The department of Colon, which cradles the Caribbean Sea, owes its name to Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) who went ashore on his final voyage to the Americas. The calm, deep waters of the Bay of Trujillo were ideal for a commercial port, and today Trujillo remains the capital of the department. Over the course of history, the economic and political centers of Honduras developed elsewhere, and today Trujillo is a quiet, appealing town set along the wide blue bay.
The Adelante Foundation has been serving the department of Colon with microcredit for almost a decade. Before opening the branch office in Tocoa in 2003, the La Ceiba branch managed the loan pools in Colon.
Ana Rosa remembers when the loan pools in the area were managed by a Credit Officer based in La Ceiba. Ana procured her first microloan from the Adelante Foundation for L1500 or $75.00 in order to improve inventory for her small business selling clothes. When Ana’s husband passed away, Ana decided to move to San Pedro Sula in order to work in a textile factory, leaving her two teenaged children behind with her sister. Ana spent three years working in San Pedro Sula, but the distance from her family became too much to bear. Ana returned to her community in the municipality of Saba, and once again joined an Adelante Foundation assembly group. Currently, Ana is on her second loan cycle and has invested her microloans in selling meat and lactose products at her sister’s pulperia (convenience store). Although Ana admits she earned more money working in San Pedro Sula, Ana gains sufficient income through her micro enterprise and enjoys a more fulfilling life being close to her family.
The Adelante Foundation was able to reach more distant communities once the branch office in Tocoa was opened. On a recent trip to Colon, I spent a few days based in Trujillo, where I joined the zone’s Credit Officer to visit clients and assembly meetings. With over two months experience as an International Field Correspondent for the Adelante Foundation, I am accustomed to traveling long distances on motorcycle and venturing out to rural communities. Nonetheless, I journeyed much farther than I had before in order to visit clients from the municipalities of Limon and Iriona, a dusty two hour commute from Trujillo or Tocoa. By bus, the trip takes over three hours, sometimes more than four when rains deteriorate the unpaved road.
In remote communities, small businesses provide access to goods that normally would not be available. Long-time Adelante Foundation client, Elida, has a thriving micro business selling clothes, shoes, cosmetics, food products and more. Recently, Elida obtained an individual loan product for L20 000 or $1000.00. Elida has over L100 000 or $5000.00 worth of merchandise in her store, which attests to her diligence reinvesting profits. Still young, Elida has many more years ahead of her as a successful micro entrepreneur.
Improving the quality of life in rural Honduras is about more than just increasing incomes. My field trips in Colon and throughout Honduras have illustrated how women who have access to microcredit have more opportunities to achieve the things that they have reason to value in their lives (see Sen 1999). Their quality of life is improved not only through a sustainable source of income, but also by having options. For example, Ana Rosa chose a more peaceful life in her community close to her family. By having her own store, Elida can easily take care of her only child, a newborn baby boy, while earning income in order to be a good provider for her family. These and countless other client stories attest to how the Adelante Foundation is achieving positive change in rural Honduras through microfinance.