I promise that not all my blogs will be about food. This will be a pretty hard promise to keep- especially when my very first post breaks that promise right from the start.
I’m the newest Kiva Fellow at Paglaum Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Northwestern Mindanao, Philippines. I’m also a native Filipino who was born and raised in Manila but just happened to spend the last ten-odd years of my life living and working in other parts of the world. This means that every time I do go home, I eat an inordinate amount of Filipino food. Filipino food has got a bad rap from critics in the past. People have found it bland, lacking in spices, too fried and unhealthy unlike its more popular Thai or Malaysian cousins. These critics are wrong. Well it is fried but really, who doesn’t like fried food?
What does this have to do with microfinance? In the Philippines, quite a lot. It’s a culture that revolves around food. We just love to eat and we love to eat together. In the microfinance world, that means lots of micro-enterprises making, selling, distributing and buying food.
PMPC is a cooperative that goes far beyond extending business loans. Built around the Grameen Bank method, group centres are organised around “clusters” of members, each consisting of five PMPC members. These members have their various afficiliations to PMPC, from a Kiva-business borrower to education or rice borrowers. The members govern themselves, meet weekly (fines are doled out to latecomers), collect their own loan payments and pass them on to the Technical Officer (TO), a PMPC staff member.
In addition to this, they hold a business training session where the TO teaches a new skill or lesson, giving borrowers an idea of the many business opportunities available to them.
Last week, the very welcoming PMPC staff took me along to Paradise Centre’s weekly meeting where Juliet Rawlinson, PMPC’s microfinance Project Advisor led the business training session on how to make longganisa, a national breakfast sausage.
I read once that there were two things people should never see the inner workings of: politics and sausages. Avert your eyes then because here’s one of them. Raw meat, copious amounts of salt, sugar, pepper and “prague powder”, also known as curing salt. Also red food colouring. Toss it all together and fry, fry and fry some more. It’s incredible, especially in the morning.
After this, the TO goes through a brief accounting session with the members, getting into the details on the business of making selling food. They walk through accounting for cost of goods sold, labour and reaching your break-even point and how to make a profit.
To help the Kiva borrowers of PMPC make more longganisa and other Filipino delicacies, join our lending team!