Apr 23, 2018

Meet Patience - A Fabric Shop Owner in Ghana

After years of struggling to stretch her husband’s seasonal income and operating her own business that fell short of profitability, Patience was running out of, well, patience. Armed with a loan, training, and her very first savings account, Patience discovered the winning formula to bring her business to profitability and sustainability. The increase in income contributed to a sense of stability and peace that the family cherishes. Not one to sit back and enjoy her success, Patience envisioned a community in which all of the women experienced the same transformation—a life where hope and joy replace fear and hunger.   

In the dense heat of Chorkor, a fishing village outside Accra, Ghana, Patience's stall of a million brilliant colors offers cool relief. She has strategically invested her loans and all she has learned from her Opportunity Ghana relationship officer. Now her stall is bustling with customers attracted to her vibrant fabrics and drawn in by her welcoming customer service. She works hard, opening early and closing late, using her newfound financial literacy skills to keep her growing business on track. Though it seems impossible, she finds time to consider the other women in her community.

Taking on the role of Opportunity Ghana’s ambassador in Chorkor, Patience is a community organizer for a group which has grown to include over 300 women. As a woman who has achieved success in business and gained confidence in herself, she explains, “now I can take care of the needs of others by organizing all the women in the community. Once I decided to take this role, their concerns became my concerns. In Chorkor, people are not well regarded if they don’t have a business, but I like the saying that ‘what a man can do a woman can also do,’ so I encourage the women to take responsibility for themselves and for their children.”

The impact Patience has on the women in her community is inspiring. She takes the time to visit women at their businesses, and she has an uncanny ability to recognize the needs of the community. For example, she notes that many women in the area are fish smokers who have been turned away for loans because they have historically encountered cash flow challenges due to cyclical income. Determined to help them, she began looking for a bank that would be willing to give them loans. She went straight to Opportunity who had welcomed her so readily.

“I told the women about Opportunity and helped them get loans for their businesses,” says Patience. “There used to be an impression that if you give money to fish smokers, they will not be able to pay, so I decided to stand up for them. I told Opportunity that in case of any default, they can come talk to me. There is so much excitement in the village; these women have been turned away by everyone. Until now.”

Patience has also helped other women start small businesses. Sheila started Sheila’s Beauty Shop several years ago with a loan that Patience helped her obtain.  “Patience’s presence in the community is very important,” says Sheila. “Because of her, today I am somebody. Through Opportunity, we are now able to do everything on our own. From today on, I am going to join hands with Patience to reach out to the women in the community to give them the same opportunity that I have now. I want everyone to have the kind of pride I have.”

Sheila reaches out to younger women by giving them a chance to work and train at her beauty salon.  She now has 17 apprentices. “I have recruited young ladies in the community to mentor them so that they become somebody in the future,” she says. 

Patience explains why she helps women like Sheila: “I want to make sure everyone is equal. Now, these women operate their own businesses and make decisions about the money they earn. As a result, they have earned the respect of the people. I’m happy. I will continue to help them and even do more for them than I am doing now.”

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Apr 20, 2018

Cocoa Farmers in Ghana and 2018 Goals

Over the coming year, Opportunity’s Agriculture Finance team is refining our focus on key value chains that have the greatest potential to lift the most families out of poverty. One of the most important of which is cocoa in Ghana. Cocoa, as the largest export crop of the country, holds significant potential for growth in international markets.

In Ghana, Opportunity is working to help rural farmers overcome overwhelming obstacles, including poor crop yields, financial insecurity, inadequate infrastructure, unreliable market connections and inputs, as well as drought and political instability.

Currently, Opportunity serves cocoa farmers living in the main cocoa producing regions—Western, Central, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions. As the demand for cocoa grows worldwide, Opportunity is committed to ensuring farmers in Ghana have access to financial services, training in good agricultural practices and essential value chain services, including suppliers of seed and fertilizer, equipment for irrigation and harvest and off-takers to purchase their crops at fair market value. These services help farmers increase their yields, improve the quality of their crops and earn higher incomes, empowering them to provide for their families, send their children to school and sustainably improve their lives.

Opportunity’s 2018 goals include:

  • Explore opportunities for expansion – Launching agriculture finance services with another financial institution partner in Ghana will immediately expand Opportunity’s outreach to cocoa farmers in some of the most remote areas.
  • Strengthen market linkages for cocoa farmers – Opportunity’s growing network of value chain partners will connect more cocoa farmers to the rapidly growing industry, helping them grow and sell more cocoa and improve their incomes.
  • Expand agricultural best practices trainings for farmers – Improved trainings will help farmers with challenges such as protecting their crops from recent recurrences of pests and diseases.
  • Connect farmers digitally to financial services – Opportunity is working to rapidly expand digital banking services for farmers, improving access for clients in rural areas.

For a small farmer in rural Ghana, a good harvest opens up countless possibilities. A good harvest means a farmer can grow her savings account, and send her children to school well-fed. It means she can make improvements to her home, buy medicine when she or her children are sick, and hire her neighbors to help on her growing farm, expanding opportunities for others in her community to earn a good income and work their way out of poverty.

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Apr 20, 2018

Improving the Quality of Education for All

In 2015, after listening to many educators express the need for additional support in improving students’ learning outcomes, Opportunity launched a new arm of EduFinance, called Education Quality, to help local educators work together in transforming education in their communities.

With the launch of Education Quality (EdQuality), Opportunity’s EduFinance initiative now offers the only approach that addresses the capital needs of parents and school owners, while also deepening the skills and competencies of local teachers and staff—all within a sustainable, low-cost framework that can be replicated worldwide.

Opportunity’s EdQuality services were developed in coordination with industry leaders around the world, and integrates best-in-class, sustainable quality improvement strategies with technology-based assessments to track schools’ progress over time, ensuring Opportunity’s interventions lead to lasting results.

School Clusters are small, self-led networks of socially-focused private schools that work together to spark collaboration, share of best practices, and provide professional support. Opportunity works through the cluster model to deliver trainings and resources to teachers and school leaders.

Pathways to Excellence (P2E) is a first-of-its-kind assessment tool developed by Opportunity that measures a school’s strengths and weaknesses across 30 domains, including learning environment, pupil achievement and learning, teacher retention, community engagement and early childhood development.

  1. School leaders self-assess their schools using P2E to internally benchmark where their school stands on the quality spectrum.
  2. Self-assessments are then compared to objective, external assessments to pinpoint important areas for improvement.
  3. School leaders, with their Opportunity Education Specialist, then work together to create a school development plan highlighting the steps to take to achieve the school’s quality improvement goals. 

Like you, Opportunity knows that everywhere, parents want to give their children a good education. The good news is educators are stepping up to fill the gaps left by public school systems. Access to capital, blended with trainings and localized support, provides the catalyst for affordable private schools to rapidly expand and improve—and continue expanding and improving, long after Opportunity’s first intervention.

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