Microsavings for the Poorest

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November 09, 2010

Kimberly Davies is a Program Associate for the Microsavings Initiative, which is part of Grameen Foundation’s Solutions for the Poorest program.

Women gather at a center meeting just outside Varanasi, India

Last year, Grameen Foundation began a three year journey, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to increase the number of active monetary savers by 1.45 million people, especially the bottom poor living under US$1.25 per day. For this project, we are working with three microfinance institutions, CARD Bank in the Philippines, CASHPOR in India, and ACSI in Ethiopia. I recently had the opportunity to visit all three MFIs over a four week period, to work with our project managers on the ground, learn more about each project, and visit clients in the field. I will be writing several posts over the next few weeks, so I wanted to introduce myself briefly, and give a bit of background on savings and our project:

What is your project?

We are taking a holistic approach to create safe access to formal savings products by focusing on market research and product design, creating a marketing strategy and financial literacy program, using front-end technologies capable of enabling field-based transactions, and building institutional capacity.

Why is savings important?

The poor often have such inconsistent and unpredictable incomes that savings is an important risk management tool. Bad weather affecting agricultural production, family illness, and natural disasters are just some of the tragedies that commonly occur, creating financial hardships for poor families. Savings can be used during these hard times, cutting down on the need for emergency loans, which often come at high interest rates. 

Posted sign for the current savings product at a CARD Bank branch in the Philippines

Do poor people have money to save?

It has been proven that the poor do save in multiple ways, such as stashing cash under a mattress, giving coins to your neighbor to guard, and purchasing large items. (To learn more, read Portfolios of the Poor.) Unfortunately, these informal ways of savings can be risky, so the poor also need better access to formal savings products. This is where Grameen Foundation comes in.

Why are we doing this based on Grameen Foundation’s values?

Grameen Foundation believes that providing the poor with the proper savings tools will not only allow them to better pull themselves out of poverty, but also strengthen the Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) by providing lower cost, steady income streams to fund loan portfolios.

After three years in the industry, this was my first field visit, and a dream come true.  I will finally be able to meet members of the great organizations that we work with and shake hands with some of the clients that we work so hard to help. I was so excited to see it all with my own eyes and to share it all with you. Hope you stay tuned!



Banks charge an annual service charge to cover their expenses - do microfinance clients have to pay some sort of fee as well when saving their money in MFIs?

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