SUCCESS STORY OF RAFIA ISMAIL

MICROFINANCE & SMES-WAY OUT OF ECONOMIC RECESSION

AMANULLAH BASHAR
Mar 9 - 15, 2009

Rafia is a 27-year-old mother of three kids and her husband living a content life in Baldia town. Though life may be good today, the same could not have been said about Raffia a few years ago when circumstances called for her to come to the forefront and become the main breadwinner of the family.

The success story of Rafia in fact is a silver lining and hope, giving example both for those working in microfinance or SMEs as well as the less fortunate people. Things can give a bright look with a strong will and commitment to face the challenges the nation is facing today. Why we cannot produce Grameen Bank like characters in Pakistan?

Before hearing about Khushhali Bank and availing the opportunity of taking a loan Raffia used to stitch clothes day and night in order to help in the household and make both ends meet. Unfortunately, no matter what she did she was unable to generate sufficient income to afford the basic amenities of life. Raffia knew that she was capable of doing much more and that there was potential for her to increase significantly her earnings.

The only obstacle facing her was the fact that she had no earnings/savings to invest in another machine, which would enable her to start her own embroidery shop and a training centre where she could impart art of embroidery to other women against a small fee. This was all made possible after she got the money required for the initial funding from Khushhali Bank.

Today her vision has translated into reality and she now runs a centre where she teaches around 25 women how to stitch and do embroidery. The progress Raffia has made is commendable; she is a perfect example of an empowered woman, who has made something of herself and contrary to common belief proved that, women can do anything and everything.

She feels pride in what she does and balances her life in a way that serves justice to all, it was an uphill task, but Raffia handled it with grace. Today, she takes care of her family emotionally as well as financially and at the same time she runs her own centre on a small scale, fulfills orders of embroidered clothes, and sells them to shops. Apart from this, she also owns a shop, which her husband runs, as she keeps busy at the centre that has been set-up at her place.

Raffia has repaid all previous loans given to her by Khushhali Bank and applied for another, with new plans of selling ready-made embroidered clothes through a boutique. She is currently in the third loan cycle and is paying her installments on time and with ease. Her business is also expanding and progressing well. She is grateful to all microfinance institutions (MFIs) that lend money to the poor so that they can benefit from hard work and become bread earners for their families.

The above case study is a revelation for many of us and tells us a story of despair, hard work and the fruit that a little awareness and commitment bears. It is true that a helping hand sometimes goes a long way and in the case of microfinance institutions, it surely makes a huge difference and touches many lives, the lives of people whose desperate cries and prayers are answered in the form of micro-credit. Despite all odds, Raffia overcame her financial problems and defeated poverty and starvation to emerge as a winner.

FAST TRACK ACCESS TO CREDIT

The State Bank of Pakistan is launching a Special Pilot Project in Sindh from the current Kharif season to improve the availability of agricultural credit to the farmers on fast track basis.

According to State Bank Governor, Syed Salim Raza the Pilot Project will initially be launched in seven agro intensive districts of Sindh including Hyderabad, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas, Larkana, Sanghar, Nawabshah, and Khairpur. He said that the project, which will be launched from 15th March, would be participated by 13 different banks having agriculture-designated branches in these districts. He said that SBP's Pilot Project will help to increase outreach of agro credit to underserved areas of Sindh and added that the banks are meeting 47 percent of the total credit requirement of farmers. The rest is met through informal resources.

During July-January 2008-09, commercial banks have disbursed Rs 117 billion against the full-year target of Rs 250 billion. The disbursement is higher by Rs 12 billion than the disbursements of Rs 105 billion in the same period last year. He said that major chunk of the credit i.e. Rs 81 billion or 70 percent was availed by farm sector mainly for production purposes whereas share of non-farm sector has also increased by Rs 8 billion during the period under review.

The share of subsistence holding farmers (small farmers) in agro loans disbursement has increased to Rs 51 billion or 64 percent from Rs 46 billion during July 2008 to January 2009. Similarly, for economic holding farmers the share has risen to 18 billion or 23 percent from Rs 17 billion or 22 percent whereas the share of above economic holding farmers reduced to Rs 11 billion or 14 percent from Rs 14 billion or 18 percent.

The non-performing agro loans have declined to 17 percent in Dec 2008 from 20 percent in Dec 2007 because of improved overall recovery rate of 76 percent in Dec 2008 from 71 percent in Dec 2007.

Because of the trend of uneven geographical distribution of agro credit, the SBP Governor urged upon the commercial banks and other stakeholders to work in close liaison to improve the agricultural credit outreach in the country.

It may be pointed out that under the Special Pilot Project, the banks have posted Agri Finance Officers/Mobile Credit Officers in their agro-designated branches and have set branch specific loan disbursement targets in the agro intensive districts of Sindh. The local branch managers and Regional Heads will be responsible for achievement of their targets.