In Bangladesh, a BPP partnership with the Bangladesh SME Corporation Limited (BSCL), Oxfam and the Australian Government supported dairy farmers, mostly women, to access finance to increase the productivity of their operations. The partnership resulted in an increase in income benefiting farmers, their families and communities and demonstrated the commercial sustainability loans to smallholder farmers. This Partnership Summary provides an insight into how the partners worked together, the complex challenges they faced and what they achieved.
About the initiative
Banks often perceive loans to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), such as smallholder dairy farming businesses, as risky and do not offer products to this market segment.
This partnership reduced the investment and risk for BSCL to reach a new market segment and demonstrate the commercial sustainability of offering loans to smallholder farmers. Oxfam prepared dairy farmers to receive the loans through financial literacy training and the Australian Government contributed catalytic funding and a connection to networks in-country.
The two-year partnership resulted in BSCL facilitating more than AUD 580,000 in financing to dairy enterprises. The dairy enterprises used the financing to buy high-quality crossbreed cows, in turn providing farmers with more assets against which to borrow. Improvements in productivity resulted in higher income. Women also reported close to 3 fewer hours of care work per week.
During the partnership, BSCL found that many female-led dairy enterprises faced lots of challenges beyond financing that affected their business’ productivity. Women were often forced to travel to meet doctors and specialists, costing them in both time away from their business and travel expenses. BSCL responded by launching a tele-doctor program. The program saw over 2,000 patients in its first six months.
When hospitality venues and sweet shops closed in Bangladesh due to COVID-19 restrictions, demand for the milk-based sweets commonly used at big family and cultural events plummeted. The big drop in sales affected dairy farmer incomes and their ability to pay for key agricultural inputs such as fodder.
With BPP support, the partners established a revolving loan – an interest-free loan in the form of cash, fodder, cattle feed and grass seed. This early intervention helped to address the fall in sales and loss of income. The partners’ existing relationship with dairy enterprises made outreach and support achievable, despite the restrictions.
BSCL continues to innovate their finance platform, including digitalising extension services and promoting complementary financial products, such as livestock insurance while Oxfam is continuing to nurture dairy enterprises with access to government COVID recovery packages and knowledge about adding value to dairy products in preparation for the recovery from COVID.
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