Microfinance pioneer BRAC is to lead a two-year pilot programme to help rebuild war-torn communities in West Africa. Sponsored by the Soros Economic Development Fund (www.sedfny.org), the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (www.osiwa.org), the Omidyar Network (www.omidyar.com) and Humanity United (www.humanityunited.org), the $15 million initiative will provide microfinance, health and agricultural support in Liberia and Sierra Leone in order to help families and prevent renewed conflict.
BRAC has already opened 20 new microfinance branches in Liberia and Sierra Leone since March and expects to add another 20 by the end of the year. It also made its first loans in June and is expected to provide financial services to tens of thousands of women as well as agricultural supplies and training to small crop and livestock farmers. ‘People desperately need to earn a living,’ says BRAC founder and chair, Fazle Hasan Abed. Despite their current condition, he is convinced the two countries are ‘uniquely positioned to become models for successful development in West Africa’. An estimated 500,000 people will benefit from the programme.