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Author: e-MFP
These are frightening and unprecedented days. In response, many are looking for ways to provide relevant, actionable support. News, blogs, and webinars - well-intentioned as they may be - feel like they’re creating information overload. Yet it’s clear that in a rapidly evolving situation, information is critical. At e-MFP, we want to add value and support where we can, especially to our members, and avoid adding to the noise when what everyone needs is focus, clarity and purpose. We’d like to use our core strengths - facilitating exchange, connecting stakeholders and being a clearing-house for discussion - to help the sector (and especially our members) prepare, weather this crisis, and eventually recover and rebuild. In the coming weeks and months, e-MFP will be re-focusing several work streams towards the COVID-19 response. The Financial Inclusion Compass sector-wide survey will be brought forward, and will be specifically focused on how stakeholders are triaging their challenges and what they see as the most critical interventions needed - and by whom. European Microfinance Week will be significantly adapted to focus on this topic. The current European Microfinance Award on Encouraging Effective and Inclusive Savings will collect examples of how savings can increase resilience to the kind of health and financial shocks that microfinance clients and SMEs are about to face. We would like to hear from our members what e-MFP can do to support them, and we stand ready to offer that support where we can.

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Author: e-MFP
“Save money – and money will save you” goes a Jamaican proverb. Variations of this adage exist in countless languages, lauding preparedness, prudence and forethought when managing one’s finances. But the notion goes even further than money. Benjamin Franklin said as much – “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” It is probably one of the few genuinely universal life tenets. It’s also intuitive. We all have a basic understanding of what savings – or the act of saving – are. You hold back some of what you earn, sacrificing immediate pleasures or opportunities for some future benefit. This benefit can vary from coping with the unknown and unplanned shocks that can throw one’s life into disarray, to more highly planned savings for high-cost but predictable future expenses – a wedding, pregnancy, a deposit for a house, or retirement. Extending these benefits to more of the people who need them most is the topic of the European Microfinance Award 2020 – “Encouraging Effective & Inclusive Savings” – which is now open for applications until April 15. In over 10 editions to date, the €100,000 award has sought to shine the spotlight on organisations innovating in a particular area of inclusive finance. It’s open to providers of all categories and sizes that have demonstrated excellence, creativity and rigour in their initiatives for the vulnerable and financially excluded.

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Author: Johan Bastiaensen - Frédéric Huybrechs
Over the last decade, one of the key rising topics in microfinance has been the sector’s response to environmental challenges, and this will continue to take centre stage. In the recently released Financial Inclusion Compass 2019, ‘Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation’ is only second to Agri-finance in the New Areas of Focus Index, which asks respondents across the sector to look 5-10 years ahead. In recognition of these rising environmental concerns, the European Microfinance Award 2019 sought to highlight outstanding innovations in Strengthening Resilience to Climate Change. The last press release of European Microfinance Week, and the keynote address from the Award ceremony also called for urgent action on climate change. In this blogpost, we reflect on this timely call for action and question how transformative the financial inclusion sector is when it comes to responding to climate change. We do this on the basis of our past research on this topic and build on some of the messages put forward during the European Microfinance Award 2019 Ceremony.

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Author: Sunita Narain - Centre for Science and Environment India
Climate change could not happen at a worse time in human history. It is clear that things are now spiraling out of control. Every year we are told is the hottest year, till the next year comes around. Then a new record is broken. It is getting worse. From forest fires, to increasing frequency and intensity of storms, to blistering cold waves and spiraling heat. We know something is wrong. Very wrong. But we are so distracted – from trade wars, to Brexit, to immigration, to economic crisis and skirmishes that are raging across our countries – that climate change is not a priority. We simply don’t seem to have the bandwidth to handle it. But we must.

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Author: Elisabeth Rhyne
How should financial institutions approach consumer protection differently when they offer services through smartphones rather than humans? This was the question we posed when the Smart Campaign team first started revising the standards to be applied to digital financial services, especially digital credit. We are very pleased to have launched the new Standards, their accompanying Guidance Document, and the companion Handbook for Regulators. What we didn’t expect, however, was quite how profound the differences would turn out to be. We made significant changes to the standards for all seven Client Protection Principles (the principles themselves remain the same). I want to focus here on the most fundamental: Appropriate Product and Delivery Design.

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Author: e-MFP
2019 marks ten editions of the European Microfinance Award and to celebrate, e-MFP has decided to reach out to the previous winners, for a ‘where are they now?’ blog series, published throughout 2019, to look at what they have been doing with their initiative since they won, and how the winning of the Award has helped, and what plans they have in store. In 2018, the theme of the Award was 'Financial Inclusion through Technology'. Advans Côte d’Ivoire, part of the Advans Group, is a non-bank financial institution in the Ivory Coast which won for its response to traceability and safety issues faced by cooperatives paying cocoa farmers, as well as low school enrolment due to lack of regular cashflow among farmers, by offering a digital savings and payment solution, with wallet-to-bank and bank-to-wallet transfer services that enable producers’ cooperatives to make digital payments to farmers for their crop revenue. We’re delighted to catch up with them in this interview.

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Author: e-MFP
2019 marks ten editions of the European Microfinance Award and to celebrate, e-MFP has decided to reach out to the previous winners, for a ‘where are they now?’ blog series, published throughout 2019, to look at what they have been doing with their initiative since they won, and how the winning of the Award has helped, and what plans they have in store. In 2010, the theme of the Award was 'Value Chain Finance', focusing on stimulating and promoting inclusive financial schemes that contribute to the evolution of value chains in developing countries. A value chain is a vertical alliance between different independent enterprises, collaborating to achieve a more rewarding position in the market. Harbu of Ethiopia won for its initiative to finance the soy bean value chain as a response to market demand generated by a shortage of cow milk in Jimma city, in Oromia state. The initiative sought to strengthen horizontal linkages with farmer marketing organisations and vertical linkages with retailers and women's associations that are processing and producing soy milk. The initiative created market opportunities for producer-farmers and employment opportunities for urban women and youth. At the same time, it improved families’ nutrition, especially for children and women. Harbu provided financial services to most of the actors across the value chain, from the individual producers all the way to retailers.

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Author: e-MFP
2019 marks ten editions of the European Microfinance Award and to celebrate, e-MFP has decided to reach out to the previous winners, for a ‘where are they now?’ blog series, published throughout 2019, to look at what they have been doing with their initiative since they won, and how the winning of the Award has helped, and what plans they have in store. In 2017, the theme of the Award was 'Microfinance for Housing' which sought to highlight the role of microfinance in supporting access to better quality residential housing for low income, vulnerable and excluded groups, with no or limited access to housing finance in the mainstream sector. Cooperativa de Ahorro y Préstamo Tosepantomin won for its programme targeting rural communities living in marginalised areas, to which it offers savings and loans for housing improvement and house building. The cooperative mainly applies the solidarity group methodology and uses a holistic approach to its housing programme, with technical support that includes architectural planning, elaboration of housing project budgets, and oversight of the construction processes. The programme also promotes ecological and sustainable housing through eco-friendly building techniques, recycling, renewable energy and energy efficiency. We’re delighted to catch up with them in the fifth of our interviews.

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Author: Anna Kanze - Grassroots Capital Management
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has the potential to be the “breadbasket of the world”, with a significant portion of the world’s fresh water and arable farmland. Small farmers represent over 80% of the total holdings and provide between 30 -40% of the region’s agricultural GDP. However, rural areas continue to be afflicted by high ratios of poverty, which far exceed the regions’ average. Additionally, smallholders are especially vulnerable to climate change, which increases their food insecurity and widens the gender divide, given that women are often already restricted from owning land or accessing resources despite making up a significant part of agricultural labour. In LAC, 39 million people are undernourished and severe food insecurity is on the rise, worsened by climate extremes. The Prospero Microfinanzas Fund, co-managed by Grassroots Capital Management PBC (Grassroots) and BIM, tackled these issues in six of its nine portfolio companies with mostly rural and agriculture-focused clients in LAC. As the fund is winding down in 2019, Grassroots reflects on four key lessons as we launch a new initiative to address food security, climate resiliency and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in LAC.

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Author: e-MFP
2019 marks ten editions of the European Microfinance Award and to celebrate, e-MFP has decided to reach out to the previous winners, for a ‘where are they now?’ blog series, published throughout 2019, to look at what they have been doing with their initiative since they won, and how the winning of the Award has helped, and what plans they have in store. In 2014, the theme of the Award was 'Microfinance and the Environment', focusing on microfinance initiatives to improve environmental issues in developing economies, and encourage the sector to find innovative solutions to environmental challenges. Established in Kyrgyzstan since 2004, Kompanion Financial Group provides microloans in combination with technical assistance to small-scale farmers and pastoralists (livestock herders and shepherds) to promote sustainable agriculture and natural resource management. The winning initiative presented for the 2014 Award, Kompanion’s 'Pasture Land Management Training Initiative’, was an ethno-ecological approach to pasture land preservation, addressing the pressing issue of pasture land degradation in Kyrgyzstan. It consists of a specialised loan package, 'Credits for Conservation', linked with a training program. We’re delighted to catch up with them in the fourth of our interviews.

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