After the implementation of the livelihood assistance fund (LAF) program of the CHARM2 Project to address the rural financing needs of target communities and improve their quality of life, the Project is now subjecting its rural financial services to a further assessment to evaluate its effectiveness and efficiency.
This was done through a rural finance assessment workshop conducted at Prince Plaza Hotel in Baguio City on July 10-12, 2018. Concerned project staff, some livelihood interest groups (LIGs) and conduit community financing institutions (CFIs) were enjoined to participate and help assess the program.
Project Manager Cameron P. Odsey said the program can be assessed through the sharing of experiences and looking into the factors affecting the success and failure of the program in achieving its goal. “Let us share our experiences and look into our best practices and lessons learned gleaned from the implementation of the LAF program,” he said.
A survey questionnaire was also administered to LIGs and CFIs to further assess how the financing services served its beneficiaries and specifically identify its strengths and constraints to provide appropriate recommendations to improve its system.
The Project invited Mr. Allen Ngilangil, executive director of the Cordillera Administrative Region Cooperative Union to serve as resource person and help the Project objectively assess the rural finance services of the CHARMP2.
Results of the assessment will serve to further enhance the implementation of LAF for the ongoing CHARMP2 Scale Up Project.
The Project also invited other agencies such as the DOLE, DOST, DTI and CDA to introduce their programs, which can be availed by the LIGs and CFI to further strengthen and sustain their groups and businesses.
However, AAIGA Coordinator Jerry Damoyan reminded the participants of the need to build trust among assistance providers. “Build your bankability, so you could avail more assistance from other institutions,” he said.
LAF as a rural finance service for smallholder entrepreneurs
The LAF is an innovative financing program of the project to provide easier access to financial services for smallholder beneficiaries of the Project after the original credit design of the project was deemed inappropriate for its beneficiaries. According to Odsey, the project’s LIGs composed of smallholder farmers, cannot really comply with the requirements of the formal credit sector, thus they cannot avail of any financial services from banks.
At midterm, the Project redesigned and converted the credit fund to LAF, which is friendlier to smallholder beneficiaries. It is a grant fund to be channeled to Community Financial Institutions to finance livelihood subprojects of farmers in CHARMP2 sites without the usual requirements of formal credit.
In 2014, the LAF program was approved. One of the key features that facilitated the success of the program is the integration of the farmer business school (FBS). The FBS is a participatory learning approach to support farmers’ group participation in agricultural value chains. In partnership with the International Potato Center (CIP-FoodStart), the FBS was piloted to only some LIGs during the CHARM2 Project.
During the CHARM2 Scale Up, the FBS became a preparatory training for LIG members to prepare them in the implementation of their proposed business plan with the LAF, which will only be downloaded to them, after they finish the season-long training. Thus, all LIGs under the Scale-Up phase were able to undergo the said training and around 84% of the enrolees successfully completed the course this year.
The LAF is one of the best practice of the Project and was promoted in national and international conferences through IFAD, its funding institution. With this ongoing assessment, the Project wants to further study the program to concretely confirm its success factors and look into areas that still needs enhancement. This data will later on be mainstreamed to help project partners and interested development institutions sustain this development initiative.//CBOrcales