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CRS Microfinance Partners

Catholic Relief Services has been supporting microfinance activities for over 20 years primarily through local grass roots partners that play the lead role in implementing these initiatives within their communities. CRS provides much needed capacity building support to our partners by providing training and technical assistance on innovations that can efficiently meet the needs of poor communities. Local partner organizations provide insight and experience about how best to work with their community based on an understanding of their needs.

This model of working through local partners has been successful in helping to empower local communities and ensure sustainable and long-lasting programming within CRS' global network.

Caisse Autonome pour le Renforcement des Initiatives Economique par la Micro Finance, known as CAURIE-MF, is a Senegalese institution. CAURIE grew out of a microfinance program in which Catholic Relief Services had participated since 1999. CAURIE became autonomous in 2005, but CRS and CAURIE are still partners, working together to advance women's development in Senegal.

Capitalizing on Dreams and Drive

By Karen Cobos

Fatou Mata Sall looks forward to coming to work every day. It was not so just a few years back before village banking arrived to open up opportunities in savings and credit. Since then, she has experienced a long but steady progression to become a successful business woman, juggling the needs of her immediate and extended family.

Fatou is 39 years old and a founding member of the village bank, Escale, the village bank in her town of Marasassoum in the Ziguinchor region of southern Senegal. Marasassoum is an isolated community accessible only by crossing on an outmoded ferry.

Fatou Mata Sall

Fatou Mata Sall with her youngest son in her shop. Photo by Karen Cobos/CRS

The village bank was launched five years ago and now has over 50 women. As one of these enterprising women, Fatou has taken control of her future. She has completed 11 six-month loan cycles. She is receiving loans equivalent to $1,100 while accumulating nearly $1,300 in savings. Her business has grown from a small, ramshackle fabric stand into a solid, established shop selling general wares. Before joining the village bank, Fatou had dreamed of receiving loans to expand her business, but could not access them through the local financial institutions.

It was the starter loan of $30 that sparked her success. Developing her skills and her business one small loan at a time, Fatou has shown what the entrepreneurial spirit is all about. To support five children and several brothers, Fatou's husband left for long periods of time in search of work. While the occasional funds sent by her husband helped cover the basic expenses, Fatou’s business situation was stagnant. Even when her husband did return, he was not supportive of her business ambitions. He questioned her ability to successfully run the business she had set out to develop.

After just one year in the village bank, Fatou’s loans and subsequent savings cleared the way to opening her own shop. Her husband soon appreciated her drive and began to even help looking after the children so she could concentrate on the business.

But to her, this was just a first step. As her youngest son scrambles around the shop, she smiles while discussing her plans to diversify the goods offered in her shop and branching into high-quality textiles. She lists even larger aspirations, geared towards opening another shop or purchasing a truck.

These dreams are within reach as she qualifies for the new small business loan offered by CAURIE-MF to its most successful clients. The loan is funded largely by the savings collected from CAURIE-MF's village banking network.

Since becoming a permanent microfinance institution in October 2005, CAURIE-MF has collected savings and expanded its services to better serve remote areas like Marassasoum.

Fatou is a woman with plans and goals. CAURIE-MF is there to lend a helping hand.

Karen Cobos serves as a program manager with CRS Senegal, supporting program quality for various sectors.

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