Social impact study – Cooperativa Solary / Nirien Waire – Panama
Barthélémy Canson, a volunteer in Panama, carried out a social impact study that allows us to visualize the 5 years of activities of the Nirien Waire microfinance program. This program, initiated in 2013 and based in the village of Silico Creek in the west of the country, is the result of a close collaboration between the local cooperative SOLARY and our association AIME.
The aim of the programme is to provide micro-credits tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs from the Ngäbe indigenous population, which is still excluded from traditional Panamanian financing channels.
Since the programme was launched in 2013, a total of $173,000 in loans have been granted.
A few figures on the monetary situation in the region: In 2018, 45% of the entrepreneurs financed were in a so-called vulnerable monetary situation, i.e., living on $106.74 to $320.22 per person per month. But even more alarming, the share of entrepreneurs in poverty (living with less than $106.74 per person per month) or extreme poverty (living with less than $59.23 per person per month) represents a total of 38%. This is higher than the national poverty level of 30.5%. This illustrates the inequalities in development in the country and particularly the difficult living conditions of the indigenous population compared to the rest of the population.
After 5 years of activity, the time has come to take stock: 81% of the entrepreneurs who are clients of the programme say that it has had a positive influence on their standard of living, in particular by contributing to increasing household income, bearing the cost of schooling for children or facilitating access to healthcare. These results confirm the initial development objectives of the Nirien Waire program and legitimize its presence in the Ngäbe comarca, especially since 77% of the entrepreneurs declare that it was the only way for them to receive credit.
The financial exclusion of indigenous populations is a hindrance to their development and generates inequalities. Their need for financing is real and their entrepreneurial initiatives are limited due to a lack of means. Microfinance through programmes such as NW can be an alternative and effective response to this shortcoming.