A group of 15 rural development practitioners organized the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) Inc. as a social development foundation in December 1986 as a concerted response to the growing poverty incidence in depressed communities in Regions IV and V, particularly in the provinces of Laguna, Quezon, Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Marinduque, Masbate and the Bicol Region. Its vision has always been to establish a bank created for, owned and managed by landless rural women. In the words of CARD Founding President and now Managing Director, Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip, Only by creating a vehicle for asset ownership, can we ensure that the poor will gain control over their own resources and over their own destiny.
A training-focused community and livelihood assistance program for landless coconut workers marked the start of CARD Inc.’s operation in April 1988. In 1989, CARD Inc. pilot-tested solidarity group lending, modifying the Grameen Banking scheme to suit the context of the Philippines. Encouraged by the successful implementation of the model, CARD Inc. launched the Landless People’s Development Fund (LPDF) as its flagship program in 1990.
The subsequent years were spent on refining the methodology, with the end view of achieving the twin goals of outreach and sustainability. In December 1995, the Board of Directors and management began discussing the transformation of CARD NGO into a bank to obtain the legal basis for mobilizing deposits from the public, and enable CARD Inc. to tap the commercial loan market.
In August 1997, CARD NGO obtained from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas the license to operate as a rural bank in San Pablo City, with an initial paid-up capital of Php 5 million ($167,000 US). Using a phased approach to transformation, 4 of 13 CARD NGO branches were converted into CARD Bank while the remaining branches continued to operate under CARD NGO. As a result of this strategy, CARD earned the recognition as the first microfinance NGO to transform into a formal financial intermediary, thus providing a model for other Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in the country and abroad.
Answering the call for organizational renewal, CARD revisited its mission and vision in October 1999 and came up with a new mission statement: CARD is a group of mutually reinforcing institutions, that is dedicated to ultimately empower the poor, by upholding the core values of competence, culture of excellence, family spirit, stewardship and simplicity. By the year 2009, CARD’s existing structures will have been transformed into institutions that will serve as vehicles to provide more and better services to its clients, i.e. from CARD Rural Bank to CARD Development Bank; CARD NGO to CARD NGO Microfinance; CARD Training Center to CARD Development Institute; and CARD Mutual Benefit Association to CARD Insurance Company. As well, new institutions will have been created to respond to the evolving needs of CARD’s expanding clientele, namely the CARD Housing Development Company and CARD Marketing Centers.
In six years time, CARD MRI has already achieved its mission of transforming its Training Center into a Development Institute, the CARD MRI Development Institute (CMDI). However, as part of it mission of providing Marketing Centers, it has established the CARD Business Development Services (BDS).