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Doing Good

The Female Face of Rural Agriculture

Women across the world bear almost all the responsibility for meeting the basic needs of their family yet, because of social and cultural influence, are systematically denied the resources, information and freedom of action they need to fulfil this responsibility.

Tracy Lee Nicol




As cornerstones of their community, research has consistently shown that empowering and investing in rural women significantly increases productivity, reduces hunger and malnutrition, and improves the infrastructure and living standards in rural communities.

Ripple effect

Helping women generate income through productive assets.

One of the major challenges facing women in agriculture is their lack of access to skills development, improved seeds, fertilisers and equipment. This means their yield is on average 10% to 20% less than that of a male farmer.

As a consequence, rural women typically work longer hours than men, placing pressure on their child-caring and domestic responsibilities.

To help alleviate this problem, Tanzanian social entrepreneur Victoria Kisyombe founded micro-leasing business, Sero Lease and Finance (SELFINA). Pioneered in 2002, the business provides exclusively to women entrepreneurs, has issued credit worth $22 million dollars, has trained 46 000 women in business management skills, and has helped 23 000 women out of poverty.

It’s expected to positively impact 440 000 lives by 2014. Best of all, 100% of its revenue is earned.

How it works

Unlike micro-financing, which provides credit for small business owners to make short-term purchases like raw materials, micro-leasing means the lessee doesn’t need to use scarce working capital to buy equipment upfront.

Rather, women become owners of leased equipment and use it as collateral for further borrowing. SELFINA leases equipment such as small tractors, water pumps, irrigation equipment, milling machines, oil extraction machines, bicycles and motorbikes, livestock and poultry.

Throwing a rope


This Brazilian company is tackling education, environment, microfinance, rural development and trade all in one by making rope. And it’s making millions of dollars a year.

Run by Ismael Ferreira, APAEB is a Brazilian co-operative of smallholding sisal farmers – sisal is used to make rope, rugs and brushes.

Founded in the ’80s to remove intermediaries and assist farmers to collectively market their sisal crop, it has since gained export rights, forged links with foreign markets, and built processing plants and a factory to export millions of dollars’ worth of quality, finished products.

A social business at its core, it has an annual budget of $7,5 million (2010) and 96% of its revenue is earned.

Impressive on its own, but this business has directly benefited over 12 000 people in an area where most farmers have 11 hectares or less of dry, infertile soil with limited water resources.

How it works

As an exporter, APAEB links international markets with small agricultural producers by developing lasting relationships, encouraging mutual respect, and producing quality workmanship.

It trains and organises local farmers to manage the growing and manufacturing processes, and has increased financing from banks and donor agencies.

In 1997, it constructed a multimillion dollar carpet factory which increased the co-op’s revenue by 400% and raised the industry price of raw sisal. The operation employs over 800 people and has brought a powerful multiplier effect to a region where about
500 000 people derive their livelihood from sisal.

Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.

Doing Good

The Business of Creating Jobs

South Africa has a massive unemployment problem.

Tracy Lee Nicol



Creating-Jobs-Social-Entrepreneurship-Doing Good

Presently 25,2% of potential employees are seeking work, and it grows to 36,7% if you include those who’ve given up completely. Between 2003 and 2010, demonstrations by poor, unemployed youth increased eight-fold, to 111 per annum. It’s reaching crisis point for the economy and individuals, but these businesses offer a guiding light. By Tracy-Lee Nicol


Find a need, then train workers

India has a rapidly growing economy and a large youthful population. But like South Africa, the country is plagued by a significant shortage of skilled labour, widening the gap between rich and poor and hamstringing economic growth.

Jajendra Joshi-Empower Pragati

Social entrepreneur Rajendra Joshi, founder of for-profit Empower Pragati Vocational & Staffing (EPVS), is changing this by providing disadvantaged youths with livelihood skills development and meeting demand for quality and reliable employees in the private sector. Market mapping by EPVS determines which skills are needed in the market, then develops a curriculum for training youth conducted both in-house and with industry specific bodies.

Placement executives then ensure each trainee is provided with placement opportunities with participating organisations in retail, hospitality, logistics, finance, supply chain and healthcare sectors.  EPVS has over 22 training centres across India that have directly benefitted more than 2 500 youth. It has an annual budget of $750 000 and has 100% earned revenue.

Hybrid model

Financing self-employment

One way to improve unemployment is to create businesses and encourage self-employment. In 1987, Nigerian entrepreneur Godwin Ehigiamusoe created micro-finance Life Above Poverty Organisation (LAPO) to empower Nigeria’s poor and vulnerable people.

Godwin Ehigiamusoe-Lapo

As part of its for-profit microfinance, LAPO offers loans, savings products, and credit-for-shares investments to micro- and medium-scale enterprises such as craftwork, food processing, merchandising, fabrication and farming operations.

As part of the non-profit, LAPO then engages with poor and vulnerable communities by providing social and health empowerment programmes addressing esteem, nutrition, discrimination, and social inequalities, as well as providing training, technical assistance and HR development to other micro-finance institutions, NGOs and banks.

Over 486 000 individuals have benefitted from LAPO which has 100% earned revenue and an annual budget of $285 million (2011).

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Doing Good

(Slideshow) Society’s Change Agents

Entrepreneurs who are building promising businesses to tackle social ills.

Alison Job



Social-Entrepreneurs-Doing-Good-Cool Business
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Anne-Githuku-Shongwe-Social Entrepreneur-Doing GoodAnne Githuku-Shongwe

Anne Githuku-Shongwe, founder of interactive mobile learning tool Afroes, was honoured with social entrepreneur of the year awards at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town in May

Afroes uses interactive mobile learning strategies to teach Africa’s youth about entrepreneurship, leadership and empowerment. Contact:

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Doing Good

Kiva: Financing Hope

Small money creating big change.

Tracy Lee Nicol




Poverty’s an uncomfortable word. It conjures images of suffering, helplessness and deprivation. And when 70% of the world’s poor are women, they bear the brunt of limited access to basic rights like food, education, healthcare, and HIV prevention.

It’s women who tend to have lesser skills, employment options and, most of all, access to finance. This keeps women in a poverty trap that’s very difficult to escape. And the effects ripple through the family and community.
Enter Jessica Jackley, co-founder of microcredit organisation, Kiva.

Repositioning poverty as a side-note in the stories of strong, smart, hardworking entrepreneurs trying to make their tomorrows better, Kiva offers microloans to third-world entrepreneurs in a way that validates dignity, opens dialogue, and fosters optimistic partnerships.

An old idea in new hands

Inspired by Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus, pioneer of microfinance and founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in the 70s, and witnessing the life-changing impact a $100 loan could make to the lives of poor entrepreneurs, Jackley realised many entrepreneurs didn’t want donations, they wanted meaningful relationships and support as well as capital in order to do more of what they were already doing.

Moving forward, Jackley and her partner set up a website showcasing the stories of business and hope of a group of entrepreneurs and their need for a loan. Initially motivating friends and family to become lenders in $25 bits, Kiva soon scaled up, tapping into the $130 million per year lent by friends and family to start-ups in the US.

In its first year in 2005, Kiva facilitated $500 000 worth of loans. To date, $329 million has been loaned from users across 220 countries.

The model

Using a social business model, Kiva is a non-profit organisation leveraging the Internet, crowd-funding, and microfinance institutions worldwide. It’s able to lend individuals as little as $25 on terms they can live up to. Kiva’s field partners then facilitate loans with women previously ignored by lenders, and give them the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.

Unlike once-off donations, lenders are repaid their initial loan when the entrepreneur is able to do so. Kiva then offers lenders the option to be paid out or reinvest their sum.

Changing the story

“Imagine how you feel when you see somebody on the street who is begging,” says Jackley. “Then imagine the difference you might feel seeing someone who is smiling and has a story of hope and entrepreneurship, who says ‘look at the business I built, I can now send my children to school’.”

By showing someone who is creating and has something to offer, and by providing the small capital required, these stories can change the future for millions of women.

By the numbers

  • 815 000 : Borrowers who have received loans through Kiva since 2005
  • 82% The percentage of Kiva borrowers who are women
  • $329m: Loans facilitated by Kiva since 2005
  • $400: Average loan request
  • 98,98%: Loan repayment rate


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