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The myth that poor households in developing countries are not creditworthy or able to save, has been firmly put to rest in recent years. Poor households, it has been found, place special value on reliable and continued access to different types of financial services, available at reasonable cost and catering to their specific needs. Credit and savings facilities can help poor rural households manage, and often augment, their other wise meagre resources, thus enabling them to acquire adequate food and other basic necessities for their families, as well as invest in enterprises to sustain their livelihoods.

Since this discovery, microfinance or financial services for the poor, has been hailed as the most important tool in poverty alleviation. But not everyone agrees. There are arguments about whether the poor can be reached with financial services on a sustainable basis and whether the availability of credit to invest in micro-businesses really can lift people out of poverty. There are debates about interest rates, debates about commercialisation, debates about methodologies and many other issues.

These Lessons in Microfinance will help you to explore some of these issues and provide you with practical guidance on how to plan and deliver successful micro financial services. All the lessons have been based on the work of highly influential people working in the field, most notably Professor Malcolm Harper, author of "Practical Microfinance", a popular training manual.

Lesson design was carried out by Jennifer Heney, a former Rural Finance Officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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