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Village Savings and Loans Associations: Strength in Numbers

One of the latest issues of The Economist contained an article about the hottest trend in microfinance: village savings and loans associations. This novel scheme began in Niger in 1991 thanks to the relief and development non-governmental organisation (NGO) CARE International. This system is based on savings rather than debt and managed by members of the community rather than professionals.

Since then, CARE and other NGOs, including Plan International, Oxfam US, Catholic Relief Services and the Aga Khan Foundation, have promoted village savings associations. The schemes are so successful that savings groups now have 4.6m members in 54 countries.

A village savings scheme involves a small group of 15-30 people who pool their savings. Each buys a share in a fund from which they can all borrow. All must also contribute a small sum to a social fund, which acts as micro-insurance. If a member suffers a sudden misfortune, they will receive a pay out. Returns on savings are extremely high, generally 20-30% a year. Borrowers typically pay interest rates of 5-10% a month on loans that usually have to be repaid within three months.

At the end of a cycle (usually about one year), all the money accumulated through savings and interest is shared out according to members’ contributions, and a new cycle starts. Once members have got used to the system, their groups can also perform other tasks, such as providing training in agriculture, health, leadership and business.

By | January 18th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Google’s New Look

According to the BBC, the black bar that currently runs horizontally across the top of Google’s homepage will be removed and replaced with a grey logo. When clicked, it will reveal seven services with an option to open a further eight. Experts think this is a way to promote more of the firm’s businesses without making its webpage messy.

At the moment, only few customers are using this revamped interface. Chris Green, principal technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group, stated that the move allowed Google to use icons remaining different from Yahoo, which has a busier design. Google is also making the page look like the Chromebooks operating system: whether customers are using Chromebook or the Google website, the interface remains the same.

Another consequence is that it now takes two clicks to enter services such as Images or News. Mr. Green said that the virtues of minimising the number of clicks have been praised and that this would appear as a retrograde step, but Google thinks that it’s better to have the extra click rather than an unclear page. Moreover, this may carry financial advantage to the corporation, because most users are likely to search directly through the search bar, which helps Google expose more people to advertising.

By | January 18th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Elephant Polo

Love adventures in the South East Asia? Elephant Polo is an interesting challenge and is an alternative that maintains a British style. This sport has always punched above its weight and is fondly known as the biggest sport in the world!

The game is played by four players on each team on a marked pitch of 100 metres by 70 metres, using a standard size polo ball. Two people ride each elephant; the elephants are steered by people called mahouts, while the players tell the mahout which way to go and hit the ball. Elephant polo is divided into two 7-minute “chukkas,” or halves, of playing time with an interval of 15 minutes. The complete ball must travel over the side line or back line, to be out, and completely across the goal line to be a goal.

The modern game originated in the Nepali village of Meghauli. Tiger Tops in Nepal remains the headquarters of elephant polo and the site of the World Elephant Polo Championships organised by the World Elephant Polo Association.Thailand hosts another event, the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, first launched by Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa in 2001. In 2006, the tournament moved to the Golden Triangle, another resort.

The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation is a 250-acre camp near the city of Chiang Rai, jointly run by the Four Seasons and Anantara Hotels. The camp provides a sanctuary for 30 former street elephants—domesticated animals once dragged around city street areas by mahout beggars. Elephants are a key symbol of Thailand’s history, and nothing but utmost respect is given to the pachyderms.

By | January 16th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments
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