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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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Author: e-MFP
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, wrote Arthur C. Clarke. Put aside cynicism about the perils of our technology-obsessed culture, focus on how communication and convenience have been changed in recent years, and then – try to imagine how transformational the current technological revolution must be for the financially excluded in low-income countries. The ability to predict the weather; contact vendors or customers; send, save, receive or borrow money affordably and immediately; find new markets – this is magical in all but name. It’s happening so fast, too. The mobile phone and Internet are both barely twenty years old. The internet-connected smartphone – a tool of almost limitless utility – is half that age. What technology has done for the lives of richer consumers in the developed world may be nothing to what it can do for the financially excluded. These were the messages at a joint e-MFP/FIF UK Offsite Session held at Allen & Overy in London on 23rd May. The event was entitled 'Financial Inclusion through Technology' – the theme of the European Microfinance Award 2018 – and served to summarise the process and takeaways of that Award (including via a launch of the new report, 'Digital Pathways in Financial Inclusion') and bring together a panel of experts to debate the biggest issues in the financial inclusion and technology sector.

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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 2008, the theme of the Award was "Socially Responsible Microfinance", which aimed to highlight and catalyse initiatives that represented a breakthrough in promoting social responsibility and performance in microfinance. Buusaa Gonofaa MFI, founded in 2000, provides micro-lending and saving services to resource-poor households in Ethiopia to improve their livelihood. Buusaa Gonofaa has a particular focus on women, landless youth and smallholder farmers. Buusaa Gonofaa’s initiative, the development of a Client Assessment and Monitoring System or Social Ledger, was presented for the 2008 Award. Buusaa Gonofaa MFI had internally developed a scorecard including 20 indicators related to the poverty and progress of its clients’ wellbeing over time. We’re delighted to catch up with them in the third of our interviews.

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