by Stephanie Manciagli, Regional Director
Submitted by Whole Foods Market Foundations
In the first days of 2022, Whole Planet Foundation approved its 1st new project of the year, after having closed 2021 with 21 new projects. Despite operational challenges and a continued cash flow crunch this past year, due to the pandemic, Whole Planet Foundation remained committed to creating new opportunities for entry-level borrowers to access business credit. In the Americas and Caribbean region, we have been honored to initiate the following seven projects since early 2021, with established and new partners, to widen financial inclusion in Panama, Guatemala, Haiti, Paraguay, and the United States.
1. Panama with Eskala
Eskala Panama takes minority equity positions in the Village Banks that it sets up in low-income, rural, and indigenous communities and it also lends them loan capital for microbusiness loans. Whole Planet Foundation funds will help Eskala reach 1,100 new Village Bank members by the end of 2024 in isolated areas of Panama, including Veraguas and the Darien.
2. Montana, United States with People's Partner for Community Development
A lack of access to banking has been a persistent impediment to economic development, wealth generation, and asset ownership for Native American communities for decades. Even today, 18% of Native Americans are unbanked, compared to 14% of Black households, 12% of Latino households and only 2% of White households. People's Partner for Community Development is addressing this problem on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, in Southeastern Montana, and was formed in response to the overwhelming need to stimulate the local economy. Whole Planet Foundation's $50,000 1-year grant will fund ten new Small Business loan clients.
3. Oregon and Washington, United States with Mercy Corps
Mercy Corps Northwest (MCNW) builds thriving communities by providing business education, financing, and advocating for equitable opportunities for underserved groups. Whole Planet Foundation's two-year, $150,000 grant will be used for loan capital for MCNW’s Credit Builder loans, targeting Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) holders who do not have a social security number. This loan product, which will be available in Oregon and Washington, is unsecured and capped at $5,000 per loan, for entrepreneurs accessing capital for their microenterprises.
4. Haiti with Palmis Mikwofinans Soysal
Palmis Mikwofinans Soysal (PMS), an Entrepreneurs du Monde-supported microfinance partner in Haiti, received a $400,000, three-year grant to reach over 2,400 clients, through loans with an average of $155 of business seed capital per participant. Funds will be used for PMS’ Group Loan methodology and Microbusiness product, to new clients in Cabaret, Hinche, Mirebalais, Les Cayes, Petit-Goâve, Léogane, Croix des Bouquet, Delma, and Fontamara/Centre Ville.
5. Haiti, another project with Palmis Mikwofinans Soysal
Following the August 2021 earthquake, Palmis Mikwofinans Sosyal received another grant, for $50,000, to support PMS in their relief and recovery efforts. Funds are being used to rehouse five staff that lost their housing; cover the losses from the loans that are written off due to the earthquake in the Les Cayes branch; and refinance clients that lost their business activity due to the earthquake. This project was launched under Whole Planet Foundation's High Impact Fund, which does not limit partners from using funds for loan capital.
6. Paraguay with Fundación Paraguaya
Fundación Paraguaya had supported three projects in Paraguay, providing $1,701,000 in grant funding between 2010 and 2020. In 2021, Whole Planet Foundation offered a $200,000, 0% interest, local currency loan to provide Fundación Paraguaya with on-lending capital support to their Women’s Committee loan product at four branches: San Pedro, Curuguaty, Santani y Caaguazú. San Pedro and Caaguazú. Caaguazú and San Pedro have some of the highest incidence of poverty in the country, at 43.7% and 43.6%, respectively. The number of people in poverty in San Pedro alone constitutes almost 34.4% of total poverty in the whole country.
7. Guatemala with Friendship Bridge
Friendship Bridge received a three-year, $300,000 grant to provide lending capital to 2,654 Trust Bank clients at their new Camojá branch in La Democracia, Huehuetanango. Huehuetenango is the department that sends the most migrants to the United States and so borrowers are at flight risk. Despite the difficulties of working in this challenging region, Friendship Bridge and Whole Planet Foundation remain committed to serving this population.
Thank you to the Kasperick Foundation for providing the funds for the Friendship Bridge and Palmis Mikwofinans Sosyal microfinance project. Thank you to all our supporters for contributing to financial inclusion around the world. In 2021, Whole Planet Foundation allocated $6,866,801 to 49 approved projects in 38 different countries around the world.
Like 2021, in 2022, Whole Planet Foundation is looking to fund a mix of established partners with new ones in the Americas and Caribbean region, while maintaining a diverse portfolio. Diversity will come in several ways:
We will look to provide grants ranging from $50,000 – to $450,000 as well as 0% interest, local currency loans;
We will aim to have active partnerships in six of seven Central American countries (thus supporting resilience and stability in a region with limited economic opportunities), as well as five other active partnerships in North and South America;
We will continue to support traditional microfinance, VSLAs and ultra-poor graduation models while also prioritizing innovative agriculture and asset finance projects.
We are looking forward to sharing more news about our pipeline in the coming weeks. Learn more at wholeplanetfoundation.org.
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