Banca de las Oportunidades has been funding WOCCU’s work in Colombia since 2008. During the first project (2008 – 2010), WOCCU provided technical assistance to credit unions in nine under-developed regions of the country to strengthen institutional capital, improve governance, and expand savings and credit programs to low-income individuals. In the second phase (2011-2014), WOCCU continued its work to strengthen credit unions and grow credit union membership. By the end of 2014, credit union membership grew by 118,223 individuals, exceeding the initial project target by 118%. During the third project (2013 – 2016), WOCCU introduced proven agricultural microcredit methodologies to provide technical assistance and training to eight financial institutions (FIs): four banks, two microfinance institutions (MFIs), and two credit unions. These institutions reached rural smallholder farmers – many of them displaced from instability and violence - in more than 33 municipalities.
In total, WOCCU has provided technical assistance and training to 31 credit unions, and 35 new microfinance products have been developed and implemented in rural and urban communities.
- Reach 210,000 people, 100,000 of whom are individuals who have not been certified as members of the formal financial system.
- Educate 70% of the total population in basic financial literacy using massive strategies and campaigns.
- Conduct in-person financial literacy training for 5,000 individuals in urban areas.
- Deliver training sessions to village savings and loan association (VSLA) groups for 12,200 individuals in rural areas.
- Increase the number of field agents and correspondent agents in 18 municipalities.
- Link 2,000 individuals with organizations that can strengthen income generation activities.
The Field Officer Banking Model
To achieve these goals, WOCCU works with financial institutions to reach rural areas through its field agent and correspondent banking model. First piloted in Mexico and now implemented in Colombia and Haiti, field officer banking combines different microfinance methodologies, such as village banking, community banks, individual microcredit, and village and savings loans, to bring financial services directly to rural and previously unbanked populations. Instead of relying on branch banks and credit unions, field agents travel to villages to provide on-site transactions for clients who otherwise would have to spend significant time and money to access these services. Because field agents come from the community and have a higher-level of trust and pre-existing relationships, financial institutions can provide services to high-risk areas that have been affected by FARC and ELN activities.
Each field agent is equipped with a mobile device to provide on-site services, which will enable rural members to open accounts, make deposits, and conduct other financial transactions. These mobile devices reduce operational risk because these devices are linked to the financial institutions’ banking software. Financial institutions are able to process transactions and monitor these accounts in real-time.
The field officer banking model has brought affordable financial services to more than 262,266 low-income, unbanked people, including 57% women, Afro-Colombians, indigenous groups, farmers, displaced people, micro small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and 59,171 children with savings accounts.
Quarterly Update (April 2019)
Over the quarter WOCCU oversaw the opening of three new financial service access points of financial services. This enabled the project to reach an additional 19,708 individuals of which 9,339 having accessed these services for the first time. WOCCU also provided financial literacy education using radio and other broadcast media to 1,000 people, and in-person financial education to an additional 105. Additionally, the project formed 116 new Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) with 1,988 people. Next, WOCCU held six Financial Days which were attended by 1,900 people (a Financial Day is a market place whereby multiple financial institutions visit a community to market themselves to new customers). Finally, WOCCU conducted 11 business strengthening trainings for 508 individuals and one entrepreneurship training for 400 individuals.
The Venezuelan Political Crisis
The recent political crises in Venezuela is placing significant stresses on Colombia’s economy, especially in communities located near the border. Yet despite this inreasingly difficult situation, WOCCU has already surpassed its original goal of delivering financial services to 210,000 rural, low-income Colombians (Scheduled for August 2019). As of February 2019, the project had brought financial services to 244,086 Colombians, of which 103,401 are being included in the formal financial system for the first time.
March 01, 2019
Despite the economic, social and political unrest impacting Venezuela every day, and the alarming effects and consequences it has caused on the border with Colombia, World Council of Credit Union’s (WOCCU) Financial Inclusion Project at the Border with Venezuela has already surpassed its original goal of delivering financial services to 210,000 rural, low-income Colombians.Read More