Thursday, 5 November 2015

More than just microfinance | Helping poor farmers in the Philippines recover from disaster and build security for the future

This is Arlene Montejo, a small-scale farmer from the beautiful yet isolated mountain village of Sudlon II on the outskirts of Cebu City in the Philippines. Arlene, like millions of poor people around the world, relies solely on farming to generate an income and support her family. She grows a variety of vegetables including lettuces, cabbages, cucumbers and aubergines. When I met Arlene at her farm two weeks ago she told me that lettuce is the most popular item, selling an average of 300kg a week.

Arelene Montejo, farming entrepreneur working with our partner in the Philippines

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

It’s Financial Inclusion 2020 Week – but what happened to microfinance?

This week you may notice a lot of online discussion and social media chatter about financial inclusion, and how we ensure that low- and moderate-income people around the world have access to a full suite of quality financial services. And while this conversation is important, and this week gives those of us working in the sector the opportunity to galvanise support and mobilise action, it dawned on me that some people might be wondering: “What ever happened to microfinance?”

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Better evidence means less poverty

The primary purpose of Lendwithcare is to help poor people to improve their lives through supporting them to access loans for their businesses. Do we actually have any evidence that this is happening? Certainly, we have a great deal of anecdotal evidence – in addition to the periodic updates that we receive from some of the microentrepreneurs that we have funded, each year my colleagues and I also visit and speak with hundreds of individuals and groups who Lendwithcare supports in 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Although we do come across some persons for whom nothing much seems to have changed, more often than not they explain to us how access to loans over an extended period of time has enabled them to develop their businesses, stabilise or increase their incomes, increased their self-confidence, self-esteem and economic independence, make improvements to their homes, and sometimes as a result even spend more money in areas such as their children’s education and the health of their families.

However, this approach is not particularly scientific – there are often other important reasons aside from improved access to loans why their lives have improved, it might be that we are simply meeting the more ‘successful’ microentrepreneurs, people are simply being polite, or they are telling us what they think we want to hear.

Ghulam Raza interviewing an entrepreneur at Akhuvat

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Right Type of Microfinance

Nyangu Sakala, who was supported by a loan from Lendwithcare

In recent years there’s been a steady stream of media articles questioning the benefits of microfinance, with some critics even arguing that not only does microfinance not benefit the poor, it actually makes them poorer. How should those of us involved in supporting the access of poor people to financial services respond? Is what we are doing actually helping the poor? Is the criticism of microfinance justified? Here are some personal thoughts.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Impressions from a first time visit to Pakistan

Most cities have them ... In fact most towns, villages and neighbourhoods do too. The lofty saying that marks that particular place out from all the rest. London’s is the famous Samuel Johnson quote that says "those that are tired of London are tired of life." So it was not surprising when I visited the cultural heart of Pakistan a couple of weeks ago, Lahore, that I was informed by many proud Lahoris that I could now count myself amongst the ranks of those lucky enough to say they have truly lived. As the famous Punjabi quote goes, those who have not seen Lahore have not been born.

Shakeel, Joana and I outside the Lahore Cultural Museum

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Tackling gender inequality in Pakistan | The Akhuwat clothes bank initiative

Following his recent trip to Pakistan, Dr Ajaz Ahmed Khan tells us about a very interesting project implemented by our MFI partner AKHUWAT.

Guriya, who works in the Clothes Bank
Transgender persons, or khwaja siras as they are often referred to in Pakistan, routinely face a high level of discrimination in access to health, housing, education and employment as well as ridicule, intimidation and the threat of physical violence. Most khwaja siras are forced to live at the margins of society and earn an income by dancing at ceremonies such as weddings and births, and most commonly from begging. In an almost unprecedented example of positive discrimination Dr Amjad Saqib, the founder and executive director of Akhuwat, Lendwithcare’s partner in Pakistan, decided when he established a clothes bank in May of last year to only employ khwaja siras to sort, repair, clean and pack the clothes. Such regular employment opportunities are almost unheard of for transgender persons. Akhuwat now employs six full-time khwaja siras, namely Naghma, Naina, Guriya, Faisal, Moshin Deedar and Guru Taj, in the clothes bank which is based in Akhuwat’s head office in Lahore.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The new Lendwithcare website - a lender perspective

I’ve been using the old Lendwithcare website since 2013, and although I didn’t have any major problems with it there were signs it was starting to show its age, having been originally launched back in 2010. It was great to discover it was going to be getting a lick of paint, as well incorporating some other changes suggested by existing lenders, and so I jumped at the chance to kick the tyres on the new site before it launched.

Behind the scene shots of the website redesign process