Pact and LIFT partners lend to Myanmar poor

January 8, 2013

Five Myanmar-based civil society organizations will soon begin lending more than US$3 million to farmers and women in rural and isolated communities, thanks to training and counsel from Pact Global Microfinance Fund, Myanmar’s largest nonprofit lender, and to LIFT, a multi-donor fund managed by the United Nations Office for Project Services that is financially supporting the initiative.

“This may be the largest launch of microfinance lending by local nonprofit organizations to date in Myanmar,” said Fahmid Bhuiya, Pact Global Microfinance’s chief operating officer.

“We’re proud to be working with our new partners and LIFT to profoundly improve the livelihoods and food security of as many as 45,000 families in places where there is no access to credit but an abundance of need for it.”

On December 24, the first two of the five new local lenders formalized documents that allowed Pact to transfer funds to them. All of them are expected to start making loans the first week of February. Next year, Pact will work with another four community groups to qualify them as microfinance lenders under Myanmar’s new microfinance regulations.

In all, the project known as MARC – Myanmar Access to Rural Credit – will empower the 9 new microfinance institutions to make about 27,000 agricultural loans and nearly 18000 additional loans specifically targeted to women to let them expand non-agricultural activities or start new enterprises. It will cover about 900 villages in the Delta and Dry Zone regions.

“We know the hard-working people in these communities well,” said U Cin Khan Lian, director of Ar Yone Oo, Social Development Association, an organization that has helped the poor in Myanmar’s Delta region since 2008 and one of dozens that applied to Pact to learn to be a microfinance lender. “We have always wanted to help them with small, affordable loans that could be used to grow their incomes and better feed their families, but we never knew how or had the funds until Pact and LIFT offered to get us started.”

For the past several months, Pact Global Microfinance worked with each of the lenders-to-be to improve their technical and organizational capacity to offer quality microcredit services, to ensure their sustainability as they grow their loan portfolios and to convey lessons from Pact’s own significant microfinance operations.

“These are five very strong organizations who are no strangers to the communities they’ll be serving with microloans,” said MARC project manager U Kyi Thar.

“They’re training with Pact has made them even stronger, and we’re all anxious to see them help transform the villages they are a part of.”

Pact Global Microfinance’s parent organization, Pact, is the longest-serving international NGO still active in Myanmar today, serving its first borrowers in the country in 1997. In 2012, after Myanmar passed its first law addressing microfinance, Pact formed Pact Global Microfinance to allow it to expand its services to more people in need of credit.

Today, Pact Global Microfinance serves more than 500,000 borrowers – 99% of them women – throughout Myanmar.

Nevertheless, the demand for small business loans in Myanmar is booming as the country’s economy grows. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimates only 10% of as much as a US$600 million microfinance market in Myanmar is being satisfied.

With MARC, Pact and LIFT identified a plan to help local institutions – those who have a genuine stake in their communities’ success – fill the gap.

“With Pact’s expertise in capacity development of local NGOs and its experience as the leading microfinance institution in Myanmar, it was a natural fit to partner with them to develop active local institutions that could focus on improving the food and livelihood security of the poor and vulnerable in Myanmar,” said Fund Director Andrew Kirkwood “Here, we have a historic opportunity for Myanmar-based organizations to help Myanmar’s rural poor help themselves and enjoy a brighter future.”

Administered by the United National Nations Office of Project Services, LIFT was established in Myanmar in 2009 by donors that include Australia, Denmark, the European Union, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

With access to credit, farmers can buy higher quality seeds, fertilizers and additional labor that improve harvests and increase incomes.  Likewise, small loans on average US$100 help women either expand or start microbusinesses preparing or selling foodstuffs or other goods.

“We can help teach farmers more efficient agricultural practices to increase their yields, but unless they have capital to invest in the cultivation of their plants, they can’t take advantage of what they’ve learned,” said U Maung Maung Soe Tint of Border Areas Development Authority, one of the five new local lenders. “With MARC, now they can.”

For more information about Pact Global Microfinance Fund, the MARC project and MARC local partners, contact Eddie Byrd, Pact communications manager, at

For more information about LIFT, contact Learning and Innovation/Communications Officer Yasmin Padamsee, @email, at 0973-191953.