Farmers in rural regions of Kyrgyzstan often lack access to the banking system because of the remote areas in which they live. To support them, the USAID Agro Horizon project teamed up with Bai Tushum Bank, the First Microcredit Company (FMCC), and Kyrgyz Investment and Credit Bank (KICB), providing each with a grant to fund innovative ways of reaching farmers and agricultural processors.
The Agro Horizon project is a key part of USAID’s overall program to fast-track economic growth in Kyrgyzstan. By teaming up with local banks, the project will bring financial services to its more isolated beneficiaries. That means farmers will be able to improve their operations. The banks, in turn, will apply their grants to develop mobile technology, helping them reach a greater number of potential new clients.
Bai Tushum Bank will implement a one-year project focused on value chain financing using banking software. Through a mobile application, farmers can make transactions without having to travel long distances to bank offices. They can make payments to suppliers of goods, such as livestock feed and fertilizer, and services. The banks can also lend to entrepreneurs in remote areas. These entrepreneurs can apply for and repay loans—all through the mobile app.
Bai Tushum Bank plans to identify five partners to offer financing across several value chains, including dairy and meat, and connect producers, processors, and consumers. By 2018, the bank expects to finance farmers for US$750,000, increasing the amount of financing available to small- and medium-sized enterprises by up to six times.
With support from the Agro Horizon project, the bank also intends to train its agents and customers on how to use mobile banking, e-wallets, and payment terminals, or devices used to swipe payment cards and transfer funds electronically.
“Digital technologies open the door for farmers to access finance by providing fast, reliable, and transparent lending. This will, in turn, reduce operating costs and, in partnership with USAID, we are catalyzing development of the agricultural sector.”— Omuraliev Talantbek, KICB chief retail officer
KICB will implement Elsom, an e-wallet software for mobile devices that offers a cashless option to make transactions more convenient and secure. Elsom works on all models of mobile phones and without an internet or Wi-Fi connection. Farmers can make quick deposits using Elsom and accept additional income using payment terminals. They can also make instant cash transfers and receive and replay loans at any hour on a mobile device. The bank expects to lend to 300 Kyrgyz farmers through Elsom, improving the living standards of many in the region.
FMCC may be the largest microfinance provider offering loans to farmers in mountainous regions, but those loans all occur on paper. With support from Agro Horizon, FMCC will digitize the process, making it cost effective for the bank and farmers, who no longer have to drive long distances to reach the nearest branch.
With each partnership, more funding opportunities will mean more jobs in private enterprises, cooperatives, trade associations, and more.