Jan 16, 2019

January 2019 Update

Meet Theresa! For years, Teresa and her husband have earned a living collecting and sorting garbage to support their five kids. When Teresa was offered the chance to learn to build her own recycling cart, she used an Opportunity loan to build it and to purchase materials in bulk, increasing her productivity and her income. Now, she saves every day to achieve her dream of opening a restaurant. According to Teresa, "My life dream is to open a restaurant where my whole family can work together. I am thankful for the opportunities I have received. I am just getting started."

Moving families out of poverty once and for all. Opportunity's partner in Colombia, AGAPE, is tackling the challenges that threaten to trap families in poverty. They do this by providing a robust package of financial and non-financial services to create transformational opportunities that empower entrepreneurial women and men as they work their way out of poverty. With support and training, clients grow their businesses, gain financial security, and improve their living conditions. AGAPE is a vehicle for change in the realms of leadership, home improvement, education, and community projects.

Training and mentoring for lasting change. To ensure clients receive effective, transformative growth opportunities, AGAPE develops curriculum and programs designed to address their specific, expressed needs. AGAPE offers workshops such as savings awareness training for Trust Group clients and leadership training for Trust Group leaders. AGAPE also provides training in essential client protection principles, such as how to protect personal banking information and how to use available resources to resolve issues with loan repayments or account balances.

So far this year, AGAPE has trained 658 loan clients. Currently, significant budget constraints pose difficulties in effectively reaching areas where training is needed, however, AGAPE holds fast to the goal of expanding trainings in Cartagena and Bogota, key areas in need of client support.

AGAPE loan officers desire to respond to God's commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. By caring for Opportunity clients through their work, loan officers act as a physical embodiment of Christ's love.

Providing clients with excellent service and relevant, high-impact products. Opportunity Colombia implements Social Performance Management to ensure excellent client service and protection by aligning products, processes, operations, and systems to the organization's mission and to clients' expressed needs. Currently, the bank is undertaking a review of their data collection system to identify options to increase accuracy and analysis of the client information collected.

Constructing or improving homes to keep families healthier and safer. Opportunity Colombia continues to expand its home improvement loan program, House of My Dreams, which serves families in Bogota, Cartagena, Sincelejo, Barranquilla, Magangue, and Santa Marta. As of June 30, 2018, Opportunity Colombia has disbursed 1,048 home improvement loans since the start of the program.

AGAPE delivers training resources and a robust support plan that complement the bank's home improvement loans, ensuring Colombia's poorest populations can make improvements, including renovations to foundations, walls, doors, windows, kitchens, bathrooms, roofs, and floors. AGAPE trains loan officers, assesses client ability to take on additional credit and then provides technical assistance throughout the construction process. AGAPE also provides a 10-booklet series covering home improvement projects, equipping clients to become more knowledgeable about financing and planning home improvements.

Links:

Jan 15, 2019

Big Impact and Hope-Filled Futures

To close the global education gap, every child must have access to a quality education in a local school. In alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Opportunity drives education solutions that get more kids in quality schools by addressing the biggest challenges parents face: access, quality, and sustainability.

Our School Fee Loans are designed to help parents manage their finances, so their children can go to school and stay in school even when incomes do not match school fee due dates. School Improvement Loans create classroom seats in low-cost community schools. Because ensuring a child a seat in the classroom isn't enough we work closely with local private schools to provide access to financing and relevant training that are necessary for infrastructure and education improvements.

MEASURABLE OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN

Research and evaluations prove EduFinance leads to better outcomes for students and schools. We are committed to measuring our impact making continuous improvements, striving to achieve the highest levels of social impact and sustainability. Recent studies demonstrate that EduFinance is helping schools reach more vulnerable children, offer higher-quality education, and become sustainable. In 2017, we conducted research in Uganda and Rwanda to confirm the impact of our School Improvement Loans. Surveys and interviews among local staff, 87 school proprietors and 200 parents showed great consistency between our EduFinance objectives and the educational needs and aspirations of families and communities.

Key Findings:

School proprietors are educated professionals.

  • 55% of the proprietors surveyed had a university degree
  • 33% completed post-secondary education
  • Making financing accessible to educated, entrepreneurial individuals like school proprietors who want to invest in their communities ultimately encourages localized growth

Opportunity-financed schools reach low-education, low-income families.

  • 41% of interviewed parents completed primary school
  • 33% completed secondary school
  • 6% reported they had not received any formal education
  • Two-thirds of the parents are self-employed or unemployed. Investing in the futures of these families breaks the cycle of inter-generational poverty, as educated children pursue more secure jobs

Financially stable schools are generating jobs in their communities.

  • 185 new full- and part-time jobs were created by the 75 financed schools studied in Uganda
  • Private schools are boosting local businesses by buying materials and hiring tradesmen to complete school renovations, contributing to the community economic development

Links:

Jan 15, 2019

Sustainable Livelihoods for Smallholder Farmers

Farming can be one of the riskiest jobs in the world for families living in developing communities. Severe weather, crop diseases, or bad seed can destroy an entire season’s harvest – and when your livelihood depends on just one or two harvests a year, it can mean your children go hungry for months, and drop out of school until you can afford to send them back. Nearly 8 in 10 of the world’s poorest families rely on agriculture to survive, and struggle to break the cycle of low-productivity farming that keeps them in poverty, season after season.

Opportunity International’s AgFinance services help equip farmers with the capital, knowledge, and skills they need to transform their subsistence farms into productive, job-creating, community-changing businesses. To date, Opportunity has helped empower nearly half a million farmers in sub-Saharan Africa build resilient livelihoods through small-scale farming.

Today, this work is more important than ever. As the global community makes progress toward ending extreme poverty, farmers, more and more, are left behind. Your support helps bring targeted financial services, training, and support to agricultural communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa, empowering farmers to sustainably improve their farms, increase their yields and incomes, and break the cycle of poverty.

The AgFinance Model

For 47 years, Opportunity International has worked to lift families out of poverty by pioneering innovative financial solutions that help families build sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their communities. AgFinance specifically targets the unique needs of farmers by:

  1. Expanding access to agricultural financial services
  2. Providing training in Good Agricultural Practices
  3. Building support networks throughout value chains

By unlocking these services, your support helps provide a farming family with high-quality seed to plant, the skills to cultivate healthy crops, and connections to sell their harvest at a fair rate in their local markets –interventions that helps them continue improving and sustaining good harvests, year after year.

Finance

Financial institutions currently meet only 3% of the total estimated demand for loans from small farmers, which is why Opportunity works to expand access to agricultural financial services in rural communities. Additionally, by leveraging technology, Opportunity is breaking down geographic barriers to make lending more convenient and more accessible for rural farmers. Opportunity’s agriculture financial services include:

  • Loans and savings for smallholder farmers: Loans are tailored around agricultural seasons and used by farmers to purchase quality seed, fertilizer, and equipment to ensure they can grow better, higher-yielding crops. Farmers also open savings accounts and receive training in financial literacy to learn how to prudently save income after harvests to cover their households’ costs until the next harvest.
  • Finance for agribusiness entrepreneurs: Opportunity also offers financing for agribusinesses, such as aggregators, off-takers, warehouses, or processing facilities. Many of these businesses lack the up-front capital to purchase crops in bulk from farmers, especially as more farmers improve their yields. Business owners utilize these larger loans or other specialized financing, such as revolving credit facilities, to purchase more goods from farmers and increase the total capacity of their businesses.

Training

When financial services are supplemented with training, farmers can invest in much-needed resources while also deepening skills to transform their farms into thriving enterprises. Through Opportunity, farmers are receiving training on topics such as:

  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) training for farmers: GAP trainings improve farmers’ skills and knowledge in areas such as planting techniques, irrigation, pesticides, crop rotation, and crop storage after harvest. This enables farmers to improve yields, protecting their crops against weather-related shocks, and smooth out their incomes year-round.
  • Farming as a Family Business: Women are often left out of decision-making on small family farms yet provide the majority of labor. Training entire families in the benefits of inclusive family farming – such as empowering women to make purchasing decisions, and learn Good Agricultural Practices alongside their husbands – help farms operate more successfully and productively

Support

Farmers rely on a network of support services throughout their value chains to effectively grow, cultivate, and sell their crops. Broken links within value chains – for example, if farmers couldn’t find the right seed to plant, or an off-taker to purchase their crops before they spoiled – are key drivers that prevent farmers from earning their full potential. Opportunity helps build strong agricultural support networks by:

  • Training lead farmers: Within a farming cooperative or group, a strong lead farmer equipped with technology and tools to train other farmers in Good Agricultural Practices can help rapidly spread knowledge, as well as facilitate group purchase agreements with local suppliers for good seed, or sales agreements with warehouses and off-takers. Opportunity also works with lead farmers to monitor the progress of farmers and help mitigate any challenges that arise.
  • Establishing partnerships with agribusinesses: Opportunity builds partnerships with a range of agribusinesses and connects them to local farmer groups in need of their services to fix broken links throughout value chains.

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