A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Doing good, on the micro level

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 6, 2008

Today’s Daily Star included a small business article about a new micro-credit loan program that Lebanese bank Fransabank is introducing:

Fransabank launched a new soft-loan program Tues day to finance small projects in Lebanon.The microfinance program offers loans ranging from $300 to $5,000 which can be settled in 18 months at very reasonable conditions. The bank said the program would be offered to small businesses, especially in remote areas in Lebanon such as the South, the Bekaa and the North.

The micro-credit system is mostly offered by NGOs and a handful of small banks in Lebanon. Bank chairman Adnan Kassar said Fransabank plans to offer more loan programs for small and medium-size enterprises.

Good for Fransabank – I think micro-credit programs are a wonderful way to support economic development in an organic way, and- just as importantly – at the community level.

When I was a senior in college, I spent a month in India on a travel course with seven other students. I remember sitting on the scoured dirt floor of the mukhtar’s house in a scheduled tribes village in Uttar Pradesh, listening to the village’s women discuss how micro-credit had enabled them to start businesses selling glass bangles, to purchase a milk-producing goat, or to invest in farm tools.

For them the credit schemes were truly micro: loans of 200 rupees (the then-equivalent of $5) were sufficient to make a measurable impact in their (and their families’) lives.

Several non-profit micro-credit organizations already operate in Lebanon, of which perhaps the best known is AlMajmoua. (You can learn more about its support by the Grameen Foundation here, and you can read through its financial details, including audited financial reports, here.)

It is possible to donate to AlMajmoua directly, but I find it easier – and more fun – to participate in the micro-credit process directly, by making loans to specific AlMajmoua clients through Kiva, a non-profit micro-loan website that connects would-be lenders with micro-credit partners around the world. The loans range from $1,000-3,000, and each lender is asked to contribute $25-50.

Thus far I’ve contributed to several loans in Lebanon, as well as a few in other parts of the world. Its not really charity: I will be re-paid. And its not really a financial loan: I will not take any interest on the loans I have made.

But it is, I hope, a small but concrete way of doing good in the world – and especially in this little bit of the world that I call home.

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