Lockdown Impact on farmers and livestock owners
Regrow is our agriculture product and for the pilot, we partnered with Mahila Sahayatra Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha, microfinance. This microfinance has borrowers mainly from farming households, livestock, and animal husbandry owners. Since the Nepal Government announced lockdown, the borrowers haven’t been able to go from district to district for a market to sell/buy. Their livelihood is in danger and are under debt they are not able to pay.
At this crucial time, they aren’t even getting a market for their product and their income source is almost nothing right now. For food supplies, these farmers rely on their production. Farming, which used to be their main source of income has now become useful just for their sustenance. Other than this, for covering small expenses one woman farmer quoted that, “apart from welding iron utensils, we earn from farming and working as a laborer in other farms. So somehow, I am managing to repay the loan from the earnings from welding iron for now.”
One farmer shared that the peas harvested in this season went to waste because normally, before the lockdown the collectors would come and collect it from the farm. Because of the lockdown, it’s not possible to sell even in their local market because their product is greater than the market demand. As a result, the wastage of pea cost each farmer NPR. 30,000-50,000. For the livestock and animal husbandry as well, the scenario is the same, neither they can sell their products nor they can buy due to no cash flow. Normally, farmers and livestock owners would re-pay their loan through this but sadly they aren’t able to do that right now.
For farmers and livestock owners suffering from numerous problems including loan re-payment, Aloi Private Limited has built a system that can monitor financial transactions to ensure that the funds have been used for the intended purpose. Most of the time what happens is these people take up loans initially for their occupational purpose but they end up using it for their household expenditure. To track these funds we link the recipient of funds with the vendors they will spend the funds on. For example; if we provide a digital token loan to Ram, a farmer then he can only use that token loan to buy goods and services like seeds, fertilizers, or agriculture skill training. The restriction isn’t bound to how much or when he spends it on but the restriction is on if he spends the token loan for his intended purpose or not. This solves a major issue of tracking funds. This will help farmers like Ram to spend their loans wisely for a greater return rather than general expenses.
As phones are easily accessible to farmers and livestock owners, we have used SMS as token loans. SMS is easier to operate for taking and processing loans with less or no requirement of mobility. These farmers use SMS to request token loans from Regrow system likewise, it is used by the farmer to pay our registered vendor for the payment of the purchased goods. Later on, the vendor then redeems the token loan through our partnered microfinance. This will be a huge help for faster transaction processing in times of crisis like COVID-19 where mobility is restricted.
Our technology helps in providing accessible and affordable financial services to support these farmers and livestock owners with utmost inclusivity of borrowers regardless of gender or any other social status. The trackable digitized loan helps them gain credibility in taking up loans that usually isn’t trusted by lenders (microfinance). During this pandemic, many people aren’t able to pay off their loans so by monitoring we are reducing the lending risks for microfinance and ultimately moving towards lower interest rates. This benefits both parties; the borrowers and the microfinance organization.