What microfinancing is all about

Rubelyn in the Philippines

Rubelyn in the Philippines

One of our first loans to an entrepreneur in the Philippines went to Rubelyn Lumanta in Talibon. Rubelyn is a fish vendor.
She is 29 years old, married, and has 2 children. She purchases fish from fishermen in her village, and sells the fish at the market with a 40% mark-up value per kilo. Her husband, Ruel Lumanta, is a fisherman.

She requested a $400 loan to she could buy more fish to sell. Simple arithmetic: more volume, more profit.

At the time, we gave her a loan of US$50, 80% of which is already paid back.

Rubelyn stands example for hundreds of entrepreneurs in the Philippines which are being helped in helping themselves through microfinance loans.

Sloane, one of the Kiva fellows, is working in the Philippines with one of the local Kiva partners, “Ahon sa Hirap, Inc.”, or ASHI for short.

He sent in this report:

Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. translated from Tagalog to English means “to rise up from poverty” and is the oldest example of the Grameen Bank approach to microfinance in the Philippines. Kiva launched its firs venture in the Philippines in November 2008. ASHI was among the first group of microfinance institutions partners.

All new Kiva microfinance partners start in what is called “pilot status,” which is like an introduction; a “getting to know you” phase. Both Kiva and the partner institution have to make sure the relationship is going to work – after all, Kiva now has over 120 partners in more than 50 countries, and that’s a lot of different ways of doing business.

After both parties have established some internal controls, a partner can be moved to active status – which means a higher fundraising limit and a more solid partnership. I’m happy to announce that, due to hard work from the President and staff members of ASHI, Kiva has approved ASHI for active field partner status! The main way you, the lender, will be able to see the difference is through increased loans on Kiva.org over the next few months.

For the past three months, since June 2009, I have been serving at ASHI as a Kiva fellow, assisting in the transition from pilot to active status. The time has flown by and I can hardly believe that my fellowship is coming to an end. I’ve learned so much about microfinance in practice and in the field, and I wanted to share a few of my biggest takeaways with you.

Microfinance is about more than a loan. The loan is the first step, the building block, and for that, Kiva lenders, I really thank you from the bottom of my heart, and from each and every ASHI member and staff. You are the ones who turn the key in the ignition. The borrower is the driver, They have a new path in front of them that can lead them out of poverty. What do I mean by “more than a loan?” Let me tell you.

Microfinance is also structured lending. Many people in poverty can get loans from loan sharks in their town, but it’s only a loan, and it has much higher interest rates. Oftentimes, that loan would have no guaranteed terms or repayments. Someone could knock on your door and say, “Pay up today.” Microfinance changes that. It puts structure into lending for the borrowers. It introduces them to term sheets, interest rates, and responsibility. It’s not “pay when you can” but “pay weekly during a group meeting with all of the members in your neighborhood.” It’s training and retraining and “checking in” and making sure the borrowers are using the funds for their businesses and, if not, why not? How can we help? It’s caring about their future.

Microfinance is also savings, with interest rates and an opportunity to plan for the future or put away for a rainy day.

Microfinance is house repair loans when typhoons and storms sweep the country and the borrowers’ homes and huts are washed away. It’s having the capital to rebuild with stone instead of bamboo so, when they next storm arrives, your home is strong enough to withstand the winds. It’s having a home that is on solid ground and being proud of where you live.

Microfinance is educational loans and savings with better rates on interest paid and accrued. It’s an opportunity for borrowers to send their children, grandchildren, sometimes even nieces and nephews, to school.

Microfinance is life insurance policies for family members. Financial literacy classes for new members. Sustainable farming and agriculture classes. Training, tips on packaging, on taking goods to market, on how to grow your business in a way that will help lead you out of poverty.

Microfinance is community. It’s women gathering once a week to repay, discuss their business problems, and come together as a second family. Some borrowers that I’ve met joined ASHI because their husbands died and they were lonely. Some joined because, without a new primary business or ability to start a second business, their families were going to struggle to put food on the table. Some join quiet and shy and find their confidence and become leaders in their community. Many have told me they are better mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and friends because of ASHI and microfinance.

Yet, no matter WHY they joined – the result is always the same. Their lives are forever changed for having the opportunity to step up and make their lives better through business opportunities. It’s a hand up instead of a hand out. It’s strengthening the fabric of the poorest of the poor and changing the face of the economy of an entire country. Does that mean there are success stories at every turn? Not really. Most progress is slow and hard to see day-to-day. There is always struggle, always some who don’t make the right choices, always some that mean to, but can’t, and yes, always some that do. The thing to remember is that we all have to start somewhere and microfinance is a crucial stepping-stone in alleviating poverty worldwide.

Lastly, microfinance in enlightenment. It’s having a little extra change in your pocket for the first time in your life. Just imagine that for a moment. A little bit of change jingling in your pocket as you walk home from the market, and the feeling that goes with it. Microfinance is earning enough revenue to be able to afford medicine or hospital bills. It’s politicians taking notice that there is some access to capital in your town, and being motivated to have the roads paved, the schools repaired, and the community taken care of. It’s calling farmers, butchers, bakers, vendors, storeowners and craftsmen – ENTREPRENEURS.

Salamat po (Thank you),


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