Microfinance

Grameen Bank Replication and the Principles of Microfinance

For a brief overview of the GBR (Grameen Bank Replication) methodology and its use by NWTF/Project Dungganon, see here.

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are often affiliated with larger networks, which help to secure funding, offer back-office services, and provide an operations model.  These organizations - Grameen Foundation, FINCA, Accion International, and World Vision, to name a few - partner with MFIs across the world to replicate the model, be it village banking, the Grameen model, or another.  These networks span countries and continents, and operate as umbrella organizations for the global microfinance community. [caption id="attachment_76" align="alignright" width="176" caption="NWTF founder Cecilia del Castillo with Muhammad Yunus."][/caption] Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF) is affiliated with Grameen Bank.  Its founder, president, and CEO, Dr. Cecilia del Castillo, received her doctorate in psychology in the United States before returning to the Philippines to create an NGO that would serve women in her native island of Negros Occidental.  A meeting with Muhammad Yunus convinced her to found NWTF in 1984, with the goal to "help women achieve self-sufficiency and self-reliance, particularly in Negros Occidental’s low-income and depressed urban and rural communities." In 1989, NWTF introduced Project Dungganon ("honorable") and Dungganon Bank Inc., NWTF's traditional microcredit lending program, which most people associate with microfinance.  (In reality, microfinance describes a much larger suite of financial services, including savings accounts, insurance, and rural energy delivery, capital equipment assistance, and personal loans, but that is for another post). (more…)

Microfinance

The Galvez Family, Pt. 1

Success in microfinance is difficult to measure because progress occurs incrementally and may take a generation or more to manifest.   Usually, the benefits of microfinance - improvements in healthcare, education, and quality of life - are only visible over a longer timeframe.  For industry practitioners and evangelists, the tangible success stories among recipients of microloans are valuable proof of its efficacy.  On a recent trip to Valladolid, I was fortunate enough to meet one of the most successful NWTF clients in the foundation's 25-year history. [caption id="attachment_38" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Galvez family around the dinner table"][/caption] The visit to the Galvez family farm was the last stop on a three-day trek through Pontevedra and the surrounding communities.  The borrowers I'd met previously mostly operate small businesses that are reliant - directly or indirectly - on the rice- and sugar-farming industries that dominates the region.  Homes are modest in size, made from bamboo, aluminum and concrete, with few rooms and, more often than not, earthen floors.   And of course, like 80% of NWTF's clientele, the women live below the poverty line.  The Galvez family - Milagros, the matriarch, Lorito, her husband, and their three children, Lawrence, Lori, and Lori Mae - once lived a similar life, until a loan from Project Dungganon (NWTF's microcredit loan program) allowed them to grow their small sari-sari store into an empire.  Eight years ago, the family lived in a house made of bamboo.  With the profits of their many businesses, the Galvez' were able to upgrade to something better. (more…)

Microfinance

In The Field

[caption id="attachment_16" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="The road to a borrowers home"][/caption] I spent the last three days in "the field," a term used to describe the front lines of microfinance where the money is distributed to the clients of the banks.  Beginning early Tuesday morning, I set out for the town of Valladolid, a rural municipality about 50 km from Bacolod City.  The road snakes along the coast through increasingly less urban communities, until reaching Pontevedra, where the NWTF (Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation) Valladolid branch is located.  Linda, the branch manager and former loan officer, took me to see the first of 15  borrowers we would try to track down over the course of the three-day trip (with a 67% success rate).  Riding in the metal grates on the back of a tricycle, where I'd spend most of my trip, we rode to small village called a barangay to interview several women about their business and loan.  The community here is small, and stopping for directions usually produced a guide that brought us directly to the home of the borrower.  Home constructions vary from 2-3 room bamboo nipa huts, to shanties with roofs of corrugated aluminum and floors of dirt, to cement frames with electricity, running water, and decorations on the walls.  Over the course of the week, I'd see all types represented.  Housing loans are popular among borrowers, and many homes have been built with loans from NWTF. (more…)

Travel and Culture

Organized Chaos

Here in Bacolod City, and the rest of the Philippines for that matter, traffic laws are non-existent.  There seem to be no rules governing how you act behind the wheel – only that the horn is your friend, and is especially useful for letting the other guy know that you don’t intend to stop.  Last night, I went swimming with one of my coworkers and her mother at a resort in town (with an Olympic size pool, complete with a water slide, 30-foot statue of a giraffe and an elephant, and a zoo with an old crocodile that, according to my host, may or may not be dead).  On the way to the pool, we narrowly escaped a few accidents.   When Beth, the mother of my coworker, Liz, unsuccessfully tried to pass a jeepney with a bus barreling down the other lane, she shrugged it off.  “Whoops – almost didn’t make it,” she laughed.  When I relayed the fitting description the owner of a bike shop in town used to describe the traffic patterns here – “organized chaos” – she and Liz laughed again (Filipinos like to laugh, particularly here in the city of smiles).  “That may be, but everyone knows the rules here.”  And, as far as I can tell, it seems to be true.  When you drive here in Bacolod, honk your horn when you come to an intersection.  If you get there first, or see even a slight opening, go for it.  Drivers here are masters of the quick brake, mostly out of necessity. (more…)

Travel and Culture

Filipina Heart

The motivations for travel on a Trans-Pacific flight run vary more than your average domestic flight.  Businessmen hammering out last-minute presentations to their Chinese counterparts to your left; a sex tourist that looks, talks, and thinks like a sex tourist to your right.  And you, physically in the middle, but not necessarily anywhere along the same spectrum or plane.    The sex tourist and small business owner from southern Indiana sitting next to me is 48 and right now is en route to Bangkok to meet up with 25 year-old Filipino girl with a 6-year old daughter he met on filipinoheart.com.  When she was 19, she met up with a 50 year-old American who, according to my neighbor, "knocked her up, denied the baby was his, and called her a slut."  He left the country, leaving her with a newborn baby to raise on her own.  Now the sex tourist is heading over there for a week of fun in the sun and a proverbial test run, figuring out whether a) she is the one, and b) whether she is currently married, which means an extra $5,000 for an annulment to get her to the US.  The fact that she has a 6 year-old doesn't seem to bother him.  I might be giving him too much credit, and maybe he has no intention of bringing her back at all.  But she certainly seems to think so.  According to the guy, she's just looking for someone to love her ("they all are").  The good thing for her is that the sex tourist to my left actually seems genuine about bringing at least one of these girls back - his two buddies already have Filipino wives from previous flings. (more…)