Rome, 19 May 2009 – Efforts by poor rural people in Belize to lift themselves out of poverty are being bolstered by a US$3 million loan from IFAD to Belize, for a Rural Finance Programme, which will help poor people realize their economic potential.
The loan agreement was signed today in Rome by Audrey Joy Grant, Ambassador of Belize in Brussels and Jessie Mabutas, IFAD Assistant President.
Lack of access to credit and other financial services (savings, insurance, remittances) has hampered economic growth in Belize and there is untapped economic potential among the rural population.
The Rural Finance Programme will build on the experience of the credit union movement and on IFAD’s previous operation in southern Belize, scaling up nationwide. It is a stand-alone rural finance operation, as opposed to one component of an integrated development project.
Participating credit unions will receive a tailored capacity-building package to help them expand and diversify their financial services and to adapt them to the needs of the target population. In addition, eligible credit unions will be able to access credit in order to leverage their lending capacity and reach those poor rural people who have not received their services.
The expansion of rural financial services for smallholder farmers and other rural groups is a critical means to catalyse rural development in Belize, complementing government and other international agencies initiatives.
The programme will target 11,500 poor rural households nationwide, including many women and young people who are small scale farmers, subsistence fishers, craft workers, and members of indigenous communities. More than 15,000 poor and extremely poor rural people are expected to benefit directly.
To date, IFAD has funded two projects in Belize for a total of about US$4 million.