Microcredit for Underprivileged Women Farmers and Small Entrepreneurs

SUMMARY

Microcredit facility for provision of loans on easy terms for women farmers trapped in long term chronic poverty, mostly widows with children, to fill the gap of access to microcredit to these women.

ESTIMATED COST: $8000
LOCATION(S): General

Background :

In Kenya, where the mainstay of most communities is agriculture and livestock production, women contribute up to 80% of the workforce yet they only hold 1% of registered land titles in their names and around 5-6% of registered titles held in joint names.

In the rural communities many families are headed by women as the bread winners. Some of these women are widows, other were left by their husbands who migrated to cities in search for jobs. In most cases they do not have a land title deed to apply for credit. Women are rarely allowed to inherit land and women who are widowed, orphaned, unmarried, separated, divorced or infertile are at a significant disadvantage. In such circumstances women farmers have no possibility of accessing loans to buy the necessary farm inputs and pursue meaningful economic activities.

They lack voice, power and representation in society, which leads to destitution after the death of their husbands or other family misfortunes, while poverty and economic dependence leave them exposed to increased exploitation and violence. The devastating effects of property rights violations expressed in poverty, disease, violence and homelessness harm women and their children. Also, women have no access to justice due to illiteracy and poverty.

By the other side, donors keep talking about the importance of women farmers and their contribution to ending hunger and poverty, but when it comes to real action, the evidence is that women farmers are ignored. Meanwhile, the material conditions under which most women live and work continue to deteriorate in many countries due to economic and social decline, wars and conflict, and the spread of AIDS.

Among the majority of rural and low-income urban dwellers, women perform all domestic tasks, farm and trade. They are responsible for the care of children, the sick and the elderly, in addition to performing essential social functions within their communities. Women head about 30 per cent of households in urban and rural areas across Africa, often with no working resident males.

Their source of income for survival is usually small stall business and peasant farming. They do not have access to capital to invest well in the small businesses and the farm activities. Most of these women's lives are shortened due to the burden they face in bringing up their children. In these households the children do not have their basic needs satisfied, are malnourished and traumatized and many of them miss the opportunity to have quality education with which they can access better lives in their future. These hardships have prompted girls to turn to commercial sex work or early marriages to help the family while boys use to turn to child labor, drug abuse and other irresponsible behavior.

Objectives of the plan:

We can see in the news the growth of microfinance institutions offering a wide range of loans. Many of them do not require any of the conventional securities like title deeds. They are aware that women do not have them. However, they normally finance viable businesses that have been in existence for at least one year and require: to own a business, bank statement for the last six months, 2 guarantors, flexible collaterals.

Support to marginalized communities is mentioned but in practice it has still to be developed and worked out at the grassroots level through self help cooperation, where clients of loans guarantee each other or for groups, normally through a CBO or NGO. There are cases where microfinance cannot be made profitable, for example, where potential clients are extremely poor or live in remote areas. In such settings, microfinance may require continuing subsidies. This involves cooperation with Governments, financial institutions, NGOs and funders.

We are studying the existing microcredit facilities and the strategy of Grameen Bank - "to bring the disadvantaged women from the poorest households within the fold of an organizational format which they can understand and manage by themselves" motivates us in our endeavor.

Microcredit offered through Grameen Bank has had an incredible development: from 1 village, 1 branch and 10 members in 1976 to 83,458 villages, 2,562 branches and 7,970,616 members in 2009. In Kenya microcredit is still in its initial stage and some of micro-financing institutions were deeply affected by the post election violence that raged across Kenya in the first three months of 2008, especially in western Kenya where the rioting and destruction were most devastating.

Project Objectives:

  • To boost financial levels in women headed households and their families in rural areas,
  • To reduce rural poverty through a revolving loan fund to uphold small farming and other income generating activities, and therefore facilitate access basic needs -education, food, shelter, potable water, clothing and continuously improve their resources,
  • To prevent the desperate moves of commercial sex, teenage pregnancies and child labor among the rural poor communities,
  • To empower them in women's rights, farming and business skills, leadership and management skills, HIV/Aids prevention, family planning, etc.
  • To encourage self-help activities among the women, their families and communities, promoting group mobilization, enthusiasm and hope,
  • To reduce rural to urban migration.

Needs Assessment:

In Kenya farming is not a woman-friendly sector. The men control the land and investments, government training programs are designed for male farmers and even low interest agriculture loans are made available largely to men even though it's the women who do much of the work on farms - from planting to harvesting and processing.

Our goal is to empower women by training them, bringing them in self help groups and financing their business ideas to make them financially independent and contribute to family wealth.

We aim to work with groups to provide, among other services:

  • agriculture and livestock loan products,
  • affordable roofing and water harvesting solutions,
  • water tanks and improved sanitation,
  • etc.

We are taking into consideration all possibilities, including the transmission in remote communities many of the innovative ideas presented on this website, such as "Using Information and Communication Technology in Agribusiness".

Project Implementation Activities:

  1. Training women in health, human rights, etc.
  2. Training in farming, livestock and entrepreneurial skills
  3. To assess their situation i.e. business and/or farm
  4. Verification for loans and distribution of farm / business inputs
  5. Supervision, monitoring and evaluation
  6. Table banking among them
  7. Loan servicing
  8. Saving accounts

Plan and Execution:

The organization is registered and therefore legally accepted to participate in community development activities. The CBO has a good structure of objectives and counts on volunteering work of community members, youth and needy people.

We create a platform to speak to the youth and the community at large about key development issues through sport activities such as biking races, football tournaments and other festivities during Easter, Christmas and New Year, as well as other world and national days' celebrations such as the World Aids Day, International Women's Day, World Environment Day. We also use theatre and folk media to communicate our messages to the communities in an easy and comprehensible way.

We work for the empowerment of groups through seminars, workshops and trainings aiming at livelihoods' improvement. Since LIINDEV does not have access to funding it counts on its human resources' knowledge to empower communities towards other actors that deal in safe and clean water, food security, train them in hygiene and sanitation, etc. We have been working through networks with other organizations and also making referrals and exposing the needs we identify at the grassroots to potential interveners.

The strategy we employ is community mobilization, organization and creation of self help groups, which are mostly made up of peasant farmers. We engage communities in all project activities to assure their ownership of projects' results through community participatory methodologies.

Available Resources:

  • Resource people to carry out trainings
  • Self help groups of needy women
  • Training venue which will be in a primary school
  • Administration staff on voluntary basis

Needed Resources:

  • Seed fund for the micro credits for farm/small businesses' inputs
  • A computer for documentation work, with parameters to support the installation of Mifos, a management information system created by the Grameen Bank for the microfinance industry
  • Secretariat support
  • Volunteer(s) from abroad would be highly welcome

We consider our work at grassroots level a very positive aspect to ensure that attempts at gender equity with regard to property rights do not remain at policy level only. However, if we want to effectively advocate for women's rights in this area we will have to expand our scope of cooperating NGOs by advocacy and monitoring organizations to help us with investigation and documentation of human rights' violations and provide legal assistance.

Sustainability:

We are aware of the fact that the proposed project is very challenging. However, taking into consideration that it can start from a relatively small investment and can benefit consecutively new beneficiaries year after year (every six months), it is worth the efforts. In the future we can attempt to establish a savings and loan facility scheme to benefit more women farmers and/or small entrepreneurs.

We hope also that this project can be expanded to reach more less fortunate people in rural set ups because, upon getting proven history of lending to the poor for a social purpose there are possibilities to cooperate with the local authorities (NGO partnership based microcredit) through their devolved funds and/or be a field partner of a microcredit institution.

This can be achieved upon establishing a secretariat, working together with community groups as lobby groups seeking allocation of funds to projects identified by the community and complying with the requirements of the funds, among them: show that the group has experience in lending and has been in operation.

Outcomes:

This project can be an opportunity to empower the local most destitute women and a chance to promote crucial women's issues. It can give them social power so that they can fight for their rights, be it at the level of property rights, access to training programs, low interest agriculture loans or as it concerns to their choices in personal life with the option to insist on safer sex or to reject sexual advances and outdated and dangerous cultural practices (yet linked to the tradition of wife inheritance).

This project will contribute to improve the lives of women farmers, who will be empowered with orientation, training and assistance related to the farming/economic activities. They will have access to farming inputs at the best prices (bulk quantities for the group), will be encouraged to organize self-help activities among them and their families to make easier the tasks of taking care of the children, promote group mobilization to perform seasonal farming activities together, organize common transport, market their outputs and create common sale stalls. Consequently, they will be able to alleviate hunger, improve the nutrition of entire families, educate their children and assure better future for them, and will pass on the financial stick and/or experience to other women. Girls will benefit from all the activities directly or indirectly (according to their ages), will have a better childhood and education, and positive behavioral and entrepreneurial models for their future.

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