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Microcredit and Sustainability
Category: Microcredit | By RAGM, 15-Feb-2013 | Viewed 3003  Comments 0
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Keith Axtell
Sustainability has become a crucial requirement for Rotary humanitarian projects funded through The Rotary Foundation. Successful microcredit projects are highly sustainable and can easily meet this Rotary requirement.  They are sustainable in three ways: financial, motivational and through capacity building in local communities.

Sustainability in Rotary projects is the capacity for maintaining outcomes long-term to serve the ongoing needs of a community after grant funds have been expended.  Our microcredit projects establish a Revolving Loan fund, which continues making loans to additional participants after the Rotary project is closed.  With the normally high payback rates, these loan funds are available to assist the communities for many years to come.

In addition, the economic well-being of loan recipients is generally improved.  Through the microcredit program, participants are able to expand and improve their businesses, or start new businesses.  This opportunity improves their ability to support their families on a permanent basis.  They are more able to send their children to school and to afford better health care, increasing the opportunities for future generations. 

Most Rotary microcredit projects also require and encourage savings by the participants.  This provides a pool of additional capital which can be used for additional lending to expand economic opportunities for the community.  Savings also help participants accumulate funds for major expenses such as business expansion, education or improvements in their standard of living.

Capacity-building is an important element in Rotary microcredit projects.  Loan recipients can receive training in business skills such as budgeting, book-keeping, and inventory management that will help them succeed in years to come.  Vocational training may be provided which enables them to succeed in the particular business they have chosen.  For example, a recent project in Guatemala taught a group of women confectionary skills before the holidays.
Participants may also receive training in personal development skills, health education and other relevant subjects that will also enhance their ability to succeed.  Some programs offer opportunities for adult education at the elementary school level.  In sum, microcredit programs give participants skills to continue improving their lives after the Rotary project is completed. 

Microcredit projects can also greatly enhance the motivation level of participants.  It is impressive how much pride and self-confidence is exhibited by the participants who have established their own businesses.  Our microcredit loans are helping people help themselves.  Participants learn that they can change their lives through their own efforts. 

In this way, microcredit programs provide participants the opportunity to move from dependency to independence.  It can provide them the motivation and skills to overcome other challenges for their families and their communities.  In Ecuador, one credit group of women found that by working together they could also change their community.  They went to the government as a group, requesting that public services be provided to their village.  The last time we visited clean water was being piped into the homes, and the streets were paved because of their efforts.
The Rotary Foundation initiative for more sustainable projects substantially enhances the value of our Rotary Foundation projects.  Rotary microcredit programs are an excellent and sustainable way to put these resources to work.

Rotary sustainability can be observed through the thoughts and passion exhibited by Rotary Leaders in the following video: http://vimeo.com/56048443

Keith Axtell is highly experienced in Rotary's matching grant program, including microcredit.  He has managed or participated in over 100 matching grant projects.  His five microcredit projects have helped over 1,500 poor people set up their own businesses.

Mr. Axtell served as District Grants Chair (DGSC) for District 5150 for five years.  He was District World Community Service Chair for three years, and has been District Microcredit Chair for six years.  He is Past President of Marin Evening Rotary, where he also served as Foundation Chair and International Chair.

Keith Axtell had an extensive career as a manager and government executive in the fields of community development and housing.  For fifteen years, he served as Director of Housing for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the western United States.  In this position, Mr. Axtell was responsible for HUD's FHA mortgage insurance and Assisted Housing programs in the states of California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. 

Mr. Axtell also served as HUD Director for the Office of Indian Programs.  In this position, he was responsible for HUD's housing and community development programs on Indian reservations in five western states including Arizona and New Mexico.  His Rotary classification is Community Development.
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