Fonkoze blog for news and updates on the work we are doing for the ultra poor in Haiti.
Fonkoze blog for news and updates on the work we are doing for the ultra poor in Haiti.
by Natalie Parke, Grants Manager, Fonkoze USA
I have admired Fonkoze’s work since I spent a year in Haiti responding to the 2010 earthquake. At that time, Fonkoze was inundated with partnership requests from organizations like the one I worked for, the International Rescue Committee. We all knew that if we wanted to partner with a local institution to alleviate poverty, Fonkoze was the organization with which to work. Five years later, it is an honor to be the newest member of Fonkoze USA’s team.
One of the reasons I joined Fonkoze USA was because I wanted to work for a locally based organization whose programs were impactful, sustainable and grounded in demonstrated success. While I knew that Fonkoze’s programs met these criteria, it was not until I participated in our February 22-25 Insight Trip that the fantastic achievements of our programs began to give me gooseflesh.
A couple of times a year, delegations of Fonkoze’s core supporters visit our programs to witness firsthand the results of our work. This year, we were joined by a diverse group of individuals: an Economics Professor at the University of Puerto Rico; church-members from Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, FL; and members of the Haitian diaspora who included Garcelle Beauvais, a renowned actress and former fashion model. Their collective enthusiasm and generosity was remarkable.
My colleagues led a whirlwind tour, which began in Mibalè with our Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM, or Pathway to a Better Life) program. We met with beneficiaries of that program, such as Marimene Delus, who shared her story of single motherhood, having lived in shelter consisting of not much more than a tarp. With the dedicated support and mentoring of Fonkoze’s CLM staff, she has constructed a house, started a small business selling cosmetics, and sent her children to school. Profits from her business have enabled her to purchase livestock, and she plans to acquire a cow—a symbol of prosperity in the impoverished, rural areas of the country.
From Mibalè, we traveled to Okap, the major city in Haiti’s north. For many delegates, the five hour journey, which involved jolting ruts in the road and precarious river crossings, was as memorable as it was exhausting. Outside Okap, we met with a gathering of 13 of Fonkoze’s Solidarity groups whose members shared their experiences with Fonkoze’s microloans. We also visited an owner of a “boutik sante” (community health store), supported by one of my favorite programs—an innovative microfranchise pilot initiative that expands health services to remote regions while also generating profit for the small business owners.
On a personal level, I was especially touched by our visit to Fonkoze’s clients who participated in our cervical cancer screening program. Each of about 20 individuals shared her testimony of having participated in the screening. Nearly 10% of those screened received results that deemed them at high-risk for cervical cancer or as having pre-cancerous lesions. The human papillomavirus—the primary cause of cervical cancer—threatens women worldwide, including several of my dearest friends. The openness with which Fonkoze’s clients spoke about their diagnoses, coupled with their commitment to educating their peers, moved me to tears.
The more I learn about Fonkoze’s programs, the prouder I become to be a part of such powerful work. Through the Insight Trip, all of us delegates were truly integrated (and initiated!) into our Fonkoze Family. Everyone expressed their commitment to continuing and deepening their existing support for Fonkoze, a commitment that was both inspiring and humbling. I will look forward to meeting more Fonkoze supporters on future Insight Trips. To find out how you can participate, please see our Insight Trip webpage.
Aslene Guerrelus lives in Lacoma, one of the most remote areas that Fonkoze serves. Hours from the nearest commercial bank branch, Fonkoze’s Janrabèl branch provides Aslene and her fellow clients both the opportunity to expand their businesses and a source of security for their hard-earned savings.
For Aslene, this opportunity to store deposits, receive loans, and make withdrawals provides a sense of financial independence and empowerment that has improved her family’s overall well-being.
Since joining Fonkoze a year ago, Aslene has increased the size of her loans from approximately $64 to approximately $109. Her loans have enabled Aslene to expand her small commerce selling food products both outside her aunt’s house and in the public market, adding additional items including vegetables and yams.
Aslene has three daughters and a son between ages 13 and 7, all of whom she sends to school with the earnings from her business. Before joining Fonkoze, she struggled to provide her children with enough nutrients, mainly consisting on rice. Now, Aslene is able to afford nutritious meals, increasing her confidence in her ability to take care of her children.
Aslene has also successfully invested in livestock: two chickens that she keeps in case of an emergency.
While Aslene has not taken Fonkoze’s Basic Literacy class because she already knows how to read and write, she explains that the program helps her community because “women don’t have to make a cross anymore to sign their names.”
Fonkoze’s services have also been a tremendous help to Aslene and her children in her own life.
“The loan that I receive from Fonkoze helps me so much with my four children,” Aslene says. “I want to tell others that Fonkoze can help you grow your business and live a better life.”
Originally posted by CLM Communications and Learning Officer Steven Werlin on his blog, Apprenticeship in Education.
Not every family graduates from CLM.
The record since the program took off in 2007 is striking. 144 of the 150 families who participated in the initial pilot graduated, and the team has maintained that 96% graduation rate ever since. 3395 families have succeeded thus far.
The criteria are straightforward, nothing fancy. A family must be eating at least one hot meal every day. They must have two sources of income and $185 worth of productive assets. They can have no untreated cases of malnutrition and must be living in a house with a good tin roof. We want the woman of the family to have a plan for the future and the confidence to know that she can succeed.
But that leaves about 4%, or about 140 families, who haven’t graduated. That’s really a lot.
They fail to graduate for lots of reasons. For some, the case manager has failed to establish the trusting relationship that our program’s work depends on. We had a member named Marie who went behind her case manager’s back and sold all the goats that we gave her. He continued to try to work with her, but her dishonesty continued. And that was when he was able to see her. Much of the time, she ducked his weekly visits.
We don’t know as much as we should about the women like Marie, about what they do after their cohort graduates. We have anecdotes that suggest that many continue to make progress. Marie herself finished building her house after we had moved on, and she continued to build up her charcoal business as well. But we don’t have the resources to ensure follow-up.
But Mimose is doing ok.
She and her husband Wozèn live in Mazonbi, a remote area at the end of a rocky, twisting road that follows a secondary ridge northwest from Gran Boulay, a village on the mountain that separates the Central Plateau from the plain that contains the suburbs north of Port-au-Prince. When they joined our program in June 2013, they had three small children. She had once had a small commerce, but had lost the money one day when she was at market. Then she became pregnant with her last child, and couldn’t really move around. The boy was born right before she entered the program. Wozèn took on the whole responsibility for supporting the household by farming their small plot, and doing day labor in their neighbors’ fields.
The issues that interfered with her graduation were nothing like those we saw with Marie. We evaluate women after twelve months to see how much progress they have made towards the program’s goals, and at the twelve-month mark Mimose was ready to graduate. She and Wozèn had worked hard to build a well-constructed two-room house, using money she saved from her weekly stipend to making it larger than most of the houses that CLM members build. She was once again managing a small commerce, and though she had had trouble with her goats, she had enough assets overall to meet our graduation criteria.
But then she ran into problems. She and Wozèn chose not to use contraceptives, and she became pregnant once more. The pregnancy made it impossible for her to get her small commerce to market – each of the local markets she sells at is a considerable hike from her home at the lower end of Mazonbi – and the money that she had in it frittered away as she and Wozèn worked to cover household expenses.
She and Wozèn had been struggling from the start to make something of their investment in goats. A jealous neighbor had killed three of them, and though they pursued restitution with their case manager’s help, the most they could get to replace their losses were two small goats that the man’s aunt gave them so that he could avoid prison. They reluctantly accepted the aunt’s offer because she had been a very good neighbor to them for a long time. They thought they owed her their cooperation. Shortly before the 17-month evaluation, which would determine whether Mimose could graduate, the two replacement goats died.
So the only productive assets that they had were a couple of chickens from a flock that the couple had been keeping to provide Mimose with the extra protein she needed during the last stages of her pregnancy, and a field they had planted with beans. It was less than our graduation criteria demand. The last thing we were able to do for her before we left Mazonbi and its environs was to arrange for another CLM member to give Mimose two more goats so that she and Wozèn could get started once more.
But it didn’t take long for them to begin to build their household back up again. Mimose gave birth to a healthy baby, and decided that her fourth child would be her last. The couple made the effort to get her to the hospital in Mirebalais for the childbirth, and she had the doctors their tie her tubes. “Four children is enough,” she explained. Wozèn added, “Children are expensive. They have to eat, and they have to go to school.”
While she was in the last months of pregnancy, Wozèn took good care of their new goats, and they grew quickly. But he and Mimose were constantly concerned about goat thieves. The area around Mazonbi is spotted with little hills and valleys. Wherever they might choose to tie their goats to graze, the goats would be hidden most of the time. And there are numerous little paths that lead to Croix-des-Bouquets and Titayen, easy routes to market for someone who decides to lead away a neighbor’s goats. So they sold them and looked for another way to invest the funds.
Then a neighbor asked them about farming a field that they could not afford to plant, and they agreed to rent it to him for two years. They took the rental money, added the money from the sale of the goats, and bought a cow. They paid a lot for the cow – about $260 – but they thought it was a good investment. “It’s a big cow,” Mimose explains.
And now Mimose is ready to get back into her commerce. In the coming weeks, she plans to apply for a loan from Fonkoze, once again joining the women who were in CLM with her. She’ll send Wozèn to purchase rice and beans and other basics for her in Croix-de-Bouquets, and then she’ll bring them for sale in the local markets in Labasti, Dalon, and Ti Sekèy.
We’re optimistic about Mimose. She and Wozèn work hard and together, and they learned enough during 18 months with their case manager to have an excellent chance to succeed over the long term.
Originally posted by Steven Werlin, CLM Communications and Learning Officer, on the Center for Financial Inclusion blog.
A new initiative of Haiti’s Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) promises to push financial inclusion for some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Prior to Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake in 2010, roughly 800,000 Haitians had disabilities. An estimated 300,000 more were injured in the earthquake. The Secretary’s office is facilitating a partnership between Fonkoze and Texas Christian University (TCU) with additional support from the Digicel Foundation, to carry out a program that offers financial and livelihood empowerment services for PwDs.
The pilot for the project will test a combination of Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM, or the Pathway to a Better Life) program, and TCU professor Dawn Elliott’s More than Budgets (MTB) program. CLM is a comprehensive graduation program for the ultra poor, based on the approach developed by BRAC. It is a tailored, sequenced program that provides participants with cash installments to build businesses, productive assets (such as goats, chickens, and merchandise to sell), a savings account at Fonkoze, and regular training and confidence-building support in areas of enterprise management, health and nutrition, and life skills. Most importantly, CLM offers weekly one-on-one meetings with trained case managers. It targets the poorest families—those too poor to use traditional microfinance services. Many participants graduate from the 18-month program and go on to join a group credit program to further support their business efforts. MTB, employing a combination of education and incentives, is a personal financial training program that was developed to help poor, unbanked Texans build up savings, gain access to financial resources, and reduce financial vulnerabilities. The program has been applied in homeless shelters and with people recently released from prison.
Thirty disabled Haitians from Lascahobas, in the Central Plateau, will participate in the PwD program. Like members of the CLM program, they will receive enterprise training and the assets they need to start their businesses, along with weekly visits from a case manager. Like MTB participants, they will receive training that highlights the value of savings and tools, as well as incentives that facilitate savings. Participant selection will be completed in February, and launch of the yearlong pilot is scheduled to start in March.
The CLM team was excited to learn from MTB because it offers a way to encourage savings even in remoter areas, where formal banking can be hard to access. Fonkoze sent staff, including myself, to Fort Worth, Texas, to study the MTB approach. We were especially interested in the way MTB is able to open up savings to those who may not yet be ready for a formal bank.
Up until now, the CLM program had to exclude the disabled poor because it lacked the tools to work with them. Gauthier Dieudonné, the Program Director for CLM, has asserted the importance of the experiment saying, “We need to make sure this pilot succeeds so that we never again have to leave a disabled person in our fight to eliminate extreme poverty.”
AlterEcoPlus, a French publication, released the following article about Fonkoze’s success:
Cinq ans après le tremblement de terre de Port-au-Prince, qui a ravagé la capitale d’un des pays les plus pauvres du monde, le 12 janvier 2010, et fait plus de 200 000 victimes, les stigmates de la catastrophe sont de moins en moins visibles. Et les indicateurs sociaux s’améliorent : espérance de vie, taux de scolarisation, alimentation, réduction de la pauvreté… Mais cette évolution positive est moins due à la progression de l’activité économique qu’à des financements extérieurs. Ceux de la diaspora haïtienne, nombreuse et active1 comme ceux issus de l’aide internationale. Comment parvenir à stimuler l’activité économique locale, notamment celle des plus pauvres, de sorte qu’ils puissent améliorer leur sort et celui de leur famille ?
La question est à l’origine de Fonkoze. Cette fondation, dont le nom est une abréviation du créole « Fondasyon Kole Zepòl » (collés-épaules, pour symboliser la solidarité en actes), est née en 1994, à l’initiative d’un groupe d’organisation de base et d’un prêtre haïtien, Joseph Philippe, qui en est toujours le président. L’outil de Fonkoze : la microfinance. Mais une microfinance particulière, qui marie microcrédit et développement social, et s’adresse aux femmes des milieux les plus pauvres, notamment dans les zones éloignées de la capitale.
En Haïti, en effet, ce sont les femmes qui, le plus souvent, doivent pourvoir aux besoins de leurs enfants. Pour y parvenir, elles s’appuient fréquemment sur une toute petite activité commerciale ou agricole : par exemple la revente au détail d’une bassine de « piment-bouc » (un piment très fort au goût particulier très apprécié) ou quelques porcelets issus de la dernière portée de leur truie. Développer cette activité, ou s’y lancer, est le meilleur moyen d’améliorer leur sort pour ces femmes dont plus de la moitié vivent en dessous du seuil d’extrême pauvreté (1,25 dollar par jour en monnaie locale2).
Le travail des 45 agences locales de Fonkoze consiste à organiser des groupes de 5 à 6 femmes se connaissant bien et candidates à Ti Kredi, un microcrédit compris entre 25 et 60 dollars. Les groupes géographiquement proches constituent un « centre » : c’est là que les conseillers et les formateurs rencontrent les membres des groupes, leur versent l’argent quand elles vivent trop loin de la succursale et effectuent les recouvrements. Toutefois, avant de verser cet argent, il s’agit de donner aux candidates, dont 40 % sont analphabètes, un minimum de formation. Puis d’assurer un suivi, aussi bien en matière de gestion que pour faire face aux problèmes de santé, d’école ou d’alphabétisation.
Ce maillage territorial étroit et cet accompagnement permettent à Fonkoze de cibler les plus pauvres. Par exemple Chemen Lavi Miyò (Chemin vers une vie meilleure) consiste à fournir aux membres les plus démunis une petite subvention en espèces et un accompagnement hebdomadaire afin d’attendre les premiers résultats de leur nouvelle activité commerciale. Mais ce programme fournit aussi de quoi construire une case sur un sol en ciment avec un toit de tôle et des latrines : le ciment rend l’habitat plus sain, la tôle permet de récupérer l’eau de pluie pour la consommation, les latrines d’éviter la dispersion des germes fécaux. L’originalité de Fonkoze réside dans ce mixage d’aide (financée par les dons que reçoit la fondation), d’accompagnement social et de microcrédit.
Des résultats bien réels
Et les résultats sont au rendez-vous. Pas spectaculaires, mais bien réels : au terme des six mois que dure Ti Kredi, l’insécurité alimentaire des familles concernées a reculé (passant de 35 % à 27 %), l’habitat s’est amélioré et le prêt a été remboursé dans 95 % des cas, malgré des taux d’intérêt que, en France, nous jugerions scandaleusement élevé : environ 1 % par semaine sur le montant restant à rembourser.
Mais ce taux – qui s’explique par le coût élevé du suivi et du recouvrement de prêts minuscules – est à comparer avec celui des usuriers (jusqu’à 100 % par mois) et il incite les femmes à s’engager dans des activités suffisamment génératrices de revenus. Paradoxalement (pour un œil occidental), l’obligation du remboursement et du paiement des intérêts couplé à l’accompagnement professionnel se révèlent être des leviers de développement. Et comme, en cas de non-remboursement d’une des femmes du groupe, les autres doivent compenser, la solidarité du groupe joue dans le même sens.
Ti Kredi n’est qu’une étape pour la plupart des membres du groupe. A son terme, plus de huit femmes sur dix décident de poursuivre dans un programme plus ambitieux, Solidarity. Il s’agit toujours de microcrédit, mais plus important (en moyenne environ 250 dollars), donc sur des durées plus longues. Mais toujours au sein d’un groupe : en 2013, il y en avait 12 000, regroupant 57 000 femmes. Des ti machann (petites marchandes) qui sont le débouché principal ou unique de 60 % des agriculteurs haïtiens produisant des légumes ou des fruits (mangues, mandarines…) et qui se familiarisent avec la détention d’un compte d’épargne à Fonkoze. Ce qui leur évite ainsi d’avoir à stocker de l’argent liquide chez elles pour leur prochaine échéance ou leurs achats de gros, et leur permet de recevoir des fonds en provenance de membres de la famille émigrés aux Etats-Unis ou ailleurs.
Quel financement ?
D’où vient l’argent de Fonkoze ? Son bras armé est l’institution financière SFF (Sèvis Finansye Fonkoze) au capital de 7,7 millions de dollars, dont les déficits (800 000 dollars en 2013) sont comblés grâce aux dons qu’elle reçoit. Le capital de SFF provient aussi des ordres religieux (protestants et catholiques), des personnes privées (dont beaucoup sont regroupées au sein d’une organisation philanthropique américaine, Fonkoze USA), une des sociétés de téléphonie haïtienne, Digicel, et une coopérative européenne spécialisée dans la finance solidaire, Oikocredit3, d’origine néerlandaise, mais également implantée en France. Oikocredit se finance auprès de particuliers sous la forme de placements (labellisés Finansol).
Goutte d’eau dans un océan de détresse ? En partie, évidemment, car ce n’est pas le microcrédit qui, à lui seul, permettra au pays de sortir de la misère. Mais, en renforçant l’activité économique à la base, Fonkoze permet à une partie des plus pauvres de construire eux-mêmes un avenir meilleur.
Loving this video from some amazing students at McGill University in Montreal. For Giving Tuesday, they pledged to raise $500 to provide 10 Haitian women with business skills training—which will be doubled to $1,000, empowering 20 women!
How will you join the Giving Tuesday movement? Let us know in the comments!
Image courtesy of Emic Films.
Have you marked your calendar yet? Don’t miss the chance to support Fonkoze on Tuesday, December 2, 2014! As part of this international day of giving back, the Board of Directors of Fonkoze USA will be matching, dollar-for-dollar, all gifts made up to $50,000! Your gift will have twice the impact on the life of a Haitian woman and her family.
Sign up now to participate as a Giving Tuesday ambassador, and share this page to invite your friends!
Before joining Fonkoze, Marie Ermithe Raymond borrowed from local credit cooperatives, but disliked their high interest rates. “They gave me no grace period to repay my loan,” she explains. Then, in 2004, she discovered Fonkoze.
She and the other members of her Solidarity group, Bon Bèje (Good Shepherd), were friends before they joined Fonkoze, and they help one another whenever one of them experiences hardship. They have also benefited from the business skills training provided by Fonkoze.
“Fonkoze gives us a big push in our business,” she explains. “I started with almost nothing—some soda in a little Igloo. But when I joined Fonkoze, I was able to buy more merchandise. Every time, I reinvest the profits into the business to expand it. The bigger your commerce, the more profit you make.”
Marie now runs a small store in Leyogàn selling soda and food products. Her most recent loan was for nearly $500 USD.Thanks to the growth of her business, she was able to hire two employees, who help to unload goods for her store. She has also used some of the profits from her business to build a two-room house that she rents to make additional income.
Since joining Fonkoze, Marie can feed her family two meals per day, and supports local food vendors by buying their products. She has also been able to buy new furniture for her home and to pay for schooling for her two daughters and her goddaughter.
Marie’s favorite part of her Solidarity meetings are the trainings she receives. In 2010, she received training on how to prevent cholera, information that she shared with her family and other members of her community. “I am glad because I could teach this information to my children,” she explains.
“Fonkoze helps me with my commerce, my family,” Marie says. “Since joining Fonkoze, I’ve noticed a big change in my life.”
Financial stability and prosperity is but one component of Fonkoze’s programming as we empower Haitians to pull themselves out of poverty. Fonkoze is committed to supporting the overall well-being of our members, their families and their communities.
Thanks to generous support from several donors, Fonkoze provided a three-day summer camp experience for 2,578 children in the Central Plateau of Haiti.
Community members welcomed the camp with unmitigated warmth; many said that they had never experienced anything like it. The challenges that our members face often preclude “fun for the sake of fun.” Thus, even in the pursuit of broader objectives, we never sacrificed our primary goal of having fun.
The camps also serve to reinforce the messaging that campers’ mothers receive through Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò program (“the pathway to a better life”) while building community cohesion; emphasizing the importance of education prior to the start of the school year; and providing role models for children and youth.
The interest and enthusiasm for the camps was infectious. We expected 2,300 children but 2,578 showed up; Fonkoze’s staff once again demonstrated their flexibility by accommodating the additional 200+ children. The camp was held at six different sites in the communities where CLM members live. Apart from learning, eating and playing together, children received school books, notebooks, pens and pencils for the upcoming school year. On the last day, every child also received a small plant to take home, an extension of camp environmental activities and a tangible reminder of a fun few days!