A BP-supported micro-credit programme is generating employment and creating sustainable community development in Trinidad and Tobago
How did Ronda and her team help to tackle unemployment in Trinidad and Tobago?
Mayaro is a rural agricultural and fishing community, located on the southeast coast of Trinidad, consisting of 14 villages and with a population of almost 15,000 people. Since the 1970s, Mayaro has been the operations base for many international oil companies, however, many residents felt that the local community was not benefiting from oil and gas industry investment. Frustrated, the community regularly protested and disrupted industry operations, resulting in significant costs to businesses. BP sought to address this issue and embarked on a comprehensive programme of social investment aimed at helping to create a community where residents could have real opportunities to develop economically and socially. In 2000 we consulted with the Mayaro community to better understand their needs. This engagement revealed, among other issues, that a large percentage of people were unemployed and, for the most part, residents wanted training and access to higher education. We commissioned a follow-up study by the University of the West Indies in 2001, which corroborated the results of the consultations - 40% of the Mayaro population was living below the poverty line, with approximately 30% of its workforce unemployed.
Creation of MIPED
BP set up the Mayaro Initiative for Private Enterprise Development (MIPED) in 2002. Trinidad’s first privately developed micro-credit lending organization, MIPED provides loans from USD $300 to $15,000. The programme supports residents in the loan application process and offers training courses, such as bookkeeping, marketing and technical advice to help them develop business plans to access MIPED loans.
Local ownership and governance model
Residents of Mayaro and surrounding communities manage the day-to-day operations of the loan programme. Loan and field officers maintain strong relationships with their clients and try to give individuals enough support to help a business succeed, which allows funds to be repaid and invested back into the community. The MIPED board, which offers strategic direction for the programme, is comprised of BP employees, key stakeholders of the Mayaro community and experienced businessmen and women. The multi-sectoral nature of the board has helped MIPED to be able to respond and adapt to the changing local needs of the community and develop new and innovative ways to maintain the success of the programme. For example, MIPED diversified its lending portfolio by extending the programme beyond agriculture and fishing to also include services, distribution, purchase of vehicles (car rental), mechanics and jewelry making.
MIPED has achieved remarkable successes in Mayaro and the neighboring community of Rio Claro. The programme became self-sustaining six years after start-up and has a 3% default rate. At year-end 2014, MIPED had distributed over 3000 loans, created thousands of entrepreneurs and jobs, and has now lent over $10 million. We have shared the programme with other energy partners including Atlantic LNG, which is replicating the MIPED model in its host community, Point Fortin, in the southwest of the island. MIPED has created viable forms of employment and nurtured an entrepreneurial spirit in Mayaro – through the programme residents have taken greater control over their community’s development.