IIED-América Latina: Neighbourhood credit funds in Buenos Aires, Argentina
This paper describes the development of a credit fund programme in informal settlements in Buenos Aires, Argentina, over a 15-year period from 1993 to 2007. It focuses on the creation, implementation and sustainability of credit funds for housing improvement and how these developed and changed in response to both external factors and programme dynamics. It pays particular attention to the programme’s most recent phase, in which the management of the funds was decentralised into separate neighbourhood funds in three communities. It explains how each neighbourhood fund is managed, especially the role of the women who administer them. It also analyzes their respective levels of performance and considers prospects and challenges for the future. The authors conclude that credit fund initiatives based on modest financial resources have the potential not only to catalyze housing improvements but also to strengthen community capacity by delegating project management to the grassroots. In this way, when supported by a partner civil society organisation with experience of intervention in the area, such initiatives can be more flexible and more sustainable than top-down interventions. The paper recommends that project funding decisions for microcredit programmes should take account of their potential to build social capacity, strengthen grassroots organisations, engage community participation and complement other local programmes (including improving relations with local government agencies), rather than focus only on financial sustainability.