CARE's Mata Masa Dubara (Women on the Move) Program in Niger
For decades, governments and donor agencies have been trying to establish viable financial systems to meet the productive needs of the populations in the rural areas across Africa. For a variety of reasons, few institutions have succeeded in sustainably delivering financial services to this target market. This is particularly true in the poorer and less densely populated countries of the Sahel in West Africa, especially in the rural areas where there is less economic activity.
In the face of this poor track record for creating viable financial services, one program has had phenomenal success. Over the past decade, CARE Niger has developed and implemented the Mata Masu Dubara (MMD) program, a self managed system of the purest form of financial intermediation. Based on own savings and self-management, CARE's MMD is now a membership based program directly servicing about 162,000 rural women in one of the poorest countries in Africa.1 MMD is not a single institution, but rather is an amalgamation of 5,500 stand-alone groups, each with about 29 members. In addition, due to hands off replication methodologies sponsored by CARE, CARE estimates that for every village in which it has taught the MMD method, there is at least one additional group that has formed on its own. This brings the total number of women practising the approach to about 200,000. Total savings are estimated at $3 million. While each MMD group has its own bylaws, sets its own interest rate, and keeps the life of the group fixed, nearly all of the MMD groups operate in identical ways. Though independent, the women in MMD groups across the country identify with the methodology and consider themselves "MMD."
This article will review the origins of MMD, the reasons the program has been successful, its limitations, and the benefits to the members. CARE has replicated MMD in other countries, whose performance will also be reviewed.