Here in the Philippines, the most common use for a microloan is a sari-sari store – otherwise known as a general or convenience store. There are an estimated 700,000 of them here, and you can find one on just about every block in the country. In 2007, an organization called Microventures Incorporated introduced its Hapinoy program, which is a coop of sari sari stores across the country. By joining together, these stores can get leverage economies of scale to get volume discounts, competitive pricing, and more favorable terms for microloans. The organization purchases products in bulk from Procter & Gamble and other large manufacturers, and distributes them to each Hapinoy store via a community store. It is a hub-and-spoke model with a wholesale store serving different regions. Here is a program that operates within the existing framework of the country, improving what exists, rather than trying to change it altogether. Continue reading
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.