Microfinance empowers rural women

April, 19/2018 - 09:00

 Phan Thị Nhàn, whose household is one of the poorest in the mountainous commune of Quảng Thạch in central Quảng Bình Province, has decided to apply for another loan from the local Women’s Development Fund to expand her cattle production—something she never dreamed of before.

A woman nurses lingzhi mushroom in central Quảng Bình Province. She started to grow the mushroom with financial support from the local Women’s Development Fund. — VNS Photo Khánh Vân
Viet Nam News

by Khánh Vân

QUẢNG BÌNH – Phan Thị Nhàn, whose household is one of the poorest in the mountainous commune of Quảng Thạch located in central Quảng Bình Province, has decided to apply for another loan from the local Women’s Development Fund to expand her cattle production—something she never dreamed of before.

Two years ago, Nhàn received a loan of VNĐ10 million (US$444) from the fund, a small amount of money for many, but enough for her to buy a cow, which is considered a fortune for a farmer.

“Now, the cow has given birth to two calves,” Nhàn said, smiling as she described her “huge fortune”.

“And more important, I am able to pay back the loan, including both the principal and interest after two years,” she said.

Nhàn used to consider borrowing money from the bank for social policies to make some investments that could improve her income, but the process was complicated and she decided not to get the loan. 

When she learned about the fund from the local women’s union two years ago, she decided to give it a try.

“The procedure is simple. I just need to present my national identity card and house registration book and a plan to use loan and pay back,” she said.

“The loan is flexible. I just need to repay around VNĐ500,000 each month,” she said. “And after two years, I paid back the loan. From nothing, now I have a cow with two calves.”

Nhàn is just one of many poor households in the commune’s Village No 3 who have improved their incomes thanks to the fund. By joining the Saving and Credit Groups, set up by the provincial Women’s Development Fund to provide microfinance services, poor women like Nhàn have had more chances to access small credit to do business or expand production.

 Nguyễn Thị Cúc, head of the saving and credit group of the Village No 3, said the group was established in 2016 and now has 46 members.

Over the past two years, the group granted loans worth nearly VNĐ500 million ($22,200) to its members, who have used the fund to expand production in areas such as growing trees and crops and raising domestic fowls.   

Joining the group, local women not only get loans but also join other activities for fun, helping to improve their spiritual life. Each month, the group holds a meeting for the members to pay debts or borrow money. At the meeting, they also play games and learn knowledge and skills to improve their living conditions.

“It is so fun. We play different games at each meeting. Anyone losing the game will have to sing a song or dance,” Nhàn, who is now 63, said.

“The summer has just started. So at this month’s meeting, we learnt how to maintain hygiene for ourselves and family members to prevent diseases. For example, we learned and practiced how to clean our hands with soap following standards.”

Women’s empowerment

The Women’s Development Fund (WDF) was established by the provincial Women’s Union with support from the project of Sustainable Rural Development for the Poor in central Hà Tĩnh and Quảng Bình Provinces.

The project, developed by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), is aimed at sustainably improving income and reducing the vulnerability of rural poor households in targeted poor communes in the two provinces.

Running from 2013 to 2018, the project has a total cost estimated at $46.2 million, including an IFAD loan of $22.5 million and IFAD grant of $500,000, co-financier loan of $10 million, Vietnamese Government support of $6.2 million and other sources.

It is expected to yield a 25 per cent increase in income for 20,000 poor households in targeted communes and a 25 per cent increase in youth fulltime employment.

The WDF seeks to help rural woman not only overcome poverty but also sustainably improve incomes, according to vice chairwoman of the provincial Women’s Union Đỗ Thị Bích Thủy.

Apart from getting loans, local farmers have also been equipped with knowledge, skills and techniques in business planning and improved agricultural technologies, she said.

Nguyễn Thị Thanh Tâm from Cao Quảng Commune in Tuyên Hóa District said thanks to support from the project, she and many other women in the commune expanded their businesses. They formed a co-operative specialising in raising chickens since 2015.

“From raising less than 200 chickens, now each member of the co-operative has increased their fowls to 400-500,” she said.

“Not like raising chickens on a small scale as before, which posed high risks of loss as the chickens often died of diseases or the chicken price dropped due to redundant supply, we were now trained in husbandry techniques to ensure product quality and to minimise damage,” she said.

“We were also supported to find partnership with businesses who will buy all of our chickens,” she said. “Our income has increased by an average of VNĐ29 million per year.”

Chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee Mai Xuân Tuyên said the microfinance services provided by the WDF have proved effective in helping local people to escape poverty. It is easy for them to get the loan as well as to repay it.

According to the latest report from the IFAD, the portfolio at risk (PAR 30 days) is very low, ranging from 0-0.5 per cent.

The commune has set up six saving and credit groups with support from the project with 134 members. Outstanding loan portfolios have so far reached nearly VNĐ800 million.

 “Apart from traditional production, many farmers have tried new products such as raising bees and goats or growing medical plants or growing safe mushrooms which have helped to bring them extra income,” he said.

Nhàn from Quảng Thạch Commune said she was confident she would be able to pay back the new loan, worth VNĐ20 million, in the next two years in order to get additional credit to expand production.

“The step is small but I strongly believe that I and other women in the commune have found a sustainable way of improving our lives,” she said. — VNS