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.
Through this latest iteration, WOCCU is working with Banca de las Oportunidades to: Perform market research to ensure that the technical assistance being delivered to financial institutions are meeting the needs of the low-income population affected by the closure of the border with Venezuela; Implementing financial methodologies and products for credit unions, commercial banks, microfinance institutions (MFIs), and insurance companies to better connect the adult population with financial institutions; Increasing delivery mechanisms for these financial services using correspondent agents, field agents, and mobile banking; Support financial literacy activities to improve savings-mobilization and increase knowledge about the financial services and products being offered; and Linking SMEs, entrepreneurs, and farmers with local organizations that can deliver training sessions on improving income generation activities.
The project’s goals are to:
- 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 bring affordable financial services to smallholder farmers, 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 – July 2019
Key activities ongoing during the quarter
Over the last quarter WOCCU oversaw the opening of four new financial service access points of financial services (3 correspondent agents and one branch). This enabled the project to reach an additional 9,969 individuals of which 4,109 having accessed these services for the first time. WOCCU also provided financial literacy education using radio and other broadcast media and in-person financial education. Additionally, the project monitored the Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). WOCCU held six Financial Days which were attended by 1,300 people (a Financial Day is a market place whereby multiple financial institutions visit a community to present their financial portfolio to new customers while the population receive financial literacy by project staff). Finally, WOCCU conducted 10 business strengthening trainings for 300 individuals and 8 employment training for 200 individuals.
Overall summary of project status, final results.
The recent political crises in Venezuela is placing significant stresses on Colombia’s economy, especially in communities located near the border. Yet despite this increasingly difficult situation, WOCCU has already surpassed its original goal of delivering financial services to 210,000 rural, low-income Colombians. As of July 2019, the project had brought financial services to 253,055 Colombians, of which 107,510 are being included in the formal financial system for the first time.
WOCCU has helped to form 944 VSLAs, which has helped build the social and financial inclusion of some 12,500 indigenous communities, displaced individuals and Venezuelans. More than 40% of the VSLAs have “graduated” into formal financial institutions, which allows them to access a variety of savings, loans and insurance products. Many participants within the VSLAs have since founded new agricultural, livestock, handicrafts and eco-tourism businesses with new financing from supportive financial institutions.
Other results to date include:
- 34 new financial service points
- 7,713 persons received financial education
- 164 financial gatherings reaching 71,945 participants
- 2,866 trained in business strengthening training; and
- 1,203 individuals received basic job skills training.
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