The Association for Rural Development (ARD) has stood a test of time as one of the most local microfinance institutions that has survived with 16,000 clients benefitting from their intervention since its inception in 1998.
In an interview with this medium yesterday, the ARD Operations Manager, Michael Kamara, explained that ARD is a success story in Sierra Leone, particularly when you consider it competing among big International Non Governmental Organizations that had failed or discontinued along the line, thereby transforming themselves into other profit making companies.
“As a local outfit we have struggled to learn the art of microfinance that is very much appreciated, applicable in the country and still remains buoyant as it continues to service some 16,000 vulnerable people across the country with group and individual loans” he pointed out.
He was reputed to have said that some of their competitors like the LAPO microfinance institution, microfinance trust, finance Salon and Hope finance have foreign supports but ARD is doing well among them even without foreign supports.
He stated that ARD has it own fair share of the market giving the viable role it plays in transforming people’s lives through microfinance scheme as one of the main poverty alleviation strategies for the poor.
ARD, he noted, had been rated by an organization known as Microfinance information exchange (MIXMARKET) as a foster institution based on governance, management and operational data.
In other words, the ARD modus operandi is reflective of transparency and accountability.
ARD which started up as a small micro credit organization in Sierra Leone, he said, has through perseverance expanded country wide with 2 branches in Freetown and regional offices in all the regional headquarter towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni.
ARD is gradually moving on but is some how confronted with huge challenges which ranges from the non availability of credit bureau in the country to help access credit worthy clients.
ARD, he went on, is very much intended to stretch-out across the country so as to reach out to the most vulnerable categories of the society, but is unable to do so now because of the unavailability of loan facilities available to them to increase their clients. ARD secures loan from foreign organizations and in the process of payment they are faced with exchange risk.
There are other challenges of the culture of non payment of loans by some clients in the country, and this coupled with the proliferation of dubious microfinance institutions like the wealth builders who comes around people and siphons money in the name of microfinance.
By Solomon Rogers