In the mountainous department of El Paraíso in eastern Honduras, Osiris operates a small used clothing store at the front of her house. Only 18 years old, Osiris is grateful that her older brother gave her the initial capital to start a small business. Recently, Osiris was able to secure a loan from Adelante for L. 4,000 or $211 in order to boost the inventory of her store. She explains, ¨At first I had just a little bit of inventory, but now with the loan I received I have a lot more.¨ Over the course of future loan cycles with Adelante, Osiris hopes to establish another location at her uncle’s home, a half an hour walk away. There are few local employment opportunities for young women like Osiris, so having a small business is an important income generating activity.
In 2012, Adelante expanded geographically to offer its microfinance program in the municipality of Danlí, which is in the department of El Paraíso. The area is famous for its cigar production and also its corn cultivation. In the rural villages that dot the landscape around Danlí, it is common for families to dedicate some of their land, no matter how small, to corn crops. So important is the cultivation of corn that every year in the month of August, Danlí celebrates el Festival de Maíz or the Corn Festival. During this festival, the town celebrates its corn harvest by enjoying live music, dance groups, rodeos, and delicious corn based food and drink.
One of the longest standing members of the Adelante team, Jairo Irías, is currently developing operations in Danlí. Jairo has been with Adelante for six years and left his post as the Agency Supervisor at the Tocoa branch office in order to initiate operations. At the outset of 2012, Adelante destined L. 500,000 or $25,000 for loan pool in Danlí. In May, Jairo disbursed his first loans to two solidarity groups totaling eight women. At the end of June, loan pool reached L. 135,544 or $7,134 disbursed among 44 clients organized in 11 solidarity groups.
Even though Jairo has successfully established operations in the area, this feat is not without its challenges. On a recent trip to Danlí, I joined Jairo in the field to learn about the process of developing a new zone of operations. In a community located 30 minutes outside the center of town, I met three women from a solidarity group who received their first loan only a few weeks ago. Adelante’s lending methodology dictates that prospective clients form solidarity groups and then come together to form an assembly, which consists of two to eight solidarity groups. In this particular case, the assembly is made up of just one solidarity group since Jairo is building Adelante’s reputation. The hope is that once villagers see how these women are benefiting from their microloans, more women will be inspired to take the risk and invest in a small business venture.
At the beginning and end of every assembly meeting, women chant Adelante’s slogan: ¨Unity, discipline, hard work and courage. This is our way of life¨. Since this was the group’s second assembly meeting, the women did not know the words very well, so I helped Jairo teach them the slogan again. During the meeting, the women received an educational lesson about Adelante’s loan program. Jairo patiently explained to the group how to use their libreta de control de pagos, which is a system that allows the women to keep track of their loan payments. Near the end of the meeting, Jairo asked if the women had succeeded in finding others who would be interested in joining their assembly. The women commented that some people are fearful of taking on debt, in part because of the country’s economic crisis and also because villagers have had negative experiences with other lending institutions in the past. Jairo is confident that the success of this solidarity group will attract other women to Adelante, and he expects to add two more solidarity groups to the assembly by the end of the first loan cycle.
In the coming months, Jairo will continue to work diligently to grow loan pool in Danlí in order to meet the 2012 disbursement goal of $25,000. In 2013 and 2014, Adelante plans to contract additional Credit Officers to expand operations in the region and eventually establish a sixth branch office. There is an immense need to address the extreme poverty being experienced in by so many people in Honduras. Adelante’s recent geographic expansion will help more rural families achieve an improved standard of living. .