Micro-finance helps bake Maliana’s daily bread

Micro-finance helps bake Maliana’s daily bread

Microfinance clients attending a weekly meeting to repay their loans and do their books
Microfinance clients attend weekly meetings to repay their loans and do their books. Photo: Clare Santry/UNDP TL

Maliana – Delfina Fatima has been running her bakery in Maliana for a year. But the $500 loan she received a few months ago from one of Timor-Leste’s microfinance institutions, Tuba Rai Metin, has made a huge difference to her business. (Lee versaun Tetum iha ne'e)

“I’m now producing a lot more bread. I get through 3 sacks of flour per day and I’m making a good profit. I supply bread to people all over Maliana, including a daily batch of 450 bread rolls to the school,” she said.

During a field visit to Maliana in February 2011, representatives from the UN, the Government of Timor-Leste, the donor community and civil society, met clients of Tuba Rai Metin and Moris Rasik, the country’s other main microfinance institution. Both organisations have a clientele of only women.


  • The clientele of Timor-Leste’s two main micro-finance organisations, Tuba Rai Metin and Moris Rasik, is comprised completely of women.
  • Small loans provided by these microfinance groups give women the chance to start up a small business then manage their money. Repayments on the loan are made every month.
  • Both groups are supported by the INFUSE programme which is funded by UNDP, UNCDF, AusAID and the Ministry of Economy and Development and AusAID.

Both groups are supported by the INFUSE programme, which is jointly implemented by UNDP and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). INFUSE also receives support and funding from the Ministry of Economy and Development and AusAID. 

UNDP’s Resident Representative, Finn Reske-Nielsen, said the field visit was a great opportunity to hear directly from the women who are benefitting from the microfinance services.

“The variety of enterprises from tofu production to motorbike taxis, and the determination of the clients to improve their businesses, is very impressive,” he said.

The delegation also attended one of Moris Rasik’s centre meetings, where clients make their weekly repayments. The clients keep the books, and bring them back each week for the meeting.

“The women at this centre receive individual group loans,” explained Moris Rasik’s Managing Director, Lola dos Reis.

“Clients form solidarity groups, normally between 3 and 8 participants. These members support each other with the loan repayments. The majority of the members at this centre meeting are illiterate, so proceedings are read out. The women are taught how to do their signature, so that they are empowered in the transaction process,” she said.

Moris Rasik has around 12,400 clients and operates in all of Timor-Leste’s 13 districts, serving poor and predominantly rural, women.    

“We’re the ones that work and bring in the money. So it’s us, not the men, who get to save and control the money,” says Domingas Pereira.

She received a loan to buy vegetables in bulk from farms, which she then resells from her kiosk and in the market.

For most women the loans help with the start up cost of a new enterprise. This lump sum enables them to buy the raw materials and gradually expand their business and increase their profits.

“It’s important for everyone to have access to financial services,” says Jeff Prime from AusAID.

“These microfinance institutions give women the chance to manage their money and their lives. The women we have met in Maliana are great examples of how access to initial capital can make a big difference,” he said.

“These clients are Timor-Leste’s future entrepreneurs. Loans and savings options help boost the income of poor households, and also encourage initiative and enterprise,” says Craig Sugden, the Resident Representative of the Asian Development Bank.

Delfina Fatima’s bakery is one example of a small enterprise that has grown into a strong and successful business. She says that women need courage and support to take the first step. But success has given her confidence and financial security.

Her biggest problem is keeping up with the high demand for her bread. She will use her next loan to buy a machine to pound the ingredients and expand her business even further.

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