Maluso, Basilan Province – BASILAN residents, particularly the small-scale vendors, sari-sari store owners, farmers and fisher-folks alike, now have more opportunity to improve their livelihood, thanks to Nagdilaab Foundation’s micro-financing program.
The more than P6-million peso program run by this local non-government organization is funded b y a four-year Spanish community development grant. The program focuses on the promotion of peace and social and economic development among the less-privileged majority, which includes giving the small business loans in the province’s seven towns including the newly-created city of Lamitan.
In the town Maluso, in the past one year since the assistance took off, 35 residents mostly operating as vendors and running a sari-sari store comprise its initial beneficiaries. In Lamitan City, 59 residents availed of the project. A total of 1,026 individuals are in the list of beneficiaries province-wide since the project was started.
Ading Mohammad, 45, said her P5,000 loan from the project has really helped augment capital of her small dried fish vending business.
“The loan really helps. With the amount, I was able to buy more stocks. Some vendors from Lamitan and Isabela now get their supplies from me,” Mohammad, who has been in the business for almost 30 years, told PeaceWorks.
Another loaner, Isniratul Sabbaha, said: “For vendors like us, it is really of big help. We were able to increase our capital and acquire more stocks, which means more income for us.” Under the second phase of the program, borrowers like Sabbaha may now avail as much as P7,000 from the previous ceiling of P5,000.
With a bigger business, Sabbaha said is now able to comfortably sustain her family and is even planning to send her daughter to college.
As for Abdulsatta Lincoln, he is now planning to open a coffee-processing business in this town. At present, he is maintaining his old grinding machine, which according to him also gets a good income.
“That coffee processing will help our townmates because by then they don’t have to bring their coffee produce to Isabela but instead process it here,” he said of the benefit of his business prospect.
“Maybe by the second or third phase of the loan program, I will be able to borrow enough to start it,” he said.
Esperancita E. Hupida, the Nagdilaab program director, revealed they will be catering to more Basileños this year.
“We are looking forward to catering to more beneficiaries this year of 2008,” she said. In addition to the P1.28-million funding last year, Nagdilaab will pour an additional P2.52-million this year.
“So far the implementation has been smooth, no serious problems were encountered yet,” Reynold S. Circulado, general manager of the micro-finance program in the province, told PeaceWorks.
Hupida said a type of strategy they utilize has paved the way to the easy payment by borrowers. If Bangladesh has the Grameen and ASA in micro-financing, Basilan has both, a combination of two, and this they call GRASA, a combination of the two bywords.
She said they used the GRASA as it is very much applicable to the people in the province.
“It makes for easy payment of their weekly remittances.” A loan of P5,0000 is payable within six months. Borrowers pay P300 weekly, of which P50 goes to the borrower’s saving and will be returned to them once they complete their loan term.
GRASA adopted Grameen strategies in conducting community orientation, meetings and other social processes, while in managing the loans it uses more of the ASA way. ASA procedure implements the individual liability to the loan, unlike Grameen where a group of five has to be formed first and should pay the loan by the group, which Circulado said will make things difficult because any failure of one to pay his dues will make the others liable.
Hupida, however, explained if a group wants to get organized, the members will also allow the Grameen strategies to be applied.
“The paying capacity of the members are good. They always pay on time,” said loan officer Jerome Ates. Ates, who undertakes lending and other functions for beneficiaries in Maluso town, said the clients also faithfully attend orientations and meetings.
Ates said the program now covers even the island of Gaunan and other remote villages.
During the recent visit to Basilan by three officials of Manos Unidas (MU), a Spanish non-government organization funding the program along with the Spanish government, the beneficiaries also shared with them the same success stories.
In Lamitan, Merlina Saringan said through the assistance she was able to sell more products in her sari-sari store, thus raising her family income. It was the same bright story for Evelyn Look, who runs a sari-sari store.
The MU officials included SouthEast Asia desk officer Mariqui Duenas Llinas, Convenio project officer Carmen Gomez de Barreda and in-country manager Carmen Valdez.
Nagdilaab executive director Miriam Suacito said that aside from the micro-finance, the foundation also has programs in environment, water, health, peace and governance.
The program is part of the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA), which together with a counterpart coalition in Bicol region comprises the Philippine Convenio. ZABIDAs include the Katilingban Para sa Kalambuan, Inc. (KKI), Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), and the Bunguiao Eco-Farm Project under the Reach Out for Others Foundation, which is allied to the extension services of Western Mindanao State University.