While researching mobile financial services (MFS) best practices, Grameen Foundation had an opportunity in August to visit Tujijenge Microfinance, a microfinance institution (MFI) in Tanzania. At the time of the visit, it was the only MFI in the country that had implemented MFS, and used it for more than two years, reaching one-third of their clients (5,000 people) with noted impact in institutional growth. It has used MFS for collection, both savings and loans.
Grameen Foundation Insights
You are here
At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.
On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.
This is a guest post by Avinash Kumar, a staff member of The Livelihood School of BASIX who is working with Grameen Foundation as the project manager for the Livelihood Pathways for the Poorest project in Gaya, India.
Asha Devi’s eyes sparkled as she rolled agarbatti (“incense sticks” in Hindi) for the first time. Asha is a member of an adapted self help-group (ASHG) in Pali, a village in India’s Bihar state, where the Livelihood Pathways for the Poorest, a joint project of Grameen Foundation’s Solutions for the Poorest group and BASIX/The Livelihood School, is being implemented. The sparkle in Asha’s eyes reflects newfound self-confidence and pride that by selling handmade agarbatti, she will be able to supplement her family’s income.
There are often myths and misperceptions about the ability of poor people to save. At the SEEP conference, Kate Druschel Griffin, director of Grameen Foundation’s Solutions for the Poorest team, discussed those myths and also highlighted lessons her Microsavings team has learned over the past two years.
The Microsavings team has been working with three organizations in three countries: ACSI of Ethiopia, CASHPOR of India, and CARD Bank of the Philippines. Some of the key lessons they learned include:
Luckshmi Sivalingam, Program Officer for Grameen Foundation’s Solutions for the Poorest program, oversees the Livelihood Pathways for the Poorest (LPP) project in India.
One week last August, after slogging barefoot through a kilometer of muddy fields and monsoon rains, my colleagues from The Livelihood School at BASIX India and I reached our first ASHG (adapted self-help group) meeting of the week. We were greeted with warm smiles from the female members of one of the strongest ASHGs developed through the Livelihood Pathways for the Poorest (LPP) project in Bihar, India, to date. Trust levels and self-confidence are slowly building, as are savings habits among our members. Our project has two main goals: identifying and building a diverse and stable group of livelihood activities that will generate increased income throughout the year, and providing immediate and long-term socio-economic support for the group members and their families.
We have been working with the local government since May to link poor households to various support programs, including child and women's healthcare and work for unskilled laborers. (The 2005 Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act guarantees 100 days of wage labor for adults in rural communities who are willing to do unskilled manual work or the equivalent in wages.) Though the households in our project were eligible to receive these government programs, they either didn’t have the required proof of identification (India is one year into a national ID campaign that many hope will alleviate this problem) or were not aware of them. With our help, they now appreciate the immediate, tangible benefits of engaging in the government programs, as they begin to gradually access and experience the much-needed services that are rightfully theirs. Since we began our discussions with the local government, our target villages have been assessed to see which eligible households lack job cards; the ones that do are currently being processed. In addition, the households will each receive one to two fruit saplings for planting next month.
Understanding our clients’ thinking and the conditioning caused by a lifetime of chronic poverty is one of the most challenging aspects of this work. Our ready access in the developed world to the conveniences of modern life can limit our ability as practitioners to relate to and understand the very different reality of the poor we are seeking to help – a reality that can be a painful one. Living and interacting with them provides us with a window into the challenges of their daily lives, and shapes our own understanding of their needs and the context in which they live. It also helps us to understand the rationale behind the difficult daily decisions they must make – how to feed themselves and their families, what they must forego for the survival of their children and what sacrifices must be borne by the entire household, regardless of age. Designing a methodology, products and services to create “livelihood pathways for the poorest” will be a process of testing and retesting these next two years.
Luckshmi Sivalingam, Program Officer for Grameen Foundation's Solutions for the Poorest program, oversees the Livelihood Pathways for the Poorest (LPP) project, and has been working with the field team in Gaya since April 2010 to design the livelihood and financial products, services and methodology making up the integrated livelihoods model. We've posted an introduction to her blog post featured at CGAP below, with a link to the full post following it.
Sunita Devi, a participant in Grameen Foundation's Livelihood Pathways for the Poorest Pilot
Before Grameen Foundation’s Livelihood Pathways for the Poorest Pilot could begin its mission of serving the most impoverished and underprivileged families in Gaya, India, our team faced three critical questions: “Who are the ‘very poor’? What does poverty look like in their context, and what are its propagators? What do the very poor need to propel them on a pathway out of poverty?”