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The Rupununi Innovation Fund – helping small enterprises in Guyana’s Rupununi

Emily sharing some of her produce. Photo Author Filippo Berardi

 

Meet Emily and her husband Muacir. They have a small farm, about one acre, in the south of Guyana’s Rupununi in Region 9—a beautiful, diverse, and remote area of the country that contains both savannah and rainforest. Emily and Muacir plant a variety of crops including bananas, peppers, pumpkins and the important staple: cassava. To get to their farm, they must travel over 8 miles via a very dusty and unforgiving trail. They usually use a bicycle; and sometimes a motorcycle when they are able to borrow one. Thinking about the air conditioned, off road SUV that transported me to their farm, I was pretty sure I couldn’t make 2 miles on the trail in that temperature, much less 8 miles!

To ensure they are able to put in the required work, Emily and Muacir spend about 3-4 days at a time on their farmland, camping out in a nearby clearing. This is to also ensure there is no encroaching on their land by wayward neighbors. During the dry season, it is extremely difficult for them to get water for their farm as the nearby creek dries up and there is no other water source for miles. This results in the loss of crops and is a threat to their livelihood. You could see the pain and defeat in Emily’s eyes as she relates her story. They have long considered the need for a water well to ensure a constant supply of water, even during the dry season. With practically no options for financing such a venture, it was a dream that seemed destined to remain unfulfilled.

However, in March 2015, Emily and her husband were able to acquire a loan through the Rupununi Innovation Fund to develop their farmland for production and to install an irrigation system to provide water during the dry season. With the loan, Emily was able to provide short term employment to her fellow villagers who worked on the clearing of the farmland and readying it for production. Not only were Emily and Muacir catering to their own needs, they were providing economic opportunities for their community as well. Both Emily and her husband are excited about the prospect of having a consistent supply of water. Muacir has already identified a perfect spot for the well. A spot he identified using a traditional Indigenous method of using a branch from the guava tree which points to the location of subsurface water; the perfect location for a well. It’s one of those things you have to see it to believe it.

The Rupununi Innovation Fund is a US$300,000 revolving loan fund administered by the Guyana Bank for Trade & Industry. The Fund is one aspect of the Leveraging Natural Capital in Guyana’s Rupununi project executed by Conservation International Guyana with financing provided by the Multilateral Investment Fund. The Rupununi Innovation Fund provides loans to community based enterprises in the Rupununi at affordable rates to encourage the development of low carbon intensive forms of livelihoods. Since its inception in 2014, the Rupununi Innovation Fund has provided over US$25,000 in loans to 9 community based enterprises with an additional US$45,000 under review for approval. To date, there has been a 0% default rate; an important indicator for the success of the revolving fund. The Technical Project Coordinator attributes this to the project team’s support in building the capacity of the enterprises throughout the entire loan application process. The team provides support to the enterprises in preparing the necessary documents for submission to the bank. This includes realistic cash flow projections that enable the entrepreneurs to determine their capacity to service the loan.

Having already worked with her local women’s group to acquire a loan under the Rupununi Innovation Fund, Emily said that she found the process a lot less daunting the second time around. She has become a spokesperson of sorts for the Fund, encouraging other farmers to tackle some of the challenges they are experiencing as well. After completing the irrigation system, Emily’s next goal is to tackle the issue of transporting produce to the various markets. She is already thinking of the next investment in her business.

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Emily discussing some of her challenges with Climate Change Specialist Filippo Berardi. Photo Author Filippo Berardi

 

 

 

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    Vashtie Dookiesingh
    September 30, 2015 Reply

    A very insightful and personalized portrayal insight at how large projects translate to catalyze change and improve lives for persons in remote and forgotten locations.

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