Posts Tagged ‘Economy’

Microfinance “Conversations” Sample

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

In response to comments about his microfinance “Conversations” post, Ben Hess offers this example from the “Learning Conversation” tool CRS and our partners use with self-help savings groups.

I’ve translated an example of one of the 11 topics that we cover in the savings-led microfinance Learning Conversations guide that CRS developed in Guatemala. The 11 topics are:
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HIV/AIDS Groups Begin Microfinance Project

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Benjamin Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs. He writes a weekly (schedule permitting) blog post about microfinancing in Guatemala.

In August 2008, CRS Guatemala implemented a new savings-led microfinance project among persons living with HIV in and around Coatepeque, a city in southwestern Guatemala. CRS enjoys a strong partnership with a Catholic organization, Proyecto Vida (Project Life), that is providing services to those living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk of contracting the disease. For the savings-led component, however, we partnered with Gente Unida (United People), a network of persons living with HIV or AIDS who provide support and assistance to others living with the virus.
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‘Living gratefully, spending less, buying justly, giving more’

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Looking for a way to calm your financial fears? Check out this Christian Science Monitor story on a curriculum called “Lazarus at the Gate.”

The program suggests that some of our money woes may well originate from our perspectives, not only on finances, but how we live our lives and interact in our economy.

“Right now there are a lot of opportunities to feel fear when thinking about money. But if you start from a place of gratitude and abundance, it radically changes your perspective,” says Rachel Anderson, director of Boston Faith & Justice Network (BFJN), which coordinates the small-group program. “How we choose to spend our money – there are many justice issues there and room for change to steward Earth’s resources better and alleviate poverty.”

Hat tip to CRS communications coordinator Jennifer Hardy for pointing out the story.

http://features.csmonitor.com/economyrebuild/2009/02/01/a-spiritual-approach-to-money/

‘Conversations’ Guide Microfinance Decision Making

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Benjamin Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs. He writes a weekly (schedule permitting) blog post about microfinancing in Guatemala.

In previous posts, I’ve emphasized that autonomy is an essential component of a successful savings group. In theory, it sounds easy to promote. In practice, however, providing sufficient information and training to savings groups without coming across as “prescriptive” can be difficult, especially when group members are asking animators for guidance.
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CRS President Encourages Kenya Staff

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

This past Friday, CRS President Ken Hackett addressed our staff in Kenya at a town hall meeting. During his talk, Ken acknowledged the agency’s need to tighten its belt due to difficult financial times.
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‘Promotoras’ Spread the Microfinancing Word

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Benjamin Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs. He writes a weekly (schedule permitting) blog post about microfinancing in Guatemala.

Once promotoras help form the initial savings groups within a community, others see the benefits and want to start more groups. In most cases, members of the already-formed savings groups promote the approach and help organize new groups within their communities. Over time, savings groups may develop in neighboring communities, creating a ripple effect that can dramatically increase savings-led microfinance initiatives. The replication process usually does not require any heavy financial investment from external organizations, but it does entail a careful calculation regarding the pace of expansion and the potential burdens on existing groups.
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Microfinance: Joining a Savings Group on 50 Cents a Day

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Ben is back! Benjamin Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs. He writes a weekly (schedule permitting) blog post about microfinancing in Guatemala. In this post, a parish priest asks an intriguing question: How can people who make so little hope to save money?
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New Year’s Resolutions And The Global Financial Crisis

Monday, January 5th, 2009

It’s New Year’s resolution time again. Or is it?
Real change usually takes a crisis of some sort. Maybe a doctor visit turns up something that inspires you to eat healthier. Or a near miss on the freeway convinces you to slow down. Without such motivation, resolutions tend to fizzle into wishes.
This year, we all face a common crisis: global financial troubles.
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Global Food Crisis Threat Continues

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Dear Friend,

For months we’ve been hearing about the global food crisis. The cost of food and fuel increased suddenly and sharply, making it harder for poor people around the world to feed their families. In dozens of cities, people took to the streets in protest.

Now the focus is on the collapse of the world economy. Food and fuel prices on global markets have fallen nearly as precipitously as they rose.

So, is the global food crisis over?

Unfortunately, no. It has merely entered a new phase. We are now confronted with an environment of price volatility and uncertainty. Who knows where prices will be a year from now?

In fact, although commodity prices have fallen globally, this is not necessarily reflected in local markets. For example, one of our CRS staff recently spoke with a 28-year-old woman from the Machakos diocese in Kenya who must feed a household of 12 people, including her five children and four orphaned child relatives. She says the price of maize is still nearly double what it was last year. After she emptied her last 200-pound bag of maize, she couldn’t afford to buy more. She recently received food vouchers from Catholic Relief Services to purchase maize, beans and cooking oil. Burkina Faso is another case, where despite a rice harvest over three times that of 2007, local rice prices remained 30 percent higher than last year.

This food crisis has also exposed a vulnerability in many of the developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which have for years grown accustomed to importing cheap food, principally from Asia. When the prices of those imports rose past the point at which the African countries could afford them, the failure over the past decade or more to invest in African agriculture was exposed. Countries were not able to turn to their local farmers for the quantity of food that was needed because the production potential and infrastructure were not there.

But farmers seeking to grow more food face challenges. Access to credit has never been easy in the developing world, and the financial crisis will just make it harder. Add to that the fact that the prices of essential supplies, especially fertilizer, remain high. Finally, farmers who do increase production face the prospect of lower prices for their crops. According to the latest forecast from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, these challenges could lead farmers to cut their plantings, which could precipitate another food crisis: “If, indeed, production falls sharply next year, episodes of riots and instability could again capture the headlines.”

It is clear that we must act now to avoid crisis in the future. A key part of a food security strategy must be an increased investment in farmers who cultivate small plots, particularly those who grow staple crops. We can help farmers obtain badly needed fertilizer to maximize their harvests. We can connect farmers to markets where they can receive a good, fair price for their crops. In the midst of the food crisis, CRS launched or expanded several initiatives with these goals in mind, including programs seeking to increase production of rice in West Africa, navy beans in Ethiopia, chickpeas in Tanzania and cassava across the continent.

And we must never forget the poorest of our brothers and sisters. We must provide those who are most vulnerable–such as orphans, the disabled, the elderly–with a safety net that would include food distribution, vouchers that could be exchanged for food and cash or food for work. These programs are particularly important in urban areas, where the desperately poor can’t grow food and so have no recourse when they exhaust their resources.
As we begin this new year, it is an auspicious time to recommit ourselves to this fight to end hunger around the world.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.

Ken Hackett
President

Microfinance Can Provide Insurance, Loss Recovery

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Ben Hess is a CRS international development fellow living in Guatemala and working with savings-led microfinance programs.

Imagine that a fire destroys your home or a family member suffers a crippling injury or debilitating illness. If you have insurance, you would expect your plan to take effect, thereby reducing your expenses. Insurance can mitigate your risks by minimizing the economic impact of a potentially catastrophic event. To obtain personal insurance, you pay a small premium in return for coverage in the event of an emergency. Premiums vary based on the probability and costs of risks.

What happens to an uninsured family when fires, illnesses, and other disasters strike? For extremely poor Guatemalan families—who almost never have health coverage, home insurance, or workers’ compensation—the consequences can be devastating.
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