Thursday, June 21, 2012

Passport Series: In Mexico entrepreneurs are as diverse as the landscape

The sheer diversity of our Field Partners in Mexico reflects the complex needs and the distinct issues facing the country's poor.

Poverty in Mexico has many faces. As one of our Fellows wrote in this blog post, "The new poor is a frequent topic of discussion." Many young Mexicans who are markedly better off than their parents now find themselves struggling as a result of the mid-1990s devaluation of the peso and the recent global recession. These members of the "new poor" were given a taste of middle class, but are now unable to make ends meet.

To help prevent the "new poor" from slipping back into dire poverty, Kiva has joined forces with two new Field Partners, Sistema Biobolsa and Union Regional de Huatusco. While neither are traditional microfinance institutions, they both offer innovative loans that recognize farmers' immediate and long-term needs.

Many farmers rely on chemical fertilizers and inefficient sources of energy because their upfront costs are cheaper than the alternatives. Realizing that more efficient options would help these families save money and make more money over time, Sistema Biobolsa -- a maker of biodigester systems that transform livestock waste into organic fertilizer and biogas for electricity and heat -- has developed a loan program for farmers to buy biodegesters and pay back their loans with all the money the systems save.  

Union Regional de Huatusco -- or simply Huatusco -- is a Fair Trade-certified coffee cooperative founded 20 years ago by a couple of small-scale family farmers. Today, it has more than 2,000 members. By working together, pooling their products, talents and knowledge, these entrepreneurial farmers have gained the business of some of the largest coffee purchasers in the world. Supporting sustainability with organic conversion loans, and efficiency with field renewal loans, Huatusco strives to secure a fair price for its members' products on a larger, global market.

While these programs help support existing entrepreneurs who may belong to the new poor, many families still struggle to meet their basic needs. For them, microfinance institution and Kiva Field Partner Fundacion Realidad A.C. (FRAC) has adapted anti-poverty loans aimed at providing basic financial education, and extending loans through solidarity groups. Most of these people have been selling food and handmade goods to their friends and neighbors for years. But with small loans and a bit of training, they're now able to grow their customer bases and revenues.

Recognizing the power of the strong familial bonds deeply rooted in Mexico's culture, FRAC and Credituyo both offer loans and services aimed specifically at supporting families. By offering services that support health and education, FRAC and Credituyo are helping promote stronger and more savvy future entrepreneurs. 

As Mexico strives to build a brighter future, our partners are working to put systems in place so people can begin to plan for their financial futures in better ways. For example, Credituyo offers its clients micro-insurance products to help them through economic shocks like the death of a family member or natural disaster. The ultimate goal: to ease the widening income gap in Mexico.

This is the second of a three-part series taking a deep-dive look at Mexico, its history with microfinance, Kiva's role in expanding opportunities for Mexicans, and what it's like to participate in the country's economy as a borrower, lender and field worker. 

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photos courtesy of: aviruthias, Bread for the World, Anuska Sampedro, Sistema Biobolsa