Delicious Hope: A Loan for Doughnuts through a Village Savings and Loan Association

Posted by Center Staff
Last week, New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof spotlighted Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and their power to give clients hope. He cites the story of one woman, Biti Rose, who gets a loan of $2 and starts selling doughnuts for 2 cents each. She makes a few dollars in profit each day and eventually begins to improve her life. Kristof admits that her story is not everyone’s. He does offer a nuanced picture of Biti’s story, however, using Banerjee and Duflo’s Poor Economics, positing that microfinance works because it offers the hope that people need to get themselves out of self-destructive pathologies.
The post begins: 
If you want to understand some of the best new ideas to chip away at global poverty, an excellent place to start is the Nasoni family hut here in the southern African nation of Malawi.
Alfred Nasoni and his wife, Biti Rose, have had seven children in this village of Masumba. Two died without ever seeing a doctor. Alfred and Biti Rose pulled their eldest son out of school in the fourth grade because, they said, they couldn’t afford $5 in school costs for a term. And they farmed only part of their 2.5 acre plot because they lacked money for seeds.
Yet poverty is sometimes romanticized, and it’s more complicated than that. Alfred, 45, told me that even as his children were starving, he spent an average of $2 a week on local moonshine and 50 cents on cigarettes. He added that he also spent $2 or more a week buying sex from local girls — even though AIDS is widespread.
All this hints at an uncomfortable truth: The suffering associated with poverty is sometimes caused not only by low incomes but also by self-destructive pathologies.
To continue reading on the New York Times, click please click here.
Image Credit: Public Domain
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