Livelihood and Microfinance: Anthropological and Sociological Perspectives on Savings and Debt

Edited by Hotze Lont and Otto Hospes

The 1990s witnessed the birth of 'the new world of microfinance'. This birth has given rise to an enormous, growing and on-going fascination with the mechanics of micro-finance. The overriding concern has been with the vehicle, not with the passengers and its destination. Some seven years after the Micro-Credit Summit held in Washington in 1997 and anticipating the United Nations year of microfinance in 2005, all contributors to this book proposed new and systematic ways to put the passengers in the picture again.

This volume offers a unique perspective on microfinance, an issue traditionally dominated by economists and policymakers. Drawing on the rich traditions of anthropology and sociology, Livelihood and Microfinance explores how livelihood approaches could lead to a better understanding of saving and credit behavior, and how such an understanding could help the design of finance for development. Contributors also propose new methods for better incorporating citizens into the larger economic system. Anticipating the United Nations’ Year of Microfinance in 2005, Livelihood and Microfinance is a long-awaited contribution to the international debate on the best approaches to development.

Hotze Lont is an anthropologist working at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague and an affiliated fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies in Amsterdam. Otto Hospes is a senior social scientist at Wageningen University specializing in microfinance.



Part A: Introduction Introduction - Otto Hospes and Hotze Lont

Part B: Challenging the Records and Discourse

  • Microcredit and Poverty Reduction: Trade-Off between Building Institutions and Reaching the Poor - Aminur Rahman
  • Surviving in the World of Microdebt: A Case from Rural Bangladesh - Hamidul Huq

Part C: Livelihood Strategies and the Meaning of Microfinance

  • Microfinance from Below: Exploring Rural Livelihoods in Tanzania - Jochem Zoetelief
  • Utilizing, Accumulating and Protecting Livelihood Assets: The Role of Urban Informal Financial Services in Kampala, Uganda - Julie L. Gifford
  • The Culture of Giving and its Relationship to Saving - Vupenyu Dzingirai

Part D: Critical Processes Shaping Livelihood, Savings and Debt Strategies

  • Struggling to Save Up Cash: Seasonal Migration and Vulnerability in West Bengal, India - Ben Rogaly and Abdur Rafique
  • The Political Ecology of Debt and Class Formation among Mexican Colonias on the Southwestern United States - Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez
  • Savings Arrangements in Eastern Burkina Faso: An Evolutionary Perspective on Institutional Innovation - Valentina Mazzucato and David Niemeijer

Part E: Myths and Secrets of Financial Self-help Organizations

  • Public versus Private Domains: A Case Study of a Sri Lankan ROSCA - Sarah Southwold Llewellyn
  • The Goose with the Golden Eggs: An Unsuccessful Linkage Group in Urban Indonesia - Hotze Lont
  • When Coercion Takes Over: The Limits of Social Capital in Microfinance Schemes Peer Smets and Erik Bähre
  • Secrets of Institutional Transformation: The Low Politics of Financial Self-help Organizations in Post-Colonial Africa - Otto Hospes and Mark Prosé

Part F: Using Alternative Principles for Design

  • The Microfinance Market: Huge, Diverse - and Waiting for You - Stuart Rutherford

About the Authors

April 2004
ISBN 90 5972 016 4;
hardcover; 304 pages;
€ 35,-

Publisher: Eburon Publishers - E-mail:

Hari Srinivas -
Return to the New Publications Page
Return to the Virtual Library on Microcredit