Basilio Rios’s first loan of 5 million Guaranies (US$1,000), took a few days to be approved and with it he was able to buy his first cow. And eventually, another loan from Financiera el Comercio allowed him to buy a milking machine. Now, seven years later of back-to-back loans, Basilio just imported a tractor from Spain to grow his business even more. “El Comercio is my support” declares Basilio while he proudly shows us his newly-arrived red tractor truck (pictured at the bottom of this post).
Basilio didn’t always have such success, however. Eight years ago, he lost nearly everything he possessed. He had to mortgage his home in order to pay for medical treatment for his 18 year-old son who was suffering from insect poisoning. And sadly, when his son died, he didn’t have anything left. Basilio is a tall, stout man, and his watery eyes sparkled when he told me, “I was left penniless.” Without his house and land, he needed to come up with another way to earn a living and support his large family. Milk seemed to be the best option, since its production needs very little land, and the rest is history. Read More…
Good news friends and family: my reputation as a blogger is still intact. And that does not necessarily mean that I am mastering the art of writing gripping yet informative tales and throwing them out to the Internet for the world to enrich. It just means that, after a hectic period, only now I find myself writing about my new role as an Accion Ambassador at Financiera El Comercio, Paraguay. (This is the first year that El Comercio is hosting Accion Ambassadors). I pledge myself to writing some quality lines and bore you as little as possible, so posts in the future will also be read among acquaintances and eventually strangers! By the way, the title of this post refers to Paraguay’s unofficial nickname and has to do with its geographic location, right at the center of the continent! (and not to be confused with Uruguay).
Why The Accion Ambassadors Program? Why Paraguay? Well those are fair questions, but the let’s start from the beginning: with microfinance. Much has been written already, some of it on this very blog, for me to educate my readers on the strengths and flaws of microfinance. From my (still uneducated) point of view, microfinance represents a real opportunity for finance to have a positive and durable impact in the world we live in by giving the right tools to those that do not have access to them in any other way. Did anybody you know borrow him or herself out of poverty and into richness? That is indeed a complicated debate, and if you opened any newspaper in the last six months you might think Southern Europe tried to do so for many years (ask my dear Spain!). But debt can fuel growth on a macro scale if money is well invested, and it definitely can help individuals live better.
My friends suggested that I was just trying to clear my conscience after years of serving evil on Wall Street and just before heading to Chicago Booth to pursue my MBA at the very Temple of Capitalism (thank you for believing in my good intentions, loyal friends). But I really just wanted to see microfinance for myself. I want to be able look into clients’ eyes and understand for myself their satisfaction and their pride in finding a financial institution to believe in them enough to help them achieve their goals and to live better. Naive? Well, we’ll soon see!
Next post, coming soon, will narrate my first and very exciting impressions in this great country: Paraguay. Stay tuned. (And please keep me honest with your comments!)