FAO introduces online learning centre for rural finance
Launch of UN International Year of Microcredit 2005
18 November 2004, Rome -- People working in the field of rural finance now have access to online information and training materials, which will help them provide better financial services, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today at the launch of the Rural Finance Learning Centre (RFLC).
The Rural Finance Learning Centre is an internet portal that provides access to a large variety of resources and online training materials covering a wide range of subjects related to rural finance. It has been created for use by field practitioners, trainers, policy-makers, universities and donors.
"The challenges in rural areas are characterized by long distances, poor infrastructure, highly seasonal incomes and widespread poverty. Rural finance is about providing a range of financial services for people in these areas, including savings accounts, loans, insurance products and money transfers," said Geoffrey Mrema, Director of the Agricultural Support Systems Division of FAO.
The Learning Centre gives FAO an excellent opportunity to promote capacity building in rural finance, which will increase the availability of financial services in rural areas and thus help people living there to improve their livelihoods.
Updated capacity vital
To increase the range of financial services available to rural populations, FAO has long recognized the need for training in financial institutions, government agencies and donor organizations. Credit is just one of the financial services rural people need and often is not even the most important financial service needed by rural people. Capacity building for a full range of financial services is fully supported by the Rural Finance Learning Centre.
"It is well recognized that field staff that advise and work with rural communities also need improved and updated knowledge of financial planning and management to assist people to make better use of whatever financial services are available," said Calvin Miller, Senior Rural Finance Officer of FAO.
The new FAO site will considerably improve the flow of information on best practices in rural finance and relevant training materials to those who are working directly with rural communities.
International Year of Microcredit 2005
The Learning Centre is being launched today to mark the start of the International Year of Microcredit 2005. The Learning Centre is one of many FAO activities that promote good rural finance practices and policies during the International Year of Microcredit.
FAO will, among other activities, support workshops on good rural finance design and policies for rural finance organizations. It will also promote improved mechanisms for small-scale farmer finance that encourage improvements in agricultural production methods and livelihood diversification to increase incomes and reduce vulnerability.
The internet-based global learning centre is a joint effort initiated by FAO with co-funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the World Bank.
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