Portfolio Partner Profile
ECLOF International is a faith-based organization founded in 1946 with a mission to promote social justice and human dignity through microfinance. ECLOF primarily provides loans and technical assistance to partner microfinance institutions (MFIs) in 12 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Their partner MFIs in turn provide micro entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers with loans, savings, insurance, technical and financial training. ECLOF’s network of MFIs is one of the most rural, and nearly 1/3 of its end borrowers are smallholders. ECLOF is addressing a significant financing gap of sustainable and scalable microfinance solutions for farmers. ECLOF provides not only financing but also technical assistance to their MFIs, with aims to strengthen institutional capacity and scale their operations in a sustainable manner.
Featured Impact Story
A budding young entrepreneur
Ezequiel comes from Villa Mella, a poor semi-rural district north of Santo Domingo. His mother raised the 9 children alone when their father died early. At the age of 15 Ezequiel started selling candy with a friend in his neighborhood to generate some income. Three years later he learned that ECLOF offer small startup loans together with advice on how to run a business. And unlike other financial institutions in the country, ECLOF offers this to young people like him with no credit history.
With the first 200 dollars he purchased inventory for his candy trade. He has had 7 consecutive loans from ECLOF since. He and his partner invested the money in machines for making churros (elongated sweet donuts). Profits were always reinvested to expand the business. They now run four points of sale in the city under the name "El mejor churro" and have hired four young employees. A new delivery van helps distribute supplies to the different sites. But Ezequiel doesn't stop there: next he plans to set up a "pica pollo" restaurant.
Ezequiel encourages budding young entrepreneurs to approach ECLOF who offer a chance to motivated people and products adapted to their needs. Thanks to his success Ezequiel can now support his family and the community where he was born. He is proud to have created jobs and serves as a coach for his young staff whom he keeps reminding: "Work and fight for your dreams, I am the example that where there is a will, there is a way".
Photo Courtesy of ECLOF International
From housewife to sewing instructor
ECLOF India mainly finances women micro-entrepreneurs organized in self-help groups in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. The Covid-19 crisis severely affected this group from vulnerable backgrounds. Their income-generating activities slowed down or even stopped due to the strict Covid-19 lockdown measures. ECLOF helped them make ends meet by restructuring their loans, giving them advice on the management of their business, extending moral support, and handing out personal protection kit.
38-year old Sushila Thamarai lives with her husband and their 7-year-old daughter in a semi-rural area near the town of Madurai. Previously, the family lived on the husband’s low daily labor wages that barely paid the rent of their dilapidated accommodation and the food needs of the family. They could not afford to pay for their daughter's education, so she missed out on her early years of kindergarten and school.
To support her family, Sushila decided to work as a seamstress, a profession she had learned before her wedding. Her first ECLOF loan in 2009 enabled her to buy a sewing machine and do odd jobs for her neighborhood. Word of mouth made the number of orders go up. To meet demand, she bought an electric sewing machine with a loan from ECLOF. In 2019, she moved to a small store in Karuppayurani, in a busy area of their metropolitan area. While competition is high in the neighborhood, she quickly gained a good reputation which guarantees regular customers.
Passionate about her job, Sushila decided to offer sewing courses at an affordable price to women in her community. She bought three additional sewing machines and was able to reach a diverse audience by putting up advertising posters, ads in the local newspaper and through social media. Her students’ ranged from homemakers to young teenage girls leaving school who were unemployed and came from poor social and economic backgrounds. The courses have thus enabled them to acquire mastery of a profession that they can practise even at home, and generate income with little investment.
During the lockdown, Sushila could no longer practice her trade. She found herself with difficulty paying the rent for her store and therefore, she temporarily had to abandon it. She worked from home where she took orders from neighbors and taught some of her students. She is determined to recover with enough financial means. In the meantime, she is reassured to count on the loyalty of many of her customers. She is thankful to ECLOF for supporting and helping her get through this difficult period.
Ms. Thamarai is very proud of her career. She was able to start her business and make her success even more meaningful by passing her skills on to other women. With her income, she was able to send her daughter to school and buy 1,300 square feet of land on which the family had built a house. She wishes for all women to have the same opportunities she has had!
Organic agriculture is a crucial investment
ECLOF Philippines strongly believes that organic agriculture is a crucial investment for communities as it fosters respect for the environment, community, health and sustainable livelihoods for farmers. Moreover, local consumers trust in healthier organic food and are willing to pay a premium.
But for farmers, the decision to go organic requires determination, sufficient capital, and a lot of new theoretical and practical knowledge. This is why they created the ECLOF Nature and Organic Farm (ENOF) training centre in the province of Palawan in 2014. The centre has become a pole of learning, research, and pooling of knowledge and techniques on organic farming where practitioners train and are able to experience organic farming hands-on. Since the centre’s establishment, there have been at least six training courses conducted with a minimum of 300 farmers every year.
2020, however, has been the most challenging time of all. In the Philippines, every city and municipality has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns or community quarantines were put in place. ENOF trainings and gatherings became a challenge. Only few trainings with small groups of farmers were conducted. ENOF took this as an opportunity to continuously develop the farm. ENOF opened new areas for mass production of high value vegetables, renovated the nursery area and the irrigation system, and constructed vermiculture and green house facilities.
In August 2020, ENOF was awarded an organic certification from the Organic Certification Centre of the Philippines (OCCP) for a third consecutive year. As the prime certification body in the country, accredited by the Ministry of Agriculture and associated with international certification bodies, the OCCP is responsible for ensuring that organic farming procedures and practices comply with standards. This token of national recognition of ECLOF’s work has boosted the centre’s credibility and popularity, both in terms of training and its own organic production. ENOF was also accredited by the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) as an official learning site to host student-farmers for the practical part of their training, on-the-job trainings for ATI’s scholars, and field visits.
The centre sells its certified organic products on local markets and shops. Not only does this finance its operation and expansion but it also builds reputation and regional outreach. In fact, ENOF was appointed by the Regional Organic Congress to represent the private sector in the organic congress. Moreover, the centre’s trainer, Mr. Primo Suza, was named “Outstanding Organic Farmer of the Year 2020”. These recognitions confirm the public support in ECLOF as they invest in organic farming and in the promotion of healthy, safe and sustainable agriculture.
ECLOF Kenya and Colombia support organic farmers and entrepreneurs
ECLOF offers credit and related financial services to farmers and micro entrepreneurs. ECLOF also builds the capacity of its clients in fields like financial literacy, organic farming, handicraft or business & entrepreneurship. ECLOF disseminates the training directly to clients, through the solidarity groups that clients organize in and through own and client-operated demonstration farms
Learn more about the variety of ECLOF Kenya and ECLOF Colombia's work in the additional vignettes below.