Small loans change lives, and now they can build a sustainable future through green businesses.
Small loans can make a huge difference for those living in poverty. It’s well researched and understood that helping to kickstart and support a business can break the cycle of poverty – for good. But as our climate continues to change, the factors that make a business sustainable has shifted, and Opportunity’s program partners are adapting to assist families across Asia pioneer financially and environmentally sustainable businesses that will thrive well into the future.
Getreda relies on collecting firewood to earn an income. A small loan helps her meet her children’s daily needs, but with deforestation becoming an increasing concern, her income may be placed at risk. © Sara Bolst
A pilot project, run by program partner Cashpor, is working with our established microfinance clients to take part in reforestation projects across the state of Uttar Pradesh in India’s north. The Green Micro Credit program provides families with two saplings to plant, tend to, and if desired, harvest, while they establish their own businesses through small loans. Throughout the process, families receive training and support from the Forest Research Centre of Eco-Rehabilitation, who are able to monitor the plants’ growth and assess the effects of reforestation on local ecosystems. On completion of the program, families are eligible to receive a small grant to provide for the costs associated with maintaining the mature plant.
How planting trees makes a difference
- Findings of the project found that about 60% of plants survived, which is considered a good survival rate for the conditions
- Assessments of the carbon impact of the program found that the planted trees had the potential to absorb as much as 54,744 kg of carbon dioxide from the environment over the course of 30 years; about 882 kg annually
- The 400 families participating in the project to completion, were able to increase their savings and everyday costs due to the program, along with grants and other additional support.
The symbolic nature of sitting under the shade of one’s tree is not lost on the team at Cashpor, who have highlighted that mature trees and rich soil are effective methods to raising a family’s social status and inclusion. More than carbon sequestration, the process of nurturing the saplings and having access to shade, produce and hardwood such as teak, opportunities to generate multiple income streams are opened, helping to move families out of poverty.
For farming families, green loans are not only critical for their crop yields, but also for their future. © Sara Bolst
The application of microfinance to promote financial sustainability and social inclusion, and to also embrace environmental sustainability, is critical.
Across India, the capping or outright banning of autorickshaws, a rickshaw powered by a scooter, brings into stark relief the need to provide ‘green’ solutions for families facing the threat of being pushed back further into poverty.
While once wandering through cities like Mumbai and Delhi would leave your heart racing from dodging autorickshaws, the combination of COVID-19 and pressure to lower carbon emissions has left the streets of India’s major cities sparsely dotted with the green and yellow icons. As both state and federal governments in India continue to increase bans and caps on the numbers of vehicles allowed in cities, our program partners are helping businesses owners facing closure adapt to sustainable methods, or kickstart a new business.
Additionally, some partners plan to expand their Green Micro Credit loans, allowing workers to pivot to a more sustainable occupation that will support themselves and their families for years to come.
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