Social microfinance – the difficult road to success
Anh Chi Em is a programme of microfinance run by the French organization Entrepreneurs du Monde: an organization established in 1998, directly operates programmes or partners with microfinance organizations to empower vulnerable people in 12 developing countries in the world. To reach their goal, the organization supports the economic initiatives of the most disadvantaged people in these regions. Their work is divided into 3 axes: microfinance, social enterprises and the creation of small businesses. In Vietnam, their programme called Anh Chi Em started in 2007 and aims to provide microloans and trainings to vulnerable people who don’t have access to the traditional banking system in the province of Dien Bien. The province is located in very north of Vietnam, close to the border with the Laos, and is one of the most isolated and poorest provinces in Vietnam, with around 40 % of the families being under the line of poverty.
What is micro-finance?
A type of banking service that is provided to unemployed or low-income individuals or groups who would otherwise have no other means of gaining financial services. Ultimately, the goal of microfinance is to give low income people an opportunity to become self-sufficient by providing a means of saving money, borrowing money and insurance.
How did the programme start?
From the beginning, the programme worked in close collaboration with the local authorities, and especially with the People’s Committees and the Women’s Union of Dien Bien Province. For instance, the Women’s Union is a unique organisation consisting of more than 15 Million Vietnamese members (the population of Vietnam is at 89 Million), with the aim of empowering women. At the beginning of the project in 2007, the Women’s Union was responsible for the implementation of the programme, and Entrepreneurs du Monde for providing technical and financial assistance. In 2010, a rigorous evaluation showed that practices in place required higher levels of monitoring, and by consequence they had change thei partnership model to mitigate these risks. They decided to get more involved in the daily operations of the project and rather coordinate strategic decisions with these historical partners through steering committees. However Entrepreneurs du Monde plans to transfer or transform the programme to become a Vietnamese organization as opposed to a foreign NGO project that receives authorization to operate for only 3 years periods.
How does the Anh Chi Em programme work ?
A micro-finance programme can have different missions, therefore can aim for different objectives, design various different types of organization/structure and implement different services and methodologies. As for any EdM micro-finance projects Anh Chi Em has been designed as a “social micro-finance programme”, which means that their financial services are tailor fit to the poorest and combined with socio economical services. The objective of ACE is to help the vulnerable people to get out of the poverty on the long-term which cannot be achieved through financial support only. The programme offers technical trainings on agriculture, business and social trainings to teach borrowers practical agronomic and veterinarian skills, how to run a business and increase awareness on social issues related to the living conditions such as preventing HIV-aids, domestic violence, drug consumption…. Moreover and through individual counseling from agro-vet and social workers , the programme keeps a close track of the beneficiaries, to learn how they use the cash received, and to be able to give them advice. If the borrowers need specific help or advice that the programme is not able to provide, they will be referred to other organizations whenever it is possible.
In Dien Bien province, the beneficiaries of the loans are in majority women farmers from the Black Tay minority. Entrepreneurs du Monde has adapted its microfinance model to the specificities of the targeted population and the seasonality of the activities, agriculture-dependent cash flow of the farmers. The loan cycle duration has an average of 10 months and an interest rate of 1,5% on declining balance. The programme experiences very high loyalty rate of 85% (these are the customers that after taking one loan and paying it back, take a new one). This explains why some beneficiaries are at their 8th loan cycle. Currently, 5000 families are participating in the program and ACE records more than 20,000 participations to the trainings over the last 3 years (the trainings are free and not limited to the beneficiaries of the loans). 32 employees work for the programme, in collaboration with more than 200 group leaders, who help them collect the money and facilitate the communication with the beneficiaries and the organization of training courses. Even though the loan contracts at Entrepreneurs du Monde are individual, group dynamics are created thanks to the active participation of group leaders and through monthly group meetings.
What are the future plans?
The model of Anh Chi Em has been designed to be financially and institutionally sustainable in the long-term. At the moment, 85 to 90% of the expenses are covered by the revenues generated via loans, which means the program still relies on external funding. With the growth of outreach and the improvement of the portfolio quality, the project should be financially sustainable by 2016. Currently, their major donor is AFD (the French Agency of Development), along with several other donors that raise smaller amount of funds but that are usually specialized to provide support to microfinance projects. The micro-credits are also partly financed by innovative peer-to-peer funding such as Kiva. Additional resources are still necessary to finance the growth that will provide the programme financial sustainability. For instance, in the near future, Entrepreneurs du Monde is planning on expanding their work to a new district in the Dien Bien province. They are currently conducting a study for choosing the location where EdM services and expertise are most needed.
If current stable path of the programme is due to Entrepreneurs du Monde’s adaptation his model to the local context and problems. This proves that having good project monitoring and being capable of adapting to the local needs and mindset is crucial for the success of a project.
To know more on the programme visit: www.anh-chi-em.org
For more information on Entrepreneurs du Monde visit: www.entrepreneursdumonde.org
Thi Dien is 34 years old, she is married and has two sons. Together with her husband, she grows rice, and rears chicken and pigs. In addition, she makes crocheted, decorative items. Thi Dien joined the Anh Chi Em programme and received a first loan of 1.2 million Vietnamese Dong (around 44€), that she used to buy a sow. Paying her loan back on time allowed her to take a second and a third loan – of 3, respectively 6 million Vietnamese Dong (110 / 220€). With this money she built a pen for the animals, and bought food for her sow’s seven piglets. She then sold them for 17 million Vietnamese Dong (620€). Thanks to the regular meetings and trainings organized by the programme, she also improved her rice production. She now intends to grow more chickens and to start a fish farm.
Source: Entrepreneurs du Monde