The Project



The main objective of the research is to explore the linkages between rural finance and rural employment - including diversification and migration - with a view to contributing to the ongoing discussions and interventions in the fields of rural development and poverty and vulnerability reduction.

Microfinance services are expected to contribute to rural development and poverty/vulnerability reduction. Emergency loans, savings and micro-insurance are expected to mitigate vulnerability. Microcredit is expected to strengthen local rural employment (diversification, self-employment, wage labor). Remittances are expected to improve the conditions of migration. While microfinance has been given much attention and resources by policymakers and donors, there are still controversies about whether and under which conditions rural microfinance can hold its promises.

“Research Axes”

A. Rural Finance and Employment

The project addresses the following research questions: what is the impact of microfinance in terms of rural employment (positive or negative, and at distinct levels - individual/household, region) and more specifically (1) whether diversification (including migration) occurs at the local level, (2) whether it promotes, directly or indirectly, higher-return activities portfolios, (3) whether it leads to a more active labor market and to desirable shifts in the nature of labor contracts and wages, and (4) what are the overall effects in terms of vulnerability.

Our hypothesis is that beyond individual characteristics such as entrepreneurial capacity, attitude towards risk, or cultural and identity features, the processes will depend on the combination of two sets of factors: (1) an enabling environment, including infrastructure, opportunities of access to other input, output and service markets, but also a supportive social setting; and (2) the quality of financial services, broadly defined as their ability to meet the local demand.

B. Microfinance as a Process: Governance, Appropriation and Quality of Services

Our project addresses the following research questions: what are the processes through which microfinance institutions and their clients address the issue of improving the quality of the financial services, broadly defined as their ability to meet the local demand? What are the conditions for raising the prospect for those processes to lead to improved quality of financial services?

Our first assumption is that the governance of microfinance institutions, both at the internal and external level, plays a key role in their capacity to steer those processes in order to provide quality financial services. Our second assumption is that clients also play a key role (formal as well as informal) in co-building the quality of financial services.


The proposal relies on comparative case studies conducted in three countries - India, Mexico and Madagascar – which exhibit both common and distinctive features regarding rural finance and rural employment issues. It builds on a sound bulk of previous work conducted by the members of the team in the three countries, and will allow for comprehensive gathering of original data, through collaborations with national research institutions and national microfinance practitioners.

From a methodological perspective, the proposal intends to overcome some common shortcomings of microfinance impact studies:

  • by combining economic and anthropological approaches : This pluridisciplinary approach will be adopted from the onset, not only with the purpose to bring together complementary analyses of a common research object, but also with the purpose to jointly build a common analysis framework.
  • by considering several levels of analysis : individuals/households, microfinance institutions, regions.

“The schedule: 6 phases”

The project work plan is divided into six overlapping and interacting activities over a period of 3 years and six main corresponding phases (length of periods are of course approximate, and will defined more precisely in phase 1):

  • Phase 1: Redefinition of the project and precision of the sub-objectives, Capitalisation, Contextualisation, Planning, 6 months – M1 – M6
  • Phase 2: Design of a common methodology and vocabulary, Preliminary Field work (qualitative only), 6 months: M5-M11
  • Phase 3: Empirical investigations (qualitative and quantitative), 18 months : M9-M26
  • Phase 4: Data analysis (per thematic and per country), 24 months: M12-M36
  • Phase 5: Transversal analysis and comparison – 6 months: M28-M36
  • Phase 6: Scientific valorisation – will start from the second WP (M12) and of course, will continue in the following years

Three “project workshops” (PW), three “national workshops” in each country (NW), and a final seminar (FS) will be organised.

All the researchers will attend the project workshop (organised in France for budgetary reasons). As for the national workshops, in addition to the researchers involved in that particular country, the partners (microfinance practitioners) will be invited. At the end, an international seminar will be organised, as a first mean to valorise the results.

“Expected Results”

The project will lead to the following expected results:

  • Production and dissemination of original empirical results through scientific publications.
  • A contribution to the revisiting of theoretical and development approaches and concepts (rural employment and vulnerability; money, debt and finance; governance, participation and social responsibility, etc.).
  • A methodological feedback on the combination of economics and anthropology, the combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches, and the comparative perspective.
  • Operational outputs for microfinance practitioners in order to improve the quality of services.
  • A contribution to the public debate around microfinance and rural development.


Isabelle Guérin, Project Manager

PhD in Economics (2000, Lyon II University/ Economic Analysis and History of Institutions) Socioconomist specializing on interactions between household behaviour, vulnerability and social justice. Areas of specialization are 1) household survival and livelihood strategies, with a focus on indebtedness, over-indebtedness, debt bondage and on gender dimensions of vulnerability; 2) collective action and NGOs interventions, with a focus on microfinance, empowerment programme, and linkages with public policies.

From a theoretical perspective, specific attention is paid to the social meaning of money, debt and finance, the social fabric of markets, organizations and institutions.

Muthiath Anjugam, Researcher

She is associate professor, Leader of the research programme CCPC (cost of cultivation of principal crops in Tamil Nadu (India); Visiting Research fellow in the program “Labour, Finance and Social Dynamics” (French Institute of Pondicherry; Specialist in econometrics, agricultural statistics, rural microfinance and rural labour markets

Emmanuelle Bouquet, Researcher

She holds a PhD in rural development economics from the University of Montpellier, France. She has lived and worked in Mexico for more than ten years, conducting academic and applied research on land and rural finance issues, in collaboration with academics, policymakers and civil society organizations. She joined CIRAD as a research fellow in 2005 and since then has been involved in several research and impact assessment projects on land and rural finance issues, in Mexico, Madagascar and South Africa. Her research interests include the economic and financial strategies of rural households (with a special focus on risk management), institutional economics applied to the rural households’ conditions of access to, and use of, land and financial services, and the linkages between quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Cyril Fouillet, Researcher

PhD in economics (Université libre de Bruxelles) Cyril Fouillet is post-doctoral research fellow in Development Studies at the University of Oxford (Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme - School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies).

Wiener-Anspach Fellow, Cyril’s research interests include the spatial dimensions of financial inclusion in South Asia, Latin America and North Africa. He has an interest in an economic geography of monetary and financial practices and tracks the ideas and ideologies in development policies.

As a research fellow at the French Institute of Pondicherry (program “Labour, Finance and Social Dynamics”), he spent three years in India conducting his fieldwork on economical, spatial and political dimensions of microfinance. He is also a research associate at the Centre for European Research in Microfinance (CERMi), Université Libre de Bruxelles and research member of the Rural Microfinance and Employment project (French National Research Agency). He previously worked for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (Rural Finance Group), and the Foundation for World Agriculture and Rural Life (FARM).

Solène Morvant-Roux, Researcher

PhD in economics (Lyon 2 University) is a microfinance project leader at Farm Foundation and Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Institut de Recherches pour le Développement, France. Her research interests include microfinance in rural areas with a focus on financing agricultural activities, debt, social institutions and migration. From a methodological perspective, her research relies on a combination of qualitative and quantitative tools.

As a PhD candidate she lived one year in Mexico as a research fellow of the Centre d’Etudes mexicaines et centroaméricaines (CEMCA) where she studied a microfinance institution implemented in remote rural areas. She also has short term field experience in different countries such as: Morocco, Togo, Guinea and Madagascar.

David Picherit, Researcher

He is Head of the Project “Labour: Popular Worlds and Globalisation” at the French Institute of Puducherry. He conducts his PhD in anthropology (“Between Villages and Working Places: Circulation of Manual Labourers in Andhra Pradesh – India”) at the University of Paris X, Nanterre. He is also associated with the Centre of Indian and South Asians Studies – Paris and with Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD-LPED).

He conducted two and half years of ethnographical fieldwork, circulating and living along with manual labourers.

Eliane Ralison, Researcher

She holds a master in economics from the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar. She holds a research position in the National center for agricultural research FOFIFA. She has conducted several major surveys in rural Madagascar, in collaboration with international organizations, and has been involved in a number of international publications. Her research interests include rural household economics and the impact of financial services.

Marc Roesch, Researcher

Agronomist and Phd in Agro-Economics from Montpellier University. After more than 20 years in Africa as research fellow, especially in Agronomic Research, he was in charge during 9 years of the Training Service of CIRAD (Centre International de Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement). Since 1999 he is back to Research and is particularly interested in socio-economic aspect of agriculture finance. His research fields are mostly oriented on all the aspect related to microfinance and rural economy at the house-hold level. In India since three years his main specialisation is on household economy and particularly on indebtedness.

Jean-Michel Servet, Researcher

He is professor in Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. He is associated researcher at the French Institute of Pondicherry (program “Labour, Finance and Social Dynamics”) and at the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IEDES Paris 1).

His specific fields of interest and expertise are solidarity based economy and finance, finance inclusion and development, various informal finances, financial innovation, local exchanging system and complementary money and history of economic thought.

M. Thanuja, Researcher

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Nov 2006-Apr 2008) – currently on Royal Anthropological Institute Anthropology Fellowship for carrying out Postdoctoral Research in the Department of Anthropology, Durham University, U.K.

Main areas of interest: analysis of development projects in an actor-oriented perspective, impact in terms of well-being and local governance, with a focus on tribal and microfinance in Andhra Pradesh (south-India)

Magdalena Villarreal, Researcher

Professor and research fellow, CIESAS Occidente Education: Ph.D in rural sociology, Wageningen University, Netherlands (1994), M. Of Arts in rural development, Wageningen University, Netherlands (1990), Bachelor degree in history, University of Mexico-UAM- (1973-1978).

Main areas of interest: Rural development specialist. Social anthropology of money and debt, actor-oriented analysis of development, migration.

Other responsibilities: Teaching : research seminar on migration issues, CIESAS D.F (PhD level); in University Santa Barbara California (USBC): Advanced research seminars and “Modern Mexican Culture: Myths and Dilemmas of Tradition and Change”, Advisor dissertations (M. Of Arts degree and PhD degree) from Mexican Universities and USBC.

Betty Wampfler, Researcher

She is a professor in development economics in SUPAGRO Montpellier, deputy Director of the Tropical Institut of SupAgro Montpellier. She is a senior researcher in the MOISA Research Unit and researcher associate with the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD) in Montpellier, France.

Her research area includes households economics, supply, governance and policies of rural and agricultural finance and rural services. She is currently leading an EU founded impact study of CECAM, one of the major microfinance institution of Madagascar. She is also involved in a research program on Microfinance and Fair Trade, and a research program on Agriculture finance Policies in West Africa.

She is founder member of the Comite d’Echange, de Reflexion et d’Information sur les Systèmes d’Epargne Crédit (CERISE), a french network on microfinance development and research stakeholders.