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Archive for the ‘Village institutions’ Category

At the Arusha Savings Group Summit, Bram Thuysbaert (Yale) and Beniamino Savonitto from Innovations for Poverty Action presented early evidence from a 2-year study of the impact of CARE’s savings associations (VSLAs) in Uganda, using randomized control trials. The results were unexpected.

The study compared ‘treatment’ villages where savings associations had been formed with ‘control’ villages where they had not. Conference delegates were told that members’ investments (more…)

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A member-based perspective on Village Finance.

SMDP Tanzania 2011, scheduled to take place in Arusha from Oct 10-14, is a program uniquely designed for village finance practitioners. A basic banking rule of thumb is that there are 4 savers for every one borrower — with enough demand for savings to finance that borrower. SMDP Tanzania is the first program to truly embrace the needs of poor savers!

My colleagues at SMDP will cover VSL from a technical perspective. The course on ‘Village Finance’ will inject a fresh, field-based and member-based perspective on program design and strategy (more…)

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I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I, I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost

Some three decades ago the experts announced that only one source of funds could deliver microfinance services sustainably to billions of the world’s poorest people. That source was Western capital markets and the profit-maximizing investors participating in them.

When F.W. Raiffeisen launched the first microfinance revolution (1864-1945) he used a different source of funds: (more…)

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Field portion, village finance auditing course, Cambodia, 2007

About 8 years ago I visited a small credit cooperative in Cambodia. Its chairman was a cheerful farmer with greying hair and callouses who wore neat business clothes with a krama (a square checked Khmer cloth) flung jauntily over his shoulder. He presented a sheaf of neat hand-written financials to me, with his signature and the treasurer’s jumping boldly off the bottom.

As we visited borrowers (more…)

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During one of my quarterly visits to the Far North Credit Union, I was intrigued to discover the note “QF” next to several loans recorded in the cash book.  I was told these were “quick fire” loans, made without any written record and no collateral, to a maximum of $50.  When I asked where the idea had come from, I was told it had been given to them by New Zealand’s credit union pioneer — Colin Smith — during a training workshop.

Formal speaking is a powerful living tradition

Horrified at the idea of a loan of any size being made without a signed contract (and the subsequent default levels!) — and knowing that Colin, a chartered accountant, would never countenance such a thing — I tracked down the origins of their innovation to a presentation he had given on improving members’ experience of the loan

(more…)

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In 2002 I visited Ashrai, an NGO in northwest Bangladesh that was forming savings-financed ‘self-help groups’ among some of the world’s poorest women. I was referred to Ashrai by Stuart Rutherford, and I was writing an article about them for a microfinance journal.

Empowering women?

Picture this: it is mid-day in a Naogaon village, and a group of 20 women are seated in a loose square on woven bamboo mats. Clean, brightly coloured saris are draped over their shoulders, and flow down their legs.

(more…)

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The work of Denise Schmandt-Besserat is reshaping our concept of the origins of writing and counting, shedding new light on both the challenges and opportunities in village finance practice.

A scholar of ancient Near Eastern studies at the University of Texas, her books provide strong evidence of her thesis that writing in Mesopotamia came long after strong institutions. It evolved from “a system of tokens – (more…)

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