5 Minutes of Inspiration: Want to Grow More Crops? Remove Financial Barriers for Women

5 Minutes of Inspiration: Want to Grow More Crops? Remove Financial Barriers for Women

3/6/18

When you lower credit card interest, women invest more in agriculture. Find out how. By Emily Janoch.

The average loan in Bangladesh charges 25% interest — about what an average American pays on a credit card. In fact, credit cards in the U.S. are one of the more expensive ways to borrow money.  CARE Bangladesh decided to flip this on its head, and offer credit cards that had lower interest rates than your average bank.  They called these new cards the “A-card.” So what happened? More women got more money and invested more in agriculture to support their families.

The Agriculture Extension Support Activity reaches over 110,000 people in Bangladesh as part of a Feed the Future grant where we work with the Dhaka Ahsiana mission. The project ran from 2012-2017 for $3.8 million.

What have we accomplished?

  • Lower interest: Women can now get loans for only 10% interest, instead of the 25% a standard bank would charge.
  • More realistic schedules: Instead of only getting a week’s worth of credit, the A-card offers 6 months to repay the loan. So far, every single A-card holder has paid their loans on time and in full. 92% of users are satisfied with the A-card.
  • More credit in the market: So far, the A-card has provided $190,000 in loans to farmers in Bangladesh so they can invest in more production. 3,100 people participated in the pilot phase, 57% women.
  • Strengthened retail businesses: Because the loans go to buying agricultural inputs, retail outlets that sell these products have seen 20% higher sales when they use the A-card, and are less likely to have customers default on store credit.
  • More efficient systems: Because of the credit-card model with electronic payments, the average bank agent can reach twice as many farmers as they could with traditional loan systems.
  • Safer loans: Almost all (96%) farmers perceived that A-Card transactions were safer than cash.
  • More investment in production: Three-quarters of interviewed farmers were able to purchase higher quality inputs directly from retailers.  
  • Higher income: Just over a third of farmers reported that they were able to store their harvest for up to 2 months before selling at a higher price.

How did we get there?

  • A woman changes her life with sustainable and climate smart agriculture practices in Bangladesh.Listen to farmers: The project started by seeing what barriers were for farmers who wanted to invest more in their fields.  The A-card is specifically designed to overcome the challenges most farmers face in buying inputs and improving their production.
  • Negotiate for the poor: Once the project found what out the key obstacles for poor farmers, they negotiated with banks to create products that work better—and make sure that the private sector will offer them when the project leaves.
  • Work with partners: The project team aligned its strategies with the Government of Bangladesh and local MFIs to make sure that everyone was working towards the same goals, and that we could get support outside the project. It also connected to farmers in other USAID-funded projects to make sure that we can provide opportunities for a range of different farmers.
  • Build on local structures: The project was able to take advantage of technology and mobile banking that already existed in Bangladesh to create a system that worked as efficiently as possible.

Want to learn more?
Check out the evaluation and the learning document.

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