In the past decade, microfinance has soared as a strategy to alleviate poverty. BRAC International, one of the world’s largest nongovernmental organizations, supports microfinancing in seven countries in Africa and Asia. Importantly, BRAC’s microfinance program supports people to engage in financial activity to overcome poverty.

Microfinancing

Microfinance is a financial practice that lends small sums to people with few means to support their small businesses. The goal is for small businesses to earn a profit and then pay back the loan. The microfinance institution then loans the capital out again. Through this cycle, people are able to rise out of poverty. Microfinancing frames poverty as the deprivation of the ability to participate in economic and political processes. By that logic, if people can obtain microloans, these individuals will engage in financial activity and overcome poverty.

Studies have only found limited evidence of the efficacy of microfinancing at eradicating poverty. However, the practice is far from a failure. Specifically, the capital lent to the impoverished provides stability in their lives, easing the day-to-day anxiety about monetary shortages. In addition, studies have found that people who take out microloans are motivated to invest more time into their businesses. Though not miraculously transformative, microfinancing has achieved overall positive results in reducing poverty.

BRAC Programs

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded BRAC in 1972 to help refugees from the Bangladesh Liberation War. Since then, BRAC has created eight programs to empower people suffering from poverty, social injustice, illiteracy and disease. Microfinance is one of the eight programs of the organization. BRAC believes that the financial inclusion of impoverished people and communities is an essential step toward ending poverty.

More than 660,000 people benefit from BRAC’s microfinance program, which operates in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Along with loans, BRAC also provides financial literacy training to the borrowers. This teaches borrowers to be responsible with money and make better financial decisions. In addition to microfinance services, the organization also provides communities with programs like agriculture classes, youth education and health care. When paired with these programs, microfinance has an even greater impact on communities.

BRAC’s Focus on Women

More than 96% of BRAC’s borrowers are women. One female entrepreneur, Kadiatu Conteh from Sierra Leone, exemplifies how BRAC impacts its beneficiaries. Conteh’s sister introduced her to BRAC. At the time, Conteh’s family was struggling to make ends meet and she was trying to earn money by selling drinks with only a cooler. Conteh took out a loan and invested the money in more beverages for her business. Slowly, she increased her profits. After four years with BRAC, she accumulated enough funds to invest in her own store where she now sells household items.

Selina Karoli Fissoo also benefited from BRAC’s microfinance program. With other women in the city of Arusha, Tanzania, Fissoo formed a microfinance group to receive loans and financial literacy training from BRAC. She invested her first loan into her small grocery business, and as her profits increased, she applied for larger loans. After more than 10 years of working with BRAC, Fissoo has a large retail store and even dabbles in poultry farming.

The Benefits of Microfinance to Alleviate Poverty

Conteh and Fissoo are just two of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who have prospered from the help of BRAC’s microfinance programs. Microloans provide stability in the lives of the impoverished and can motivate people to invest more time into their businesses. Especially when coupled with other programs, microfinance is an effective method for alleviating poverty.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Entrepreneurs in Liberia
Women who live in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa are more likely than their male counterparts to suffer from poverty. These women are unable to achieve their full potential due to inequalities. Because of this and a lack of resources, women have no other choice but to live in poverty. Structural poverty affects women in sub-Saharan Africa. This poverty stems from the economic, social and political background of the country. In 2018, Liberia ranked 155th out of 162 countries on the Gender Inequality Index. Despite these challenges, many women are turning into entrepreneurs in Liberia through the help of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC).

The Situation

In rural areas of Liberia, women make up 60% of the population and stand as the backbones of the community. Despite continuous contributions to their families and the economy, women’s hard work rarely benefits them. Their work continuously goes unnoticed and bears no reward in the areas they live in. Agriculture and forestry are the foundations of Liberia’s economy. Women make up more than half of the agricultural workers. With no time for education, they end up vulnerable to the possibility of poverty. Household chores, caretaking and tasks such as fetching water, fuel and fodder take up the time of women.

How BRAC Helps Women Become Entrepreneurs in Liberia

With a mission to help, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded a nonprofit organization, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), in 1972 to empower people in poverty. Its mission is to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. This humanitarian movement has had an impact on Liberian women. About 750 women in Liberia received training to help them overcome poverty as part of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Program.

With a focus on women, the approach successfully aided 750 Liberian women in becoming microentrepreneurs. The graduation approach of the program provides “consumption support” at the beginning of the program until students can afford food, a safe place to store their savings, training according to their aspirations and asset transfer. Lastly, the students go through technical and life skills training.

Improvement is Possible

As of 2021, 90% of the Liberian households participating in the BRAC program have multiple sources of income, savings have increased by $9.14, average loan size jumped from $17.10 to $57.14 and the average nutritious meal consumed has grown as well. The improvements are all results of the power of women and the well-deserved push the program gave them. The once poverty-stricken women that lived on less than $1 a day are now entrepreneurs in Liberia with their own businesses. Other women run farms and breed livestock for a living. All it took was a helping hand.

The Importance of BRAC in Liberia

The purpose of BRAC programs is to reduce poverty — these initiatives serve as stepping stones for the betterment of Liberia. The effect of BRAC programs spans 12 Liberian counties and serves several other countries around the world.

BRAC programs alone have ensured that 23.9% of participants have access to adequate amounts of food and increased monthly income by 36.8% after two years. Aside from improving food security, BRAC also provides employment opportunities. Out of 494 BRAC staff members, 94% of them are Liberians and 30% of the management team are women. Organizations like BRAC are useful in providing education, jobs, empowerment and livelihoods to the community. Although BRAC Liberia only began in 2008, it is continuing its mission to reduce poverty in Liberia.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Bees Reduce PovertyBees are an essential part of global agricultural systems. Additionally, bees reduce poverty around the world as they are responsible for pollinating 80% of the world’s plant species, including 90 different types of crops.

Study by the FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) studied 344 plots of land in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. The plots revealed a positive correlation between the number of bees that visited a particular plot of land and its agricultural productivity. For small farms with a landmass of fewer than two hectares, the study concluded that farmers could increase their crop production by an average of 24% by increasing pollinator traffic.

The results of the FAO study could affect approximately two billion farmers worldwide. Because of their importance to agricultural production, increasing the number of bees on agrarian lands could improve global food security. Bees also provide a valuable way to reduce rates of poverty. Bees can be especially valuable to people living in rural poverty, a very important issue to address as approximately 63% of people in poverty worldwide live in rural areas.

5 Ways Bees Reduce Poverty

  1. Beekeeping helps households increase their income. Rural families living in regions with poor agricultural yields may struggle to make ends meet. However, raising bees can help these families earn more money. In addition to potentially increasing their annual crop production, bees produce honey and beeswax which families can sell. For example, Bees Abroad and the Poverty Abroad for the Poor Initiative taught farmers living in extreme poverty how to run bee farms. As a result of this training, 30 of those farmers went on to run their own bee farms afterward, which helped increase their incomes.
  2. Beekeeping creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs use bee by-products to make commodities such as shoe polish, candles and ointments. More importantly, beekeeping presents opportunities for entrepreneurship, which helps people escape poverty and support themselves and their families. Entrepreneurs are finding ways they can use bees to reduce poverty and improve living conditions.
  3. Food insecurity and poverty are linked. Poverty is the main driving factor behind food insecurity worldwide. Across the world, roughly 80% of chronically undernourished people live in rural areas of developing countries, making food insecurity a particularly important aspect of ending rural poverty. Increasing bee populations can enhance food security by increasing crop yields. By improving food security, bees reduce poverty in a way that is especially beneficial to rural communities.
  4. Beekeeping is an effective form of occupational therapy. Occupational therapy helps people with disabilities accomplish goals such as working and attending school. People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by poverty, which makes addressing their needs critical to reducing poverty. Additionally, inaccessible work and education opportunities are major contributing factors to this problem, which occupational therapy can help address. Fortunately, beekeeping requires little capital and helps occupational therapy participants become financially independent, making it an effective form of occupational therapy.
  5. Protecting the global environment keeps people out of poverty. Environmental degradation can increase levels of poverty. For example, the loss of natural resources to environmental degradation leaves communities with fewer means to support themselves. However, bees are critical pollinators that support ecosystems and natural resources across the globe. Additionally, bees can even improve habitat restoration efforts. So, by preserving and restoring vital resources, bees reduce poverty.

Overall, bees provide unique benefits that have the potential to reduce global poverty. By garnering the help of pollinators, impoverished communities can rise out of poverty.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

Chamas in Kenya
A chama is a micro-saving society that groups of Kenyans use to pool savings. Beginning in the 1960s, chamas in Kenya have become impressive tools of economic empowerment that follow the spirit of harambee, the Kiswahili word for ‘all pull together.’ Their community approach helps alleviate poverty by providing a means to pay tuition for children, make small-scale investments in community development, buy household items and more. More than 40% of Kenyans are chama members.

A Communal Economic Model

To form a chama, a group of around 15-35 people come together through mutual trust and pay a certain amount of money every week or month. The group then uses the money to offer very low-interest loans to members. Additionally, the group may decide to invest in an asset that members can own collectively, such as a piece of land, or in an industry, such as horticulture.

Chama members understand that fighting poverty must go hand-in-hand with psychosocial well-being. They provide each other with access to employment, help when a member gets sick, support at funerals and are joyful at weddings.

Chamas Help Avoid Economic Crisis

Chamas have been vital in helping Kenyans avoid economic crises. In the 1990s, many of Kenya’s informal retailers had to close down their businesses as their suppliers became too expensive due to the liberalization of the economy. Chamas proved tremendously helpful in dealing with rising prices. For example, a group of garment traders created a chama that enabled them to switch to Chinese suppliers and keep their businesses afloat.

Chamas Empower Women

In Kenya, women often have to be financially dependent on men. However, Kenyan women, who make up half the informal sector, have been able to achieve some financial independence thanks to chamas. According to the World Bank, 55% of Kenya’s urban women aged 15-25 are unemployed. Chamas can help them to avoid or escape poverty by securing financial help from their community to become self-employed. All-women chamas like Wikwatyo Wanoliwa (Hope for the Widows) have proven that women are a key demographic in the fight against poverty.

Chamas are also good avenues for community outreach. For instance, in 2017, around 80 women from chamas received training on the Kenyan electoral process and in turn, encouraged thousands of women in their communities to register to vote. Civic education is important in poverty eradication because it empowers women to match their economic decisions in chamas with democratic decisions on the ballot.

Chamas are a creative and resilient way to fight poverty in Kenya. Their intuitive approach to financial security has become so important to the Kenyan financial sector that banks have even started using it as an economic model to lure more clients.

Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Online businesses in GhanaPreviously, issues such as limited internet and bank access and informal home addresses made digital selling challenging for Ghanaian companies. However, advancement in these areas has allowed online businesses to grow, creating jobs in Ghana. Many college graduates in Ghana have started digital companies selling a wide range of products, including bags, footwear, clothes, grocery items, electronic goods and advanced cellular devices, among others. Some start companies also offer services such as repairing, cosmetics, interior decorating and photoshoots digitally. The growth of such companies has enabled them to offer many different types of employment to a greater population in Ghana.

Job Creation

From consumer services to promotions, financing to administrative tasks, retail managing to image consulting, online selling has many job opportunities to offer in Ghana, which had a 4.5% employment rate in 2020. For example, while the digital firm Jumia employs only around 500 people directly in online work, it employs more than 10,000 people indirectly. Online work does not always require people to have advanced technological abilities, only a willingness to learn. Online businesses also create associated non-online jobs.

For example, when people purchase meals and other items digitally, they require delivery. Nowadays, many companies offer delivery by motorcycle or van, creating many delivery jobs. Online businesses in Ghana also provide new jobs through collection posts, which have become more popular during the pandemic. These posts provide a safe and convenient way for customers to collect their goods while minimizing their risk of exposure to COVID-19. Collection posts hire post managers, shipment organizers and receptionists. In addition, some companies, such as Jumia, have encouraged digital businesses to expand by allowing people to collect their online purchases in-store.

Working from Home and New Digitial Stores

Many online businesses offer home-based and other off-site positions. Working from home not only enhances employees’ welfare and decreases stress, but it also helps reduce pollution as fewer people have to travel to work. Virtual connections allow people to associate with a worldwide community and conveniently work and buy what they need without having to travel. Additionally, digital companies can more easily provide short-term work such as contract, part-time and freelance work, which also helps to reduce poverty.

Moreover, in May 2018, a digital food store named Homeshoppa Ghana was introduced in Accra, the country’s capital. Homeshoppa Ghana matches its competitors’ prices in order to provide easily accessible, low-cost, standard groceries to every citizen. Access to stores like Homeshoppa Ghana allows people living in poverty to buy essential items at low prices.

Internet Advancements

The introduction of higher internet speeds and advanced cellphones in Ghana has helped prepare the marketplace for online retailers. By the end of 2017, 10.1 million Ghanaians, or 34%, were using the internet. As of January this year, the number of internet users had increased to 15.7 million. As more people begin to use the internet, online businesses are creating more new jobs in Ghana.

Jannique McDonald
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Alleviation and Entrepreneurship
Research shows supporting entrepreneurship in low-income countries may be one of the most effective ways to permanently reduce global poverty. Despite this, this method of poverty reduction has often been overlooked. This is due to the fact that there has been limited information on its positive impact. However, with more information compiled, individuals in positions of power have sought to make it a focus of poverty reduction. The Global Partnership for Poverty and Entrepreneurship (GPPE) is an organization that has collected a plethora of this data. The resources on the GPPE website provide countless examples of poverty alleviation and entrepreneurship.

The Global Partnership for Poverty and Entrepreneurship

Established in November 2019, the GPPE officially launched in May 2020. This partnership was created by the University of Notre Dame with the intent of building up a research base that can help with future initiatives in supporting low-income individuals with entrepreneurial pursuits throughout the world. In an interview with Dr. Michael Morris, the head of this start-up, the three main objectives of this organization became clear. The first objective was to gather information on entrepreneurial startups in poor communities throughout the world. The second objective was to teach individuals about compiled information within poor communities in order to allow for community uplift. The third objective was to reach out to academics who have an influence on getting more research done on these topics and easily spread techniques to those within their academic influences.

Overall, the GPPE wants to get more people on the ground within impoverished communities. These people would support the poor with their entrepreneurial endeavors. The GPPE is currently setting up example programs within the United States. The purpose of these programs is to prove resources in various areas can be useful in supporting low-income individuals. Within South Bend, Indiana one of these example programs is the Urban Poverty and Business Initiative. This initiative uses resources from the Notre Dame community, especially from the students, to help poor individuals set up entrepreneurial endeavors. Students have helped create social media platforms and helped with marketing for the impoverished in the South Bend community. This is just one idea countries around the world can use to help reduce global poverty.

Entrepreneurship Among the Youth in Swaziland

A study on the youth in Swaziland has provided important information on where certain entrepreneurial systems are lacking within Africa. Other countries can use this study as a resource to help enact systems for poverty alleviation through entrepreneurship. Inadequate work experience provided within universities, a lack of youth voice in entrepreneurial policies and weak business environments are all factors that have driven the youth within Swaziland to have poor entrepreneurial experiences in the past. Organizations like the Youth Enterprise Fund, created in 2009 in Swaziland, have struggled to support new entrepreneurs.

Models have, however, been created in order to show the effects of government intervention when it comes to reducing obstacles that hinder the growth of young entrepreneurs, which can be extremely useful. Examples of influential government intervention include granting youth greater access to capital and giving them business training. Business training in particular has shown to make an enormous difference among the youth of Swaziland with regards to sales. A mixture of giving the youth in Africa more educational resources and professional connections has proven to greatly improve their entrepreneurial success and thus help them rise out of poverty.

Poverty-Reducing Work of Women in Bangladesh

In many low-income countries, the workforce does not utilize women as often as men. This can cause the viewpoint of women being financially burdening. Creating entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for women positively impacts their livelihoods. This is especially true for women living in rural areas. Within Bangladesh, a company called Hathay Bunano has given women both jobs and resources to build enterprises on their own. What this establishment has found is that not utilizing women is a huge waste of production resources. This includes supporting more women artisans through developing pride in the ownership of a product.

Hathay Bunano has worked to employ women who are at the most disadvantaged positions within Bangladesh. The organization has shown that simply giving these women jobs boosts their self-confidence in order to create better lives for themselves. Hathay Bunano is a company that produces hand-knit toys which is important in the context of proving that handicraft businesses can thrive in a competitive economic market. Overall, evidence shows providing grounding for poor women to start businesses that can be supported by their skill levels is plausible.

In conclusion, information that the GPPE has compiled, including the two studies mentioned above, shows poverty alleviation and entrepreneurship can go hand in hand. Working to inform more individuals on how communities can support the poor in their creation of businesses and entrepreneurship will transform low-income countries’ economies and the lives of the poor within them.

– Olivia Bay
Photo: Flickr

African BusinesswomenWomen own only 29% of businesses in sub-Saharan African. Because of socio-cultural and structural barriers, starting and running a successful business is especially difficult for women entrepreneurs. ImpactHER, a women-led nonprofit, has been empowering African businesswomen for the past four years.

Impediments for African Female Entrepreneurs

Barriers and adversities prevent African businesswomen from entering local and global markets. Many African women lack opportunities in education, personal wealth and tools to enter the market compared to their male counterparts. In 2019, Souhayata Haidara, special adviser to Mali’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, discussed with the Africa Renewal information program, the importance of educating women. She stated how lucky she is to have completed school before getting married. Often cultural expectations force women to drop out of school to marry. She reiterated that economic empowerment for women begins with education.

Even if a woman obtains a proper education, she may still find it difficult to start a business because of collateral requirements. Many African women do not own collateral or assets like land or a car. This leads to banks and investors financially excluding African women, which makes it difficult for African women entrepreneurs to access capital to launch and operate their businesses. In Tanzania, for example, although women have land ownership rights, customary law dictates that women cannot inherit land from their husbands or fathers.

Sociocultural barriers also prevent African women from becoming entrepreneurs. Women miss out on opportunities because they are often the main caretakers for children and oversee unpaid domestic work. Sociocultural barriers force domestic responsibilities onto women which often prevents them from having time to start a business.

Female Entrepreneurs for Economic Growth

Successful African businesswomen are crucial for a strong economy. Estimates say that gender gaps in employment and entrepreneurship cost economies about 15% of their GDP. Female-led businesses expand productivity, increase household incomes and diversify the local and national economy. With successful women’s economic empowerment, a country’s economy becomes stronger, meaning it is on track for poverty eradication.

ImpactHER

Efe Ukala founded ImpactHER in 2017, a nonprofit organization that trains and prepares African female entrepreneurs to become market leaders. Since 2017, ImpactHER has reached more than 45,000 women-led businesses in 89 countries, with more than 20,000 female African entrepreneurs trained.

In a March 2021 presentation organized by Global Minnesota, Ukala revealed that in 2020 alone, ImpactHER helped more than 10,000 African businesswomen and connected African female entrepreneurs to institutional capital to the value of $577,000. ImpactHER also rendered technology transformation services to more than 5,000 African businesswomen. ImpactHer accomplishes these tasks through its programs.

  • The AdvanceHER program assists African businesswomen in expanding their businesses and market presence. This program aims to transform African female entrepreneurs into market leaders.
  • The UpliftHER program provides African businesswomen with information on how to become investor-ready.
  • ConnectHER teaches African female entrepreneurs how to network and choose the right investors for their businesses.

ImpactHER and COVID-19

COVID-19 disproportionally impacted women-led businesses. Once COVID-19 arrived, ImpactHER jumped into action. ImpactHER sent 30 African presidents letters that advocated for women-targeted stimulus packages, relaxation of collateral requirements by African banks, disbursement of stimulus packages from a gender-lens perspective by African governments and extending the repayment period for loans. ImpactHER also co-authored a policy brief with U.N. Women and Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa.

After assessing the needs of African businesswomen in the time of COVID-19, ImpactHER assisted African female entrepreneurs in:

  • Rendering technology to create e-commerce websites
  • Creating market strategies to sustain the market during COVID-19
  • Finding therapeutic services for women facing psychological fear resulting from the pandemic and business uncertainty

Since its founding in 2017, ImpactHER has assisted thousands of African women entrepreneurs. There is still more to accomplish when it comes to advancing African businesswomen, especially with the presence of COVID-19. But, with programs like ImpactHER, African businesswomen will continue to receive the tools to recover and move forward.

Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Improve Lives in MexicoBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, moderate poverty in Mexico had declined from 25.7% in 2016 to 23% in 2018, although 29 million people continued living in impoverished conditions. Prior to 2018, Mexico’s multidimensional poverty rate, which includes income poverty as well as factors such as access to food and education, had dropped to about 42% of the population, thereby improving lives in Mexico. However, according to CONEVAL, a public agency that measures poverty, the effects of COVID-19 could mean that 56% of the country, or 70 million Mexicans, may not earn enough to cover their basic needs. This number represents an increase of around 50% more poverty in the past 24 months. Mexican women-led associations and businesses are leading the way to reduce poverty and improve lives in Mexico.

COVID-19 and Poverty

The effects of COVID-19 could eliminate decades of poverty reduction. Global GDP fell 5.2% in 2020, but, Latin America’s drop in real GDP was expected to be closer to 7%, according to the World Bank. The IMF calculates an economic recession of 6.6% in Mexico. By June 2002, more than a million jobs were already lost due to the pandemic.

As a result, Latin America’s second-largest economy, Mexico, could be among the countries in the region that are affected worst. Up to 17 million Mexicans may soon be living in extreme poverty — an increase from 11 million in 2019.

Women Entrepreneurs in Querétaro

In the state of Querétaro, Mexico, a women-led and women-founded association is helping to lift women and their families out of poverty. Established in 2010, Mujeres y Ambiente SPR de RL de CV has combined forces with an environmentally-minded Spanish company, along with the Mexican government and Autonomous University of Querétaro, to develop cosmetics based on local medicinal plants. Mujeres y Ambiente helps women entrepreneurs in Querétaro to expand their own agricultural micro-businesses, thereby helping them to become economically self-sufficient.

Eulalia Moreno Sánchez, along with her two daughters, Ángeles and Rosa Balderas, formed a Women and Environment group in the La Carbonera community. Through consolidating micro-businesses such as selling earthworm humus, mushrooms, medicinal plants, vegetables and aromatic plants, the women utilize the cultivated raw materials which they use in their products, to help the community produce a sustainable income.

International Support for Mexican Women

The Nagoya Protocol came into force in Mexico in 2014. This international agreement supports the equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources that come from traditional knowledge. Under the agreement, the women of rural Querétaro signed the first-of-its-kind permit between Mexico and Spain, which provides access to the genetic resources of traditional medicine plants cultivated in Mexico. The agreement fairly compensates local producers for their knowledge and their work, thus improving lives in Mexico. The community gets to preserve its ecosystem’s genetic resources and the women’s traditional knowledge based on medicinal plants. Members of the association are offered jobs as well as research and business opportunities.

In 2016, Sanchez and her daughters began to export lemon balm, or Toronjil, for the Spanish cosmetics company Provital. Since then, they have signed additional agreements to produce other medicinal plants for the company. With support from the UNDP (Global Environment Facility), the project establishes the legal framework for ensuring the right to protect biodiversity.

Preserving Biodiversity and Creating Jobs

In addition to alleviating poverty, the association’s goals include stabilizing the soil, cultivating a nursery and conserving biodiversity. Cosmetic products are developed from the women’s traditional knowledge about local herbs and medicinal plants. The entrepreneurs are part of the cosmetics industry’s sustainable supply chain and they serve as an example of successful conservation through the sustainable use of biodiverse resources. These activities have allowed the women to derive an income, create more jobs and open up markets, offering a way to reduce poverty and improve lives in Mexico.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Green Shoot Foundation's FASE ProgramThe Green Shoots Foundation aims to reduce international poverty in seven countries by implementing three programs: ELSE, FASE and MAME. This Foundation focuses particularly on the FASE program, or Food, Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship. The FASE program aims to educate individuals in business and agricultural work to promote productivity within the economy. About 80 students and 10 farmers from the Philippines and Cambodia have enrolled in the AgriTech Centre.

Reason for Action

The Philippines and Cambodia both heavily depend on the success of annual harvests to improve the economy. About 40% of Filipino citizens work in the agricultural industry. This industry contributes to around 20% of the GDP and 70% of total output in the Philippines. On the other hand, 22% of Cambodia’s agricultural work contributes to the GDP.

Although the agriculture industry is large, both countries face many difficulties. The Philippines lacks programs to ensure food security, connections to industries and efficient harvesting technologies. Furthermore, natural disasters such as typhoons and droughts damage agricultural facilities, supply markets and harm farmers themselves. Flooding also severely affects Cambodia. A massive flood cost around $355 million in damage to agriculture in Cambodia. Thus, the FASE program emerged to combat these harmful effects.

FASE in the Philippines

The Green Shoots Foundation collaborated with Gawad Kalinga to establish the FASE program in Southeast Asia. Gawad Kalinga is a nonprofit that aims to end international poverty in the Philippines. It works to provide education and employment opportunities to all citizens. Additionally, it has reached over 3,000 communities and fed over 100,000 students in schools through various programs. This organization has taken great steps in stabilizing the country’s workforce and economy.

The FASE program sends volunteers from the United States and England to the Philippines to provide training sessions. Volunteers teach people business and micro-financing information. Additionally, the FASE program provides platforms to inspire citizens to become entrepreneurs and support agricultural farmers.

Furthermore, incorporating a university on a farm allows farmers to obtain an education and promote their business. This program has supported over 1 million people and created over 300 jobs. Additionally, over 80,000 children attend school and 60 social enterprises have undergone establishment.

FASE in Cambodia

The Green Shoots Foundation has made a difference in Cambodia as well. The FASE program helped build the Agri-Tech Centre in North West Cambodia. Additionally, it focuses on environmental sustainability, training young children and preparing them for a future in the agricultural business.

Community-based Integrated Development is an NGO that works with the Green Shoots Foundation in Cambodia. Both organizations introduced the FASE program in Oddar Meanchey, a province in Cambodia. Furthermore, it provides training to improve agricultural opportunities and GDP. The Agri-Tech Centre has aided in establishing six sustainable enterprises as well.

In addition, the FASE program collaborates with the Agriculture Skills in Public Schools Project. The organizations discuss the most efficient farming styles to implement in the youth curriculum. Additionally, it creates irrigation systems and ponds to improve water accessibility and provide farmers with a suitable work environment. Children continue to learn farming skills to help improve the agricultural sector in Cambodia.

The Green Shoots Foundation and the Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship program help advance agricultural sectors in the Philippines and Cambodia. Through support from the international community, the Foundation works to train and inspire citizens to become entrepreneurs. The Green Shoots Foundation continues to work to reduce international poverty and expand its influence in more countries.

– Sylvia Boguniecki
Photo: With Permission from Green Shoots Foundation

Female entrepreneurs in AfghanistanIt is no secret that women’s rights in Afghanistan have been suffering due to decades of war and Taliban rule in the country. Afghan women have endured the denial of employment, education, health care and basic freedoms for years and faced violent punishment by the Taliban for attempting to find work or go to school. Years after Taliban rule, women are picking up the pieces of a broken society that drove them and many other Afghans into severe poverty. Organizations such as the Women’s Economic Empowerment Rural Development Project (WEERDP) and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), both funded and backed by the World Bank, set up savings and loan associations in different communities to allow Afghan women to start their own businesses. Female entrepreneurs in Afghanistan have the potential to help the economy and reduce poverty within the country.

Women’s Empowerment Projects of the World Bank

International aid to Afghanistan is essential for empowering Afghan women and bringing communities out of poverty. The World Bank has a variety of programs dedicated to poverty eradication. It implemented the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project to support Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA). VLSAs operate as a community bank that gives out micro-loans to women to create employment opportunities to sustain economic growth. Examples of businesses started by women are hair salons, tailor shops and bakeries.

While the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program came to a close in 2018, WEERDP replaced it and continues to receive backing from the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) to ensure steady funding.

VSLAs receive funding from the World Bank and the IDA to ensure sustainable financial institutions are available in Afghanistan, with the hope that the VSLAs will partner with larger commercial banks in the future.

Benefits of Female Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

There are roughly 275,684 Afghan women beneficiaries of the WEERDP. Many of them have had access to financial services for the first time with the program. Many others are taking loans, learning how to repay these loans and beginning to save for the future. These are valuable life skills for women who could not enter the workforce or gain an education in the past.

With the increase of women-run businesses in Afghanistan’s rural communities, VSLAs can begin to partner with larger banks to begin serving bigger loans to women after seeing the success of the businesses that began with micro-loans. The support of financial institutions is important to give women the confidence to become entrepreneurs, especially in a country where the percentage of women in the workforce is statistically low. Skills like leadership, management and problem-solving are derived from starting a business and female entrepreneurs can spread these skills throughout communities to strengthen the role of women in the economy.

These women can even pass down the skills through generations. Building a structure with programs like the WEERDP is vital for long-term economic growth and success because it can open doors for creativity and innovation for an economy that would benefit.

The Future of Female Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

Increasing the number of women entrepreneurs with savvy financial skills can benefit the communities of Afghanistan in many ways. Successful women can begin to venture out into local politics and health care fields to build on their skills while sharing their talents with the community. Women have important input on what types of businesses their communities need and can reduce poverty in specialized ways.

Afghan women make up roughly half of the nation’s population, so their representation is necessary to drive economic and societal progress. The visibility of women in the business sector can allow for gender equality to improve in Afghanistan over time, improving the development of the nation as a whole.

– Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr