SEARCA honors Micro-finance Champion with Outstanding Alumni Award
“…my mission in life is to create jobs. I am not a job seeker, I am a job giver” – Muhammad Yunus
Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Muhammad Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh to prove how, through credit, the poor can be empowered even with a small amount of capital. The approach became a global model and caught the interest of Dr. Generoso Octavio, who was then a faculty of the College of Economics and Management at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (CEM-UPLB).
Rural banking and micro-finance for the underprivileged has always been an interest of Dr. Octavio who took his MS in Agricultural Economics under the SEARCA scholarship in 1974. When the opportunity knocked, Dr. Octavio grabbed on and got the support of a Malaysian organization, the Asia Pacific Development Center (APDC) to implement his action-research project following the Grameen Bank Approach in 1989.
The project provided the poorest women direct access to non-collateralized loan funds to increase their income and employment opportunities without passing through the rigid requirements of the traditional lending institutions like banks. Two years later, Ahon sa Hirap, Inc., (ASHI; Rise from Poverty) was registered as a Non-Government Organization under the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission in order to widen its resources and increase its reach. Aside from the aforementioned services, ASHI offered agricultural programs, leadership and micro- enterprise training, financial literacy, medical assistance, and relief and rehabilitation projects to its beneficiaries.
Dr. Octavio served as ASHI’s Managing Director for two years since he founded it. Under his leadership, the micro-finance institution became the frontier of training for small and large institutions, both local and international, which started their micro-credit ventures using the Grameen Bank methodology. As a leading micro-finance institution ASHI helped the microfinance industry in the Philippines to expand and grow, and reach out to almost half a million poor households in a sustainable manner.
When Dr. Octavio founded ASHI, it covered neighboring communities of Los Banos, Laguna and gradually expanded to the Provinces of Rizal, Quezon, South of Metro Manila and part of Cavite. By 1995, ASHI started its expansion outside Luzon, in the Province of Antique in the Visayas. From its modest office in Los Baños, it now has 28 branches and has reached out to 33,435 families with most of them residing in hard-to-reach areas in the provinces, with a total portfolio of PHP 450M. Retention rate has been maintained at 94 percent for the past 5 years and a repayment rate of 98 percent.
Dr. Octavio extended also his expertise to help not just local organizations but other neighboring countries. As a servant-leader, he helped tsunami devastated areas in Aceh in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India, Khao Lak and Phang Nga in Thailand, and Penang-Kedah in Malaysia through various recovery and rehabilitation activities.
His expertise in rural banking and micro-finance has been widely recognized by Dr. Yunus’ Grameen Bank Foundation, the United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, among other global development organizations.
For his passion and servant leadership, Dr. Octavio has likewise been recognized by SEARCA as one of its Outstanding SEARCA Scholarship Alumni.