Economic Empowerment

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PCI: Providing the foundation for economic opportunity

More Income, Less Poverty
Before PCI, Nicaraguan farmers like German Centeno had 8.7 acres for planting corn but little or no potable water and lacked knowledge of soil and water conservation techniques. Three years after PCI began working with farmers in his community, German diversified his production to include vegetables and plantain and began using 1.75 acres of his land to raise a cow. Through training from PCI staff, German was able to establish barriers, plant trees and build fences to avoid erosion, and construct a water stand. Because of his increased income from these improvements, he hopes to buy another acre to expand his farm. German is just one of over 1,500 small farming families throughout 74 communities in Nicaragua that have benefited from PCI’s assistance. Participating farmers have increased their income on average by more than 10%, and PCI contributed to a 51% reduction in the number of families living in extreme poverty.

Building Skills to Pay the Bills

In Bolivia’s hard terrain and high altitudes, llamas tend to serve as a family’s greatest asset. Not only do llamas provide nutritional milk and meat, their wool is used for clothing to protect against the elements. PCI’s agribusiness interventions are providing Bolivian llama farmers the training and skills needed to increase llama production and the sale and commercialization of llama by-products, such as leather purses and briefcases, fresh and preserved meats (including sausages and salamis), llama fiber (wool) clothing, and finished handicrafts. In 2009, participating llama farmers increased their average annual income by an impressive 29%.

Small Loans Making a Big Difference

In 2006, PCI started its first-ever microfinance institution, Planned Social Concern (PSC), in rural Rajasthan, India. PCI began PSC with a very small “seed capital” loan from the Grameen Trust of Bangladesh and, over time, significant amounts of donated capital from a group of San Diego-area private supporters known collectively as the “Jaipur Investors.” PSC is now a sustainable, pro-poor bank that has loaned more than US$2,300,000 to over 10,000 women entrepreneurs, including nearly 4,000 women over the past 12 months, leading to growth in local businesses, household incomes, and the health and well-being of participating families.

In 2006, PCI-Ethiopia and PCI-Zambia sought to assist vulnerable households with a sustainable strategy to support women and safeguard the wellbeing of children. Each country team identified and began working with different savings-led economic empowerment strategies adapted from programs that had been implemented in the Asia region. Both of these programs were deemed to be successful, and by bringing staff together from the two countries in 2008, PCI was able to merge the best practices of these programs, developing the Grass Roots building Our Wealth (GROW) initiative. GROW helps to break the negative cycle of poverty and helplessness by empowering women to mobilize themselves into savings groups of 15-25 participants.  Over a 6 to 9 month period, these groups begin to develop trust, loyalty and a pool of funds from which they can begin to offer loans, with interest, to other members of the group from their own pooled savings.

Going Beyond ‘Teaching a Man to Fish’

Bridging knowledge, technology, and resource gaps between small farmers and commercial fish enterprises, PCI is training local men and women from communities in the southern Zomba River basin region in Malawi how to improve the production and commercialization of pond-raised fish. By providing small scale, low-income producers with training, improved feeds, fish fingerlings, and access to credit, PCI is helping farmers increase their production, income, and food security. The participating farmers who completed a grow cycle in 2009 sold a total of 1,634 kg of fish at an average price of MK503/kg (204% higher than the baseline price) at markets in Zomba, Chiradzulu and Mwanza districts.

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