Editor's Desk

THE VILLAGE BANK; SMALL BUT BIG

I have observed that people generally do not have any qualms with oppressing others with their achievements. Perhaps man derives pleasure in flaunting his strength, influence or advantages, no matter how small. No wonder man has justified his conquest nature in this regard with the saying “if you have got it, flaunt it’’

Most people started from humble beginnings even though a few people, due to a number of factors or privileges, did not have to start from humble beginnings like others. Yet, judging by the way we all react to small things, it seems that there is something wrong with being small or why is a small beginning often treated with contempt? After all, some of the most widely celebrated global brands today were not polished diamonds when they started; examples of such are Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. The list is endless.

No matter how urbanized we may have become, there is need to reminisce on our roots as we all owe our origins to one rural community or the other. The rural setting which ordinarily prides on shared values, less pollution, opportunity for communal farming, sense of peace and security (vigilance group) is now being turned into congested cities with their attendant problems.

There are villages everywhere, even in the mega cities. The truth is, the hamlet can easily become a village, in the same vain a village can become a town, likewise a town becoming a city, they are all directly connected to one another. I have lived in Africa all my life and travelled round the continent considerably, and what stands out more in all the areas we live in whether in the villages or cities, are the cons of urbanization– insecurity, pollutions, criminality, corruption and mindless killings.

Something very fundamental happened in my life in 2006 just about the time we were starting out with IWA. A Bangladeshi banker and professor of Economics, Mohammad Yunus, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his effort to create economic and social development at the grassroots – the poor. And for this feat, I was motivated to read his profile. It was reported that in 1976, having visited the poorest households in the village of Jobra near Chittagong University, where he was head of the Economics department, Yunus discovered that very small loans could make a disproportionate difference to poor persons. Jobra women, who were making bamboo furniture, could not breakeven because they usually expended all their profits on loan repayment to the moneylenders (usurers). The don actually advanced out his first loan of about 27 dollars to 42 women from his personal savings. The women were then able to make their first net profit of about a quarter of a dollar each. Yunus was able to later secure a loan from a government-owned bank — Janata Bank — to increase the loan facilities to the poor in December 1976. The institution continued to operate by securing loans from other banks for its projects. By 1982, the bank had a workforce of 28,000 and on October 1, 1983, the project blossom into what became– the Grameen Bank (meaning a Village Bank) with the sole mandate of giving loans to the poor.

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