Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Guest blog | A lender's experience meeting Lendwithcare entrepreneurs

Lendwithcare has recently lent £10 million to entrepreneurs across the world, and to celebrate, we are offering one lucky lender the chance to win a trip to Zambia to meet Lendwithcare entrepreneurs, and see the difference their loans have made.

Long-standing lender Gary Nicol shares his experience of when he met Lendwithcare entrepreneurs, by taking part in CARE's Vietnam to Cambodia cycle challenge:

"I've just had my fiftieth Lendwithcare loan fully repaid this month. That's 50 entrepreneurs from 11 different countries that have successfully used those loans to buy products to stock their shops, acquire more land to grow their crops, rear more chickens and pigs to sell at market, as well as all sorts of other activities that are enabling them to work their way out of poverty.

One of those entrepreneurs was Chenda Yoeurng, a farmer in Cambodia, who I was lucky enough to meet when I took part in a CARE International UK cycle challenge through Vietnam and Cambodia in February last year. Chenda and his family wanted a loan to buy another plot of land to grow more rice, which would double their farming capacity.
Chenda Yoeurng, directing us to the field where his mother was working

Chenda was a bit shy when we arrived and so directed us all to the field across the road where his mother was working. As we walked along the edge of the crops we could see large sacks of soya beans that had already been harvested, and figures crouching down in the afternoon sun picking more beans from the rows of plants.

Soya bean field
Chenda’s mother saw us approaching and, recognising the gentlemen accompanying us from CCSF (the local MFI that arranged the loan), came over to greet us with a big smile.

Chenda Yoeurng’s  mother
After a quick explanation as to why 11 strange cyclists were suddenly in her field, she was more than happy to talk to us. She explained that the whole family work on the farm from sunrise to sunset, but they also hire people to help harvest the beans, for which they pay around $6 a day. It was great to see first-hand what those “Family members helped” and “Jobs created” numbers on our Lendwithcare account screen actually mean in practice. More land means more crops, so there’s more work to harvest them, which means more jobs are created.

They’d decided to grow soya this year because the yields from the watermelon crop the previous year hadn’t been very good. They’d also used some of the loan to purchase insecticide, as otherwise the crops would be eaten by pests. Just standing in the field for a short time it was apparent how much of a problem these were. The family were harvesting from different parts of the field every fortnight, and the beans were sold at market to be processed into soy sauce.

Some of the harvested soya beans

She also went on to explain that as well the loan from CCSF, they also use their savings facilities. This is something we’d learnt about earlier when visiting the CCSF offices, and is an important factor that Lendwithcare considers when selecting MFI partners. As lenders we only see the loans but the entrepreneurs are also encouraged to build up savings too. Whilst the savings might not be enough to cover the larger capital outlays we typically see for loans, they can help families deal with unexpected events or expenses. CCSF even have an added incentive to save with a monthly draw where savers can win a sum of money; something that reminded me of our Premium Bonds scheme in the UK.

Learning about the services at the CCSF offices
Chenda’s mother finished by emphasising what a difference the loan had made, and that she didn’t believe they would have had such a good crop without it. They were planning to use some of the money they would receive from selling the soy beans to build up their savings further.

Being able to visit an entrepreneur and hear first-hand the positive impact it has been for them was a real privilege, and for me the highlight of the whole cycle challenge. That’s why I’m going to be taking part in the next cycle challenge through Laos and Cambodia this coming November, and if you’re quick there are still a few places left if you want to come along too!

Alternatively, until the end of August you have the chance of winning a trip to visit entrepreneurs in Zambia. It really is an incredible opportunity to see first-hand the difference your loans make, and an experience I thoroughly recommend."

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