|Towards Creating a Poverty-Free World (UNESCO, 1995, 12 p.)|
Credit offers a poor person an opportunity to convert his/her energy and creativity into income-generating activities. Credit plays such an important role in creating self-employment for the poor that I have been arguing that credit should be recognized as a basic human right. By insisting on collateral the financial institutions have created a caste system in the financial world. The poor became the untouchables in this world.
Grameen dared to challenge the banking dictum regarding the poor. It began in Bangladesh in 1976 by lending US$ 30 to 42 poor villagers. It worked. It continued to expand to other villages. Along the way it became a formal bank owned by the poor, serving the poor. Today Grameen lends to 2 million poor borrowers, 94 per cent of whom are women. They are also the shareholders of the Bank. The Banks activities are spread over 35,000 villages of Bangladesh which has a total of 68,000 villages. During 1994 Grameen lent out US$ 385 million in tiny loans averaging US$ 100.
It is a long way from the US$ 30 loan in 1976. Grameens recovery rate is over 98 percent.
Grameen borrowers are not only good at paying back their loans. They have improved their nutritional status, access to food, sanitation, health, pure drinking water and housing. Hardcore poor families are gradually crossing over the poverty line with their own economic efforts.
Programs patterned after Grameen are springing up throughout the world, in Asia, Africa, latin America, North America and Europe. They all show the same result.
From Grameen Experiences we are fully convinced that every human being is endowed with enormous capacity to contribute to the economy and the society. By ones own effort one can pull himself/herself out of poverty. Elimination of poverty is a doable proposition. It is now a question of how seriously we want it gone. When do we want the world to be totally free from poverty?
Shouldnt FAO take the lead in organizing the nations to get into action on to the path to eliminate poverty from the world? As the global focal point it is the responsibility of the FAO to create consensus on setting a date to remove hunger and poverty. FAO should take advantage of such opportunities as the World Summit for Social Development to lead the world to make a firm commitment to a strategy for poverty alleviation.
FAO should take upon itself the duty of monitoring the hunger and poverty situation in the world and remind all the nations and the world Bank, which has the responsibility to organize the world economy to reduce poverty, about the connections between hunger and poverty and call attention to where the world stands with respect to the number of poor in each successive year.