A Bit of a Dream Come True: Affordable Loans for Women Farmers

CWS Indonesia | July 31, 2019

Yuliana leading her group’s monthly meeting. Photo: CWS

Yuliana La’lai, like many of her neighbors in South Sulawesi, has always relied farming for her family’s income. However, slowly but surely climate change is making the region’s harvests less fruitful. Gradually, Yuliana notes, “unpredictable rainfall leaves us not knowing when to plant rice; our cacao pods and coffee plants are affected too”. These crop failures often force farmers to borrow money to survive. And, too often, they borrow from loan sharks because they cannot use formal banks.

In 2015, Yuliana and her husband borrowed about $55 with a 10% monthly interest rate. And, by harvest time, they owed twice the amount of the loan! That season it did not rain at all and the family’s crops failed. Unable to repay the loan, Yuliana’s husband had to take a wage labor job in a town quite far away from their village. Eventually, the family was able pay the loan back in full. “After that experience, I vowed that I would never borrow from a loan shark again”, said Yuliana, who CWS came to know when she joined the Disaster Risk Reduction through Enhanced Adaptive Measures (DREAM) initiative in 2018.

DREAM supports farm families to diversify and grow their income in two ways. First, the project team organizes and leads information sharing and training sessions about improved farming practices – like crop diversification and better irrigation. This helps families address and adapt to the all the changes in their weather so they can keep farming. Second, DREAM supports women farmers to organize savings and loans groups so they can support each other as, together, they adapt to their changing farm lives.

“Our area is now prone to floods and landslides that lead to crop failure and loss like I talked about earlier. So, the savings and loan group helps”, says Yuliana. She is the president of her group, which set a 3% interest rate for their loans. “We can borrow to restart our gardens or larger crops plots after disasters. We can also invest in building our farms. And with reasonable interest rates, we feel comfortable taking loans”. And, annually, their collective interest income is divided among them. “Now we can stand on our own feet and not rely on loan sharks”, concludes Yuliana. It’s a small dream come true.

For more information contact mkoeniger@cwsglobal.org

Lemo Savings Loan Group members. Photo: CWS

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