Unlike at traditional banks, portfolio managers for microfinance institutions need to travel daily to villages and often the homes of their clients as a key part of building a bond with the entrepreneurs they want to ensure succeed with the loans they take from WPF’s partners. This means long days in the field, unexpected dangers or obstacles and putting in overtime to help a client that may need some extra mentorship or support to succeed. The photo above shows a Field Officer assisting with a savings and loan meeting organized by Village Enterprise in Uganda.
Every year Whole Planet Foundation’s teams in Africa and the Middle East host two regional Field Officer Appreciation awards to show our appreciation to these frontline warriors – one group in West Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East; and another group in Eastern and Southern Africa.
The top recognized field officers in the West Africa, North Africa, and Middle East region this year come from Cameroon, Ghana, Gambia, Togo and Senegal with special mention for nominees from eight other countries.
From the Eastern and Southern Africa region, the grand prize was awarded to Mary Kizito from Kenya, followed by top tier winners from Rwanda, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe; and special mentions from eight other countries.
Stories from the Field
We asked the nominated field officers and their colleagues to tell us about their daily work. Here are some of their stories:
Paul, a Loan Officer from GHAPE in Cameroon, has risen above the odds to provide service to microcredit clients in his community.
Here is what GHAPE had to say about Paul’s unrelenting determination in Cameroon to continue serving loan groups despite the risk to his own safety during an ongoing civil conflict in the country: “During the current civil war in Northwest Cameroon, Paul has experienced the worst of it at his branch and presently the movement of bikes and cars around his working area have been banned. In one of the meetings, he was taken by the secessionist group and was physically attacked as the group thought he was working with the Government. Thanks to the cooperation of members, alarm was raised and members of that center and other centers in the community quickly rushed there for his rescue and to testify he is working with an NGO. He vows not to stop serving his members even as he is trekking for hours to meet them in their different localities.”
To learn more about the crisis in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon where GHAPE works, please see this link posted from UNICEF.
Jeanine from CAURIE in Senegal
Jeanine, a credit officer for CAURIE in Senegal who as far back as 2010 helped WPF scope out new communities where the Foundation could help expand rural Village Banks, perfectly exhibited the persistence and determination our partners’ field workers show on a daily basis, “Once when inaugurating the first Village Banks in a village, we left the office but were caught by a heavy rain. With the chaotic state of the roads, the vehicle got bogged down. It was not until around 17:00 that our vehicle was released. In consultation with the agents, I asked that we continue our mission to carry out the financing because the women had been waiting since the morning. That day, we went back to the office around 1:30 in the morning. It did not prevent us from being at the office the next day at 8 am to return to the field to hold the Village Bank meetings that were scheduled in the monthly schedule.”
Mary from ID Ghana
Mary, a field officer Facilitator for our partner ID Ghana, demonstrated the lengths that field staff go to ensure that members of our partner organizations have a successful experience managing finance for a business.
“A woman was once rejected by a group because they heard she was a defaulter. I had a discussion with her and she told me she had a family crisis in the past, so I called in the social worker who counseled her and drew up a small business plan with her. I went to talk with the group and they agreed to accept her on a trial. I gave her an interest-free loan. I made it a point to check up on her once a week, and she was able to pay on time and made an appreciable amount of savings. She is now one of my best clients.”
Mary, a One Acre Fund Kenya field officer, shows the effort it takes to work with many clients in rural areas. “In my first year at One Acre Fund, I signed up 465 clients! I am always excited to serve farmers; my goal is to serve as many farmers as I can to create impact. I ensure that each of my farmers gets 1 visit per week. I walk more than 10km a day to achieve this. I have a large area to cover and there aren’t motorbikes to help us. But due to my determination to make a difference, I walk that distance. It is a hard job, but I like it. Collecting repayments is also hard, but the whole community talks about how important One Acre Fund is. So what motivates me? The impact I see – families have food and extra income, the environment is changing because of the grevillea trees we are planting!
Hiharisoa from PAMF Madagascar
Hiharisoa, a PAMF Madagascar credit officer, talks about the impact her work has had on her own life and on her clients’ lives: “I came from the rural area of Namikia, and I didn’t know what was waiting for me in Majunga. This job with PAMF was my first job. It has helped me meet my needs and to also take on the care of two nephews whose parents have financial challenges. To see my clients succeed in their lives is a source of pride for me. To develop my portfolio, I decided to buy a motorcycle to go to difficult to reach rural regions. The fact of working with them, especially women in agriculture, is a challenge that motivates.”
Marceline, a Thrive Zimbabwe field officer shared a story which demonstrates the unpredictability of their work: “Most of the group members are spaced and also coming from far places. I recall one time I had to walk 20km from a centre to the point where I would get transport and it was dark already. Many thanks to the lorry driver who was carrying vegetables to the market as he was kind to give me a lift only to get home at midnight. At one point in time went for site visits with two colleagues. I traveled on foot to assess two groups whom had told me their houses were near the shops, only to discover that was not the case. I finished late and ended up being accompanied back by a borrower’s son on a donkey driven scotch cart. It was a moment of laughter when my colleagues saw me in the cart.”
Our 2019 Field Officer Award Winners: Africa and the Middle East