Japan funds micro-enterprise project in SouthCot

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23 December) — The Japanese government has extended around P8.5 million to boost micro-entrepreneurship in South Cotabato, a leader of a non-government organization, said.

Belen S. Fecundo, executive director of the South Cotabato Foundation, Inc., said the recently released Japanese grant would be used to expand its micro-credit program.

Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura said the fund was extended through its “Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project” (GGP).

“It is difficult for people whose income is not stable to get loans from private banks. Therefore, they do not have enough opportunities to launch small businesses and increase their regular income,” the envoy said in a statement.

Fecundo’s group has been actively involved in micro-credit projects in South Cotabato since 1999.

The micro-credit project of SCFC serves as an alternative lending system for the rural and urban poor to ensure easy access to credit for their small scale businesses such as sari-sari store management, piggery, dressmaking, balut production, rice trading and furniture making.

The project does not only involve credit at an affordable interest rate of 3.33% per month, but also encourages borrowers to save on a weekly basis for building self-reliance and generating additional capital to scale up their enterprises, Fecundo said.

To date, SCFI has served at least 6,000 active clients with a 95% repayment rate.

However, the group’s existing projects cover only a small portion of the entire community, leaving more people needing financial support to augment their businesses and improve their incomes.

The Japanese grant will benefit around 930 micro-entrepreneurs in the areas of Koronadal City and the municipalities of Banga, Tantangan and Polomolok.

The grant also covers the procurement of a vehicle that will be used to access far-flung areas served by the group.

Japan, a top donor to the Official Development Assistance fund, launched GGP in the Philippines in 1989 for the purpose of helping reduce poverty and helping various communities engaged in grassroots activities.

As of March 2010, 434 grassroots projects funded by GGP – ranging from roughly one to four million pesos – have been implemented by NGOs, local government units and other non-profit organizations.

The total grant for these projects so far amounts to $18,982,775. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)