways to help farmers in Tanzania and our staff come up with a project to combine microfinance savings groups with agricultural promotion. With private donations from the Ryan Memorial Foundation, they started the Chickpea Market Promotion project. It had a modest goal of forming 10 groups that would each pool and collectively sell their chickpea harvests as a marketable export crop.

To say the least, the project has exceeded expectations. To this point, 3,800 poor farmers have organized into 149 groups. This helped them to access microfinance support through their involvement in savings groups, as well as assistance in production and marketing of their crops. This resulted in a considerable rise in income for these farm families.

Microfinance: Peacebuilding With a Savings Program

Monday, March 16th, 2009
Sudan SILC

By bringing people together to save and lend money, SILC groups in Sudan are building bonds of friendship that help promote peaceful coexistence. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

John Katunga, CRS’ regional technical advisor for peacebuilding and justice in East Africa, shares thoughts from his recent visit to Khartoum, Sudan.

A few months ago, I traveled to Sudan to explore ways to integrate peacebuilding activities into our vocational training initiatives and development of Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) in the Khartoum area. Little did I know that peacebuilding was already taking place on its own.

I sat down with two of the 50 SILC groups our local partners have helped form in camps near Khartoum housing people displaced by various conflicts. I learned that these groups are bringing together very diverse women—women of different religions, ethnic backgrounds and regions of Sudan.

The women told me that through their SILC groups they had created strong bonds of friendship. The members of one group also shared that they have pledged to address any conflicts that arise internally before calling upon external assistance.

Microfinance Lessons Learned by Experience

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

I wrapped up my International Development Fellowship last week and this is my final post for the CRS Blog. There is so much I could still write about savings-led microfinance. In the end, I decided that since the process of organizing and training savings groups has been a new experience for me, I would summarize some of the lessons that I’ve learned over the past several months. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I’ve tried to highlight the main points.

Education and Microfinance Project Approved for Guatemala

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

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

Great news! We just learned that new three-year CRS Guatemala project that integrates access to education with savings-led microfinance has been approved. Based in the predominantly indigenous municipality of Tajumulco in western Guatemala, the project will provide 160 scholarships to youth, mainly older youth and girls, since they are more likely to drop out; establish five community libraries; offer literacy training to 100 adults, principally the mothers of the scholarship recipients; and form at least 20 savings groups among the scholarship recipients, adult literacy participants, and other community members.

Recently, CRS Guatemala has also been working with the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office (LACRO) on a proposal for a community development project in a rural municipality located near beautiful Lake Atitlán. The primary economic activity of the target communities is coffee production, but these communities suffer from an educational deficit, low diversification of income-generating opportunities, and a lack of access to savings and credit.

One of the chief problems of communities dependent on coffee production is that income is often unstable; while it can be high during the peak harvest season, farmers may earn nothing during some parts of the year. The particular coffee association that CRS is working with sells its coffee on the Fair Trade market, so the farmers are guaranteed a certain price for their product. However, heavy winds at harvest time caused this year’s yield to be about 40 percent lower than last year’s output. As a result, some farmers have been forced to migrate to work on other farms.

The project would promote integral human development by improving and diversifying livelihood strategies at the family and community level, providing vocational training to youth, and organizing savings groups. The savings component is important because it can encourage families to set aside part of their earnings for leaner months, their children’s education, or unanticipated expenses. The availability of loans can spur investment in microenterprises or help farmers purchase seeds and livestock at affordable prices.

As I’ve mentioned before, the benefits of savings-led microfinance are its low costs, impressive effectiveness and potential for replication, and sustainability. These make it an ideal addition to almost any CRS project. In other parts of the world, CRS has successfully integrated savings-led microfinance into HIV/AIDS, agro-enterprise, disaster relief, child trafficking, education, and food security projects.

I’d love to hear from CRS colleagues and readers about development projects that have effectively included savings-led elements, or innovative ideas about how to incorporate savings groups into new program areas.