September 2015—Three metal boxes painted green, red and blue rest in the laps of three farmers from the rural community of Marchand Dessaline, Haiti, during a caisse communautaire, or community credit union, meeting. Secured with lock and key and entrusted to cashiers, the boxes comprise a system of savings and loans adopted by a growing number of area residents, and signify a new generation of economic opportunities for very low-income populations.
USAID has been in the business of increasing credit opportunities in underserved communities such as Marchand Dessaline for years now, but despite dedicated efforts, some of the smallest-scale entrepreneurs still fall through the cracks. The caisse communautaire system is a spin-off of existing programming that provides a viable solution to this problem.
The credit unions were supported by USAID’s financial-services program, Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprise (HIFIVE), which ran from June 2009 to May 2015. Modeled on a community-based credit union system first piloted in Senegal, the credit unions—which continue to grow—were comprised of 30 to 40 community members and a seven-member leadership board, which borrowed, saved and loaned money collectively.
Members of these credit unions convened bimonthly, called to order by a HIFIVE representative who monitored the group’s progress and discussed upcoming financial literacy training opportunities. Meanwhile, the credit union’s internal leadership board attended to business on the sidelines, meeting with each member who arrived with color-coded withdrawal and deposit booklets in hand.
This summer marked the second year of the caisse communautaire in Marchand Dessaline. Over the course of the program, the network of these credit unions in nearby communities nearly tripled, growing from 36 to 94 registered groups and helping nearly 50,000 small-scale entrepreneurs gain access to credit.
Members of the credit unions were proud to showcase all they had achieved with their microloans. During their meetings, members took turns standing in front of the group to report on their loans. Adeline Jean-Philipe reported that she had repaid her loan of 3,500 gourde—roughly $60—ahead of schedule, a loan she needed to pay her children’s school fees and to make investments in her rice farm.
“Without the caisse communautaire, my children’s school fees would have been beyond my reach,” she said.
Last updated: September 25, 2015