Case #1913.0

NGO Microfinance in the Tibet Autonomous Region

Publication Date: March 14, 2008
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In 1998, the Tibet Poverty Alleviation Fund (TPAF), a small, US-based non-governmental organization, launched an initiative to bring the benefits of microfinance to the impoverished people of rural Tibet. Based on the lending model pioneered by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, TPAF's microfinance program would make small loans to individuals and families to help them start up small-scale enterprises that would, it was hoped, raise their incomes and improve their standard of living. In consultation with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government, two vastly different, but representative, communities were targeted for the program: the agricultural villages of the southern Lhoka Prefecture and the semi-nomadic communities on the plateau of Nakchu Prefecture. TPAF had been established with the specific mission of using poverty alleviation techniques to demonstrate that, with some adaptations from standard models and methods, it was possible to make poverty programs work in the difficult conditions of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Nevertheless, adapting the Grameen model for use in TAR would be a challenge even for TPAF's experienced staff. This would be especially true in Nakchu Prefecture, where a scattered population, primitive roads, and a livestock-based economy would require significant modification to a program designed to make small loans to recipients who lived and worked in close proximity.

Learning Objective:
This case follows TPAF's efforts to introduce microfinance first in Lhoka Prefecture, showing how it altered the original model to suit the peculiarities of its geography as well as its social and political structures. It then asks how, or even whether, TPAF should further adapt the program to meet the far greater challenges posed by Nakchu. A brief epilogue describes the changes that TPAF made to the lending model for use in Nakchu, and the problems it encountered in the first two years of implementation there.

Other Details

Case Author:
Robert Campbell
Faculty Lead:
Guy Stuart, Anthony Saich
Pages (incl. exhibits):