On the coffee plantations surrounding RVCV, the average household income is $300 a year. Workers earn an average of $2 per day picking coffee during the five month harvesting season. Poverty is a fact of life and opportunity is in staggeringly short supply. Unemployment hovers around 68%, and the average lifespan is only 42 years. Recognizing that economic empowerment is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty, RVCV instituted a microfinance program in 2008, designed to give local entrepreneurs the training, support and resources needed to operate small businesses.
Currently, our microfinance program provides loans to over 500 clients, who together support nearly 700 children and an equal number of dependent family members. Our clients raise pigs, sew clothes, run small shops and make handicrafts. On average, our clients now have annual incomes of $700 per year, an increase of 350% from when we started.
In 2010, our microfinance program expanded its efforts and helped found three Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOS) in the surrounding communities. Locally owned, and locally led, these cooperatives operate like small-scale banks: members contribute funds and use those funds to make loans within the community. Through direct lending, and through the establishment of these SACCOS, the microfinance program is providing the necessary tools and support to empower local entrepreneurs to break the cycle of poverty.