One of the most misunderstood places in the world is Haiti. The devastating earthquake earlier this year has brought Haiti into the world stage, but the attention hasn’t gone very far in helping the situation. Tens of thousands of people who had very little to begin with, have lost everything. The economic fallout alone has been devastating, and thousands of individuals who relied on their small microbusinesses for a living have been hard pressed to keep going.
These informal vendors and operators of very small portable businesses, who the locals call the ti machann, often sell goods directly from their homes or from street stalls. But the earthquake caused so many to lose their homes—and the ti machann have had to rebuild.
Now I know a lot of prominent businesspeople who have suffered setbacks. I remember in the San Francisco earthquake in ’89, businesses that were worth many millions of dollars were forced to shut their doors forever. And if a millionaire businessman can’t rebuild after a disaster, what chance does a poor ti machann selling cooking oil out of her home have?
Rebuilding even a small business takes money and determination. Determination is free, but construction and sales goods cost money—and Haiti’s credit market is all but frozen. The only hope is from the handful of microlenders that have focused on the poor country, and the loans have given these people a chance to rebuild.
Where else will the money come from? Nations around the world have pledged support, but very little of the support has arrived. Microlending provides a lifeline and it’s providing it now. Even the microlenders are facing difficulties though in the aftermath of the disaster, and FInca Haiti, one of the largest microlenders in the country, had to write off about a third of its portfolio after so many of their own clients perished in the earthquake or lost their homes and businesses. But still, Finca Haiti and the other microlenders continue. Another microlender, Fonkoze, started by a Haitian priest in the 1990s, has been able to broaden its own program. According to a recent story in the New York Times, Fonkoze even has a program that lends not money, but goats and chickens—which in rural Haiti is even better than cash. Recipients can sell the milk and eggs to generate a regular income. Fonkoze made a loan to 30-year-old Marie, who lives in a mud house with her extended family. She was able to receive two chickens and a goat from the bank.
Now it may seem strange to go to a bank and make a withdrawal of livestock—but it’s a great idea and one that works. Marie has already started selling eggs from her house, and has been able to save up enough money to expand her inventory, and has even built a shed for her goat.
Microlending is an opportunity to help those who the conventional lenders don’t want to help. Club Asteria actively supports microlending in Haiti and throughout the world. We encourage you to join our program today.