Costa Rica is well known for its rich cultural heritage and beautiful landscape. However, about 18% of the population in Costa Rica live below the poverty line. In an effort to alleviate their poverty through Grameen microcredit, the Asociacion Costa Rica Grameen (ACRG), a 'Build, Operate and Transfer' (BOT) project of Grameen Trust, began operating in the country from December, 2005, with support from the Whole Planet Foundation.
Initially, all staff were trained for implementation of the project. Several visits were made by the Project Director to motivate the local population to participate, and after a while, members were selected and groups were formed. After verification of their housing and economic condition by the project staff, members were trained on basics of Grameencredit.
The project disbursed its first loan to the women from the poorest households in April, 2006. Until December, 2007, a total of USD 947,697 had been lent out to 3264 borrowers in the Guacimo, Limon and Siquirres branches, with average loans of $150 per person. Loans are very closely supervised, and so far, the repayment rate has been perfect.
Instead of savings, which is essential for the success of Grameen methodology, the project requires members to raise subscriptions, which function as a savings account in the Grameen branch. Until December, 2007 a total of US$ 64,669 was received as subscription in the Guacimo, Limon and Siquirres branches.
Amongst various activities that the members are involved in, the most popular have been selling textiles, cosmetics, tailoring, and poultry. Other business include pig and cow fattening, bakery, shop keeping, making handicrafts, etc.
The Asociacion Costa Rica Grameen Project has progressed satisfactorily overcoming initial difficulties. The management expects a rapid expansion of the project in the coming months.