Affordable credit, a creditable means to improve lives
Pakokku Township, Magway Township
Ma Myint Myint Maw and her family of eight, in Hnaw Kone Village in Pakokku Township of central Myanmar, live by making and selling bamboo mats. Until recently, everyday was a struggle for Myint’s family; they even had to borrow rice each week to feed themselves. A daughter dropped out of school, because they could not afford the expense.
Like many other poor families, Myint’s family had to borrow from private moneylenders, who charged as much as 20 per cent interest, to keep themselves going. They had a very small profit from the mat making once they had re-paid the moneylender. “It was very difficult to access credit in those days and though we badly needed money to increase our business we could not borrow much because of the high interest rate. And most of the profit was spent to pay back to money lenders,” said Myint.
- The UNDP has supported the formation of over 5,500 SRGs, all of which are operating group-owned revolving funds
- All 74,377 SRG members (99 per cent of whom are women) have taken of loans from their SRG revolving fund
- Loans worth over USD 72 million from SRGs have been for starting or expanding livelihood activities
- SRGs exist in over 2,552 rural poor villages in Myanmar
- SRG revolving funds now total USD 22 million and are growing as most SRGs are sustainable and are managing their funds well
- Almost all SRGs are actively involved in wider village development activities and are proactive in making village decision-making processes
When the UNDP’s Integrated Community Development Project helped set up Self-Reliance Groups (SRG) for poor women in her village in 2007, Myint instantly joined one group. “I was struck by the idea that a group of 15-20 women can own their own fund giving them affordable loans and at the same time are able to save,” she said. Myint enthusiastically supported other women to form their own groups. The UNDP provided her group with organizational and book keeping training for the proper management of the group’s revolving fund. The group, however, was responsible for deciding what rules and procedures it would follow and who would receive loans and on what basis.
Once the group was able to show that it was strong and cohesive, held regular meetings and had a growing corpus from member’s savings, the UNDP contributed cash to its corpus fund, so it could start lending. Myint’s first loan from her group was to buy raw materials for bamboo matting. With the far lower interest rate she now had to pay, her profit allowed her to repay the loan as well as invest more in the mat-making business.
With the SRGs in the village tract established and functioning properly, the UNDP encouraged them to from cluster leading groups (CLG). A Cluster Leading group is composed of several SRGs. “Cluster leading groups are self-forming structures that serve to strengthen interaction, networking, peer-support and monitoring among member groups,” said Daw Htay Htay Aung, UNDP’s SRG Specialist said. CLGs are expected to share information, diversify the risk of lending and undertake activities that benefit member groups and communities.
In 2011, Myint’s group joined 16 other SRGs from six neighbouring villages to form the Taw Win Nan SRG Cluster Leading group. The UNDP gave the Taw Win Nan CLG 10,000,000 Kyat (USD 11,800), enabling it to provide more low interest credit to the participating SRG members.
Myint seized the opportunity to expand her business substantially, borrowing 300,000 Kyat (USD 350) from her own SRG and 800,000 Kyat (USD 940) from the CLG. She was able to raise these loans because she had a very good credit history. She always re-paid the interest and loan principal on time.
Myint’s family mat-making business has grown and their quality of life has improved. “Now I employ five workers in my business. My net profit is 300,000 Kyat (USD 357) within two months. I have bought a motorcycle, and I can pay the education expenses of my children”, she explained with smile. This puts Myint in a far better position than ordinary wage-workers in a city.
Myint and others like her in Myanmar have been able to pull themselves out of the poverty trap through credit that the UNDP supported SRGs and CLGs have provided. Access to affordable credit may not be the magic bullet for sustainably improving livelihoods, but it is much harder to achieve this without it.