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Highlights of CRS Microfinance Programming

On the Front Line in the Fight Against Poverty

Catholic Relief Services is among the major players in the microfinance world, with a network of over 36 country programs supporting both formal microfinance institutions and a range of community-based savings-led initiatives.

Creating Access to Business Loans

For people in urban and densely populated rural communities, CRS provides much-needed access to credit services through partner microfinance institutions. Typically, loans begin at $40 and members of self-selected groups use the money to help their businesses grow. An emphasis is put on establishing long-term relationships between group members and the microfinance institution. This ensures that the borrowers can successfully reimburse the institution, and that their businesses grow and develop through the prudent use of these loans.

Since receiving the MF loan, Naseeha became the main breadwinner.

Since receiving a microfinance loan, Naseeha became the main breadwinner in her household. As a result, she can provide a better education for her children by sending them to school and even university. Photo by Franne Van der Keilen/CRS

Supporting the Extremely Poor

For groups of extremely vulnerable poor, with even smaller savings and borrowing capacities, CRS introduced two microfinance methodologies: the savings and internal lending community and the self-help group. Members of these groups typically save on a regular basis, contribute to a voluntary emergency fund, and engage in small-scale internal lending with loans of $5 to $30. These approaches have been particularly successful in meeting the financial needs of extremely vulnerable communities that have little or no access to formal financial services.

A Far-Reaching Success

CRS' microfinance efforts have been very successful and have been integrated into other programming areas such as agro-enterprise, HIV and emergency mitigation. There has been significant impact not only at the group level but also at the community level, where it has been able to assist other vulnerable community members, including orphans, vulnerable children and households affected by HIV. As an added benefit, the principles of group formation and group cohesion, which are taught as part of our microfinance work, have helped to strengthen and empower communities to take ownership of their own development.

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