Microfinancing: on the right track

It’s hard for us to imagine, but for many people in the South, a small loan can be enough to bring about a major change. Take Rokia from Benin. With a microcredit of just 45 euros, she was able to get her business off the ground: she cultivates manioc in a field just outside Honhoué and processes the roots into the popular dish called “gari”, which she sells at the market in the city.

It took her six months to pay off the 45 euros, after which she took out a new loan. This allowed her to send her children to school and put some money aside.

Rokia has discovered the power of microfinance and has since started taking on new credits, expanding her business.

Everyone deserves a little credit

For people like Rokia, the standard products offered by traditional financial institutions do not apply because: 

  • She is not creditworthy, and cannot offer any guarantee. 
  • The basic costs of a small loan are proportionately very high and therefore not interesting for larger banks. 
  • The physical and mental distance from the banks is often too great. 
  • The threshold for women is even higher than for men. 
  • Many small entrepreneurs and farmers are illiterate and/or have no business plan to present to lenders. 

The solution? Microfinancing. A human service, close to home. Small amounts. No more than they can repay. The credits are granted based on trust, but are subject to continuous supervision. It is not uncommon for an entire community to collectively guarantee the repayment of a microcredit. 

The microfinancing institutions that BRS works with also invest in training and coaching local entrepreneurs. This can cover a wide range of subjects such as marketing, sales and accounting, as well as matters such as healthcare and literacy. 

The ultimate goal of microfinance is to empower people, to give them the opportunity to improve their standard of living independently, with dignity and pride. 

Microsaving: saving for a rainy day 

When you think of microfinance, microcredits are probably the first thing that springs to mind. A small amount that allows enterprising farmers, craftsmen or traders in the South to start or expand their activities. That's just one element of microfinance. Another is microsaving. 

Saving is not easy if you have to struggle every day to make ends meet. Yet the poorest are those with a great need for savings. In the event the harvest is disappointing, the breadwinner becomes ill or to pay for a wedding or funeral. 

There are a number of ways people in the South save: 

  • Gradually acquiring some cattle, jewellery or construction materials. 
  • Depositing some money every day with a money custodian. 
  • Putting together a small sum of money every week as a group.

A different person gets to take the money home (tontines or roscas) every week. 

Microfinancing institutions add an alternative: microsaving. Secure, flexible savings systems provide extra protection for customers and allow them to build up reserves at their own pace. 


BRS supports institutions in the  south which offer microfinance to enterprising people.

Take a look!

Are you a fellow chocolate lover?

In this video, get to know the people responsible for the most important raw material: cacao! And learn more about microcredits and cooperatives too.

Read the story of Edmundo, the cacao farmer


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A day in Honhoué

This video provides a good illustration of microfinancing and the cooperative operations of BRS. These images are a few years old. Nowadays, more modern instruments are used in Honhoué, but the principles of our operations remained unchanged.  

Through Lore’s eyes: group credits in Uganda

In 2018, KU Leuven student Lore Beckers spent a few months at Hofokam in Uganda for her Advanced Master Cultural Anthropology studies. She worked as a guide for TV journalist and documentary maker Chris Michel, who was making a report on the operation of microcredits. You can view a short account of their meeting here.

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Some testimonials

“I wanted to do something for those less fortunate. Something with lasting added value. By buying shares in BRS you give people in the South the opportunity to build something themselves.” - Kristof Van Belleghem, member 

“When I spoke to a farmer in Addis Ababa, he told me that the microcredit allows him and others to buy good quality seeds and fertilisers. This increases yields and income, which means he can now send his children to school, and his eldest even to university.” - KBC employee and BRS volunteer Jan Leyten 

“With a small amount of funds, no more than necessary, offering ‘disadvantaged’ people opportunities. Or how microcredits and microsavings can mean the difference between existing and living, between taking your destiny into your own hands or allowing fate to prevail.” - journalist Peter Verlinden 

“As a member of BRS and Cera, I contribute to a more warm-hearted society.” - Lore Beckers, research student for BRS 

“Unity is strength!” - Fofana Mariam Sangaré, President of the Guinean group Demba Gnouma, which produces shea butter