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    « 1000 words, 2015 beginnings | Main | What is it like to have tea with royalty? We ask our staff to find out »
    Wednesday
    Dec172014

    In the incubator: a new financial inclusion product

    There are few things as creamy and delicious as Burmese be u hin (duck egg curry), and yet, the inhabitants of Mhaw Aine Village in Dedaye refuse to believe that duck is a delicacy in some parts of the world. “We’re sick of duck eggs!” Ma Mya Mya Htway says; “we have them every day,” she explains. For some Proximity staff members, this would be a dream come true (cough, cough), but it’s easy to understand why Ma Mya Mya Htway would rather eat pork or chicken; she belongs to a family of duck farmers that have been raising the animals for generations.

    Ma Mya Mya Htway’s mother first taught her the basics of duck farming when she was a child, and to this day she continues to follow her mother's advice. Only two things have changed. The first is the kind of feed she uses for her ducks. The second is that, for the first time ever, she’s received a formal micro-loan to help boost her livestock business.

    While Proximity Designs has been offering farmers micro-loans since 2009, Ma Mya Mya Htway owns no land and doesn’t farm, making her ineligible for a crop loan.  She’s one of countless landless villagers across Myanmar who often have to rely on daily wages from working on others’ land or in the cities to meet basic needs. Even if they start small businesses like Ma Mya Mya Htway has done with her ducks, landless households still can’t qualify for traditional micro-loans from NGO’s or the Myanmar Agriculture Development Bank.

    Because of this, Proximity Finance has started looking into financial services that are more inclusive of non-farming households. These upcoming products, including duck loans and the on-the-go loan, not only provide access to credit to people who’ve never had it before, but also strengthen our social enterprise business model. 

    When Proximity decided to test out a pilot duck loan earlier this year, the $200 loan disbursement was timed to coincide with the yearly lean period for duck farmers in July. While duck egg production rises and falls seasonally, output decreases by more than half during this month. We checked in on Ma Mya Mya Htway two months later, and she reported that business was going well; she used the initial disbursement to buy nutrient rich food that helped her ducks lay more eggs in July, which has helped her save enough money to buy a cellphone. With it, she’ll be able to call the duck vendor in the nearest town directly and secure a better price for her product.

    The duck loans have also had a secondary effect on Ma Mya Mya Htway’s reputation. She’s the group leader for the thirty families in Mhaw Aine that are participating in the duck loan pilot run. While she’s been well-trusted for years, the impeccable job she’s done keeping records has earned her additional respect, both from her fellow villagers and from the Proximity Finance team. Thanks to her work, we're looking to expand the program and make loans available to more duck farmers in the coming year. 

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