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    Entries in farmers (6)


    What's next for rural credit?

    Maria Fulwiler, Proximity's economic analyst, introduces Proximity's newest financial service...

    Proximity Designs has been offering informal credit in the Delta region, as part of Cyclone Nargis relief, since the beginning of 2010. With new regulations in place however, we now have the opportunity to formalize and expand our credit services. So, in 2012, Proximity Designs launched a new venture – Proximity Finance, a unit of the organization solely dedicated to providing farmers with desperately needed credit that is tailored to their unique needs. Unlike traditional microfinance, which is best suited to urban areas where borrowers are more likely to have a regular stream of income and expenses, Proximity Finance designs products that are adapted to the major cash flow fluctuations of crop farmers in Myanmar. For a farmer, cash needs depend on the season – a huge cash outlay is required to plant and fertilize, and income is only expected once the harvest is complete. This unique cycle makes the traditional microfinance process of bi-weekly interest payments highly untenable for the typical farmer. To accommodate this, Proximity Finance has designed the “Crop Loan,” a loan of either 120,000 Kyats or 200,000 Kyats that is distributed at the start of planting season and collected along with a balloon interest payment only after the harvest is complete.

    On January 23rd, 2013 Proximity Finance distributed its first crop loan to an eager farmer in the Pyapon Township of the Ayeyarwady division. By February 1st, 4,885 farmers had received loans of either 120,000 or 200,000 Kyats. By the end of 2013, we plan to have distributed almost 28,000 loans to 18,000 unique customers in the Delta, Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay areas.  This is a very exciting time for us at Proximity Finance; not only are we expanding our loan book by more than 100% in one year, but we are introducing new products, new policies, new practices and reaching into areas that we have never before serviced with loans. By 2015, we hope to have reached more than 35,000 unique customers across the country and to have increased the average value of our loans by more than 150%. And that’s only the start of it. With a credit drought plaguing the Myanmar farmers who make up 80% of the total population and receive a paltry 0.4% of the credit, the demand for crop loans is seemingly infinite. 


    Hello New Logo!



    When we started back in 2004, we were just selling pumps. Yetagon is the Myanmar word for waterfall, and it has strong connotations of prosperity. As our products are designed to make our customers more prosperous, and pumps pump water, we called the brand Yetagon, and we gave it a logo that looked industrial, strong, and kind of like a waterfall.

    Then, as the years went by, we added more and more services - farm advisory services, solar lights and product financing - but the logo really only made it's way on to products, and the name stuck there too. That was no good. Our new services weren't benefiting from the trusted brand associated with our products, and our different teams were seen to be operating as separate entities. We wanted a way of unifying everything under the Yetagon name, while still maintaining each team's individuality.

    So, we turned to our friends at Tomorrow Partners advertising agency and asked them to help us come up with a strategy. We showed different versions of the design ideas to real customers for feedback and we eventually made a choice. The final version is shown above. It still looks industrial. It's still quite strong. It's still kind of like a waterfall, if you're artistically inclined. There's a green logo for our irrigation products (as crops are mostly green. If you irrigate them right), there's a red one for rural energy (as the sun's red. it is. don't look, you'll blind yourself), there's a purple one for product financing (as purple is typically associated with wealth and opulence), and a gold one for farm advisory services (like the color of a healthy, well-ripened rice field). They make sense. And they look cool too.

    We revealed the logo change at our season launch meeting and, although no one fell off their chair in exhilaration, there was an excited whisper in the hall and one of the demos from the Ayeyarwady region said "I can't wait for this year’s t-shirts”. We’ll take it.


    The Schwab Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2012

    On September 10th, at the World Economic Forum in Beijing, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced Proximity Designs as an awardee of their prestigious Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2012!

    Selected out of over 1,000 applicants as one of twenty-six awardees, we are the first ever organization from Myanmar to be invited to join their community of 225 social enterprises, representing 70 countries around the world.

    Jim Taylor and Debbie Aung Din, Proximity's co-founders, travelled to Tianjin to collect the award at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions on Tuesday 11th, and we'll hopefully have some photos soon.

    Hilde Schwab, the Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, who will present the award, said of the awardees

     “The 2012 awardees are successfully mobilizing a range of actors, including governments and corporations, to effectively address urgent social and environmental challenges. It is a testament to their impact – and to the efforts of thousands of other social entrepreneurs – that social innovation is becoming a priority for decision-makers at the most senior levels.”

    We’re incredibly proud to have been selected, and the announcement couldn't have come at a better time, as we launch in to our ninth season and the sales of our most innovative products yet.

    We hope you will join us in celebrating this award, and raising a glass to another successful year of helping rural families here in Myanmar! 


    1000 Words: Getting Wetter in the Dry Zone


    1000 Words: Monsoon season style.

    Hat? Check.

    Rainjacket? Check.

    Barefeet? Check.

    These ladies demonstrate the only sensible way to dress during the humid, but waterlogged monsoon: skirts hitched high, troublesome sure-to-get-stuck-in-the-mud-anyway sandals ditched and a widebrimmed hat. Bring it on!