Feeds:
Posts
Comments

In Asia's villages, girls often wear gold. Photo credit: Vincent Johnson

A few years ago, in a small village in Kampong Chhnang, I met Ms. Cheng Yeng. In her early 40s and mother of 3 grown children, Ms. Cheng was clearly an excellent household money manager – bright, articulate, and shrewd. She told me that she uses cash earned after her rice and palm sugar harvests to buy gold, last year at $38.50 per chi.

Yet in the months before the harvest Continue Reading »

A village finance leader draws a calendar of member cash demand, Cambodia.

The modern view of time is neatly summed up by Max Weber in the The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber quotes Benjamin Franklin, the sage of American capitalism, on the logic that built the American economy.

“Remember, time is money.”

“He that spends a groat a day idly, spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price of the use of one hundred pounds.

Continue Reading »

Time to take the fish to market.

Microfinance depends vitally on a modern cultural value that drives the global economy: the time-value of money. Microfinance practices work where this value is already well developed. The poorest parts of the world, almost by definition, are those where this value is not well understood.

Take Lawino for example: Continue Reading »

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: Continue Reading »

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 Continue Reading »

As observed by communications theorist Walter Ong, villagers in oral communities often don’t trust written text.

Ong cites a study of community decision-making from 12th century England. (Orality and Literacy, p. 95). Writing already had a long history in England, Continue Reading »

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

Continue Reading »

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.

Continue Reading »

Cash? Can I take it in lumber, please?

A number of mobile banking experts have been envisioning the ‘cash-less village’, in which villagers pay for groceries and services on their mobile phones. But, in his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely, a behavioural economist at Duke University, shows how the degree of abstraction of our currency can lead us to experience greater and greater distance from our ethical values, increasing moral hazard.

Continue Reading »