Saturday, July 03, 2010

A profile of a microcredit worker in Bolivia

The microcredit banks employ hundreds of field workers who work closely with the loan recipients. The attend the meetings of the peer groups of loan recipients and ensure the they are able to pay back the loans. Some microcredit banks even have the field workers help the recipients in other areas of life like health and education.

From Next Billion, we see a profile of one such worker in Bolivia, Justinano Osco.

Justinano Osco drove his dirt bike right into the meeting room where 11 women--members of a communal lending group, or village bank, sat awaiting him. The "room" was an open field in Achocalla, Bolivia. Justiniano is the loan officer who leads the twice-monthly meetings for this village bank, providing trainings, facilitating the loan process and supporting these women who are working to better their lives with the help of microfinance.

I had the opportunity to meet Justiniano-a loan officer with Global Partnerships microfinance partner CRECER-last summer. I was immediately impressed by the respect that Justiniano showed the members of this village bank and the rapport he had with them. He started the meeting off with an icebreaker that involved jumping up and down in place-which led to lots of giggles as the women bounced in their broad skirts, derby hats perched on their heads and long braids flapping at their sides

He then led a participative training on good nutrition, complete with posters of the food pyramid.

Like many microfinance loan officers, Justiniano has a background that is very similar to the clients that he serves. He grew up in a poor, rural community: His parents were small farmers, working a tiny plot of land with a few animals.

"My childhood was very difficult. I didn't know what shoes were," he explained. He described how he and his clients "share the same culture, the same traditions, the same language." (The entire bank meeting was conducted in Aymara, the indigenous language spoken in this region.)

Justiniano visits 20 meetings every week, with some requiring a two-and-a-half-hour ride. His dedication to visiting communities in remote regions is typical of micofinance loan officers and reflects a key difference between microfinance institutions and traditional banks. While banks have an office in the city and require you to go to them for service, microfinance organizations are proactive in their outreach, traveling to where their clients live.

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