Microfinance Helps Heifer Farmers

A photograph of the author, Annie Bergman.

By Annie Bergman

June 2, 2014

Microfinance Helps Heifer Farmers

Throughout the month of June we’ll be featuring stories that highlight the Heifer projects that include microfinance or savings groups.

Often in places where Heifer works, access to banks or credit institutions is severely limited. So when farmers want to start a business, or if emergencies crop up, our beneficiaries are forced obtain loans from neighbors or savvy businessmen who charge exorbitant interest, plunging these already vulnerable people into deep debt and continuing the cycle of poverty.

In many of our projects, though, Heifer has set up self-help groups that include savings activities. The groups pool small amounts of money on a weekly or monthly basis, open a joint savings accounts and then make low-interest loans to groups members when the need arises.

For the past eight days I’ve had the privilege to travel through Bangladesh and Cambodia visiting Heifer projects. All of the projects I’ve visited have a microfinance component to them. So in addition to animals and training, the women (and some men) are saving money—or even handfuls of rice that can then later be sold for cash.

The savings groups are allowing these people to become entrepreneurs, and I’ve met women who have opened tailoring shops, set up schools to teach other girls how to sew, who are saving to go back to school, along with other endeavors that will earn them more money and provide them a stable life.

Check back all month long to meet some of these enterprising women and men or donate to help fund a women's self help group now.