Economic empowerment provides the tools for success that many communities are missing: access to professional training and credit.
Our microfinance initiative started in 2011 with 25 loans. We started providing the community with access to credit in order to help local entrepreneurs grow and maintain their businesses. In addition to credit, we also provide entrepreneurs with literacy training, much-needed business education, and health services. Currently, we have over a thousand active participants. Our borrowers are typically women of all ages who have an existing small business, which can range from selling small amounts of food goods in the marketplace to owning their own boutique.
Following up on the success of our microfinance scheme, we are now transitioning to an "economic empowerment" program which aims to foster entrepreneurial success through a comprehensive approach that increases our commitment to services beyond access to capital.
Most importantly, we offer small business training which includes basic operation principles such as bookkeeping as well as information on best business practices. Our literacy training will open up many opportunities for entrepreneurs while our health services will prevent and treat illnesses that might impede an entrepreneur. By monitoring our loans through follow-up visits, we provide ongoing oversight that encourages smart decision-making. Our women's empowerment services give support to marginalized women and help them deal with domestic violence. With few Haitians eligible to save money in a traditional bank, our savings program allows individuals to protect and save their income for emergency situations.
Less than ten percent of Haiti's private-sector economy is actually working. Traditional aid prevents the healthy development of this economy by distorting market incentives and prices - How could a rice merchant compete in the market when people are being given food for free or at a subsidized rate? Economic empowerment gives people the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty and become working members of the economy instead of relying on aid.
Entrepreneurial success results in self-sustainability and the means to provide education, food, shelter, and health services to family members. It also creates a source of valuable goods and services within the community. As entrepreneurs make more money and scale-up, they create employment for others and spend more money in the community. The experience and knowledge gained will prepare them to seize future opportunities and make the most of foreign investment. By charging small fees, the program is self-sustainable and creates a sense of accountability and motivation for entrepreneurs.
Goat HusbandryOn an island where more than 60% of the land is made up of mountainous grounds, there is a huge opportunity for rural families to thrive on agricultural income. However, the reality in Haiti is that approximately 80% of the population is below the poverty line, about 40% are unemployed and approx. 50% are classified as illiterate. Therefore, there is a shortage of skilled farmers who can afford to purchase land and/or livestock for the purpose of financial gain. At HAC-Haiti we are truly passionate about serving these under represented communities in the rural sections of Haiti. The purpose of our agricultural programs is to provide sustainable farming and husbandry solutions for each beneficiary. Husbandry is the cultivation and production of crops or animals for food. Through our GAP, Goats Advancing People, program we provide the gift of one goat as a sustainable way to help struggling families in the rural communities we serve.
Why focus on women?
Women, although more marginalized, represent a better investment: they have higher repayment rates and are more responsible with money. Studies have shown that women are more likely to spend income on food and health services for their families to improve well-being. Women also generate opportunities for their children by spending more money on education.
The Capital+ Model
In the Capital+ model, a group of women come together to create a viable business plan, elect leaders, receive training, and plan weekly meetings. The members are given access to credit but the group collectively guarantees the loan of each member. Successful repayment of the loans allows the group to take out subsequently larger loans.
The 'plus' of the Capital+ model refers to the integration of access to credit wi mith business training, health classes, literacy classes, and a leadership program. This approach has been shown to significantly improve entrepreneurial success. The group aspect of the Capital+ model promotes accountability for loans and encourages the women to support each other, develop a sisterhood mentality, and participate in their community. The group's weekly meetings allow women to express business ideas as well as share knowledge in areas from physical health and women's rights. The groups provide protection and support which have resulted in decreased domestic and gender-based violence.