Microfinance – providing financial services to the poor – stands at the threshold of a new era. Decades after the first experiment in non-collateralized credit was launched in Bangladesh and the approach went on to proliferate throughout Asia and Latin America, microfinance has yet to reach those who need it most: millions of the world’s poorest people in Africa.
As this report will describe, CARE, a leader in international development, long ago recognized the power of microfinance as a development tool. Not only does microfinance enable the poor to build their assets and invest in income-generating activities, but it has also proved to be remarkably effective as a vehicle for human empowerment, especially for women who have been found to benefit most from microfinance services and to make the best use of them in lifting their families out of poverty.
CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are built entirely on member savings and interest from loans; they receive no direct capital investment from CARE. However, their members do receive a year of intensive training from CARE in group dynamics and governance and in money management. This training enables the groups to become self-supporting, to flourish and even to establish and train other groups.