Litia Mate needed to start a business. Her husband's wages were not enough to pay for the education of their five children. Litia's idea was to sell cooked seafood at the biggest market in Suva, the capital of Fiji. But to do that she needed to find money. How to get credit? UN coordinator in Fiji, Peter Witham.
Microcredit, of course, is directed at giving people resources to start a business, to become economically productive, to have their own little business or job, when those people would not normally qualify for commercial credit through commercial banks.
It was a microcredit grant that helped Litia to succeed. Now, once a week, she goes to the wharf and waits for the arrival of the fishing boats. She buys seafood and goes home to prepare it. Thanks to a program supported by the UN Development Programme, voluntary organizations, and the country's government, Litia was able to obtain a small loan and get her business going. Her funding came from the National Centre for Small and Micro Enterprises Development. It promotes and supports businesses such as Litia's. The result? She's become a successful small entrepreneur. After repaying her loan, she borrowed again. Demand is growing and now members of her family are helping too.
I want to expand my business. I want to buy a lorry to get my business from here to Suva.
Biu Vakacereibau also had no choice but to start a business. Her husband left her with their three small children. There was only one thing that she could do to earn a living: make tapa art.
In my island, all the kids, when we grow up, we learned how to make tapa, because that's the only income for my island.
Biu got a microcredit loan and bought the materials she needed to make her crafts. Produced from the bark of the mulberry tree, tapa art is an important part of the Pacific Islands' culture and traditions. All over Fiji, tourist stores and hotels now display Biu's attractive handcraft. At this market in Lautoka, western Fiji, more than 50 percent of women vendors have benefited from the microcredit scheme. The rate of repayment here is over 90 percent. In another initiative, the UN is helping successful small entrepreneurs expand their businesses by getting loans from commercial banks. Most people here have never dealt with banks. The idea is to get them to first open a savings account, says Ravindra Singh from Fiji's Colonial National Bank.
At least, they do save something and we are trying to educate them on that. And we're also trying to educate them on fees and charges where they can save, and we'll be also giving them business tips, too.
2005 will be the International Year of Microcredit. It will be an opportunity to boost microcredit schemes all over the world. These programs are a proven way for people to generate income, create jobs, and lead a dignified life. This report was prepared by Chaim Litewski for the United Nations.