Building a Pathway: Fonkoze

Gauthier Dieudonne heads the Chemen Lavi Miyò (Path to a Better Life). This program targets people living in extreme poverty and provides them with a set of financial and non-financial services to ease their journey out of poverty. To date, more than 1,000 clients of this program have graduated from extreme poverty. Dieudonne describes some of what happens to members’ self-image as they move through the program.

“At the beginning, they’re skeptical since no one cares for them—until they realize you’re there for real. We teach them how to solve their problems. When people don’t care about you, you don’t care about yourself. We change that. We teach them…Each time they do something, they begin to realize they can do something. They begin to think about their kids. Each thing they accomplish in the program is a plus… They begin making plans…they’re hopeful that there’s a future.”

The Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) program is centered around clients setting and reaching 10 specific targets, including developing a plan for the future, accumulating a minimum level of accumulated assets needed to withstand shocks, putting children in school, and developing an ability to manage money and generate income. Ninety-eight percent of program participants graduate from extreme poverty. Dieudonne says he still works with the remaining 2%. “We’re talking about people’s lives,” he says, “and we can’t play with that.”

CLM forms the first step of Fonkoze’s staircase out of poverty, an approach Fonkoze uses to segment the various types of clients it serves and develop appropriate products for each segment. There are three other steps in the staircase:

  1. Ti Kredi, or Little Credit, reaches out to families that are not ready to manage the first loan in Fonkoze’s core solidarity-group credit program
  2. Solidarity group credit is Fonkoze’s core program
  3. Business development provides year-long loans that start at US$ 1,300 and can be increased without limit