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First loans for rural Albanian branch promise growth

Monday, 23 Feb 2009

By Bardha Prendi

#ALBANIA - A new microfinance branch in Albania’s rural Librazhd commune has distributed its first loans, signalling long hoped-for income-generation opportunities for families that have traditionally struggled to eke out a living here.

The opening ceremony of World Vision’s new Building Futures branch in Librazhd brought together the mayor of Librazhd, Commune Leaders, Community-Based Organisation (CBO), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Village Association representatives, World Vision and Building Futures staff.

“Maybe for someone else this loan appears to be very small but for me and my family it is a really significant help”, said Harif Nezha.

The first Building Futures clients in Librazhd received the loans to build or improve their small businesses.

“I have a small stall near the school where I sell a few things, but now I have the chance to build even a vineyard. I always wanted to do it but I didn’t have the financial resources”, said Azem Kushta.

Librazhd District is located about an hour and a half southeast of the Albanian capital city, Tirana. The United Nations Development Program 2002 report states that Librazhd is one of the poorest districts of Albania. Its primary sources of income are farming and agriculture, small businesses and remittances from abroad.

World Vision Albania through an Area Development Programme (ADP) in Librazhd has been working for more than two years on improving health and education.

“Having an Area Development Programme ADP, being a poor district and rural area with few microfinance providers was the main reason that we decided to open a new branch here in Librazhd”, said Mike Low, Director of Building Futures.

“You are engaging these people in such businesses that are appropriate not only for Albania, but especially for the rural area here in Librazhd”, said commune leader Firdus Kurti.

“This is a great possibility for the poor families that can not cope with the large interest of the banks. I’m sure that this is going to impact and develop the rural area here”, concluded Mr. Kurti.

The Building Futures branch and World Vision Albania ADP will work together within the same communities (communes) in Librazhd District.

“Microfinance is an important tool used to help ADP-based clients to expand their businesses. When someone’s business grows, the first people to benefit are the business owner and his/her family”, said Jason Evans, World Vision Albania National Director.

“The community will also indirectly benefit because if a business owner’s family is doing better, they will spend more in the community, which in turn will help others and potentially they may also be able to contribute more to community needs”, he concluded.

Since 2001, Building Futures has been supporting poor Albanian families, with two branches, in Korça, southwest of Tirana and in Lezha, located an hour northwest of the capital. More than 1,500 clients have developed small businesses to provide not only for their families, but for the communities in which they live.

In the Librazhd branch, Building Futures is using a new methodology called Village Association used in developing countries such as Serbia, Montenegro, Georgia and Kosovo. It involves creating an association of villages, and then selecting one or more persons from those villages to be a Village Counsellor that helps with marketing, client selection and managing loan administration.

For more information about World Vision's work in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, please visit this link.