Agro Micro Finance boosts SME growth
Agro Micro Finance (AMF) has been leading in bringing much growth for small and medium entrepreneurs providing loans to commence business prospects in various fields in the agriculture industry.
A. Sunimal Jayantha started with just one cement bag and earned Rs.1000 to Rs.2000 a week making flower pots before receiving a loan from Agro Micro Finance (AMF) in Chilaw and now earns up to Rs.60,000 a week.
“Most of it goes for raw materials and transport costs but I am able to save a considerable amount for my family,” he explained adding that the he managed to extend his knowledge after obtaining an opportunity to go to Thailand on the Agromart Farmer Awareness Study Tour.
AMF whose vision is to create a prosperous community devoid of poverty provides loans to rural communities in seven districts including Galle, Matara, Ambalantota, Monaragala, Kurunegala and Ampara at a 28 percent interest rate a year which has gone down to 18 percent, and 70 percent of their entrepreneurs are women.
AMF President S. W. Kiriarachchi of Chilaw said that starting from Rs.5000 their loans go up to Rs.200, 000 depending on the need and the reliability of the client. “We not only give loans for agriculture but also for animal husbandry and grocery stores; we are in no way limited but go according to what people need.”
Starting up in 2000 they had an Rs.26 million portfolio which has risen up to Rs.101 million, showing that the programme has indeed been a success. “We work with societies under whom groups work, thus with group pressure no one can actually go without repaying their loans,” Kiriarachchi explained adding that before the loan is given training is given as well.
Sunimal who runs ‘Sunala Products’ on that same training now specializes in cement pillars, park benches and sculptures as well. “I began after seeing my brother’s business in Athurugiriya. Then I joined Agromart and I first received a loan of Rs.15, 000 and in recent times I received a Rs.100, 000 loan again recently,” he said.
Saying that it was quite difficult at first but now with the profit he earns the only thing lacking in his house he smiles, is a vehicle.
Another success story in medium enterprise is S. S. Chandrasekara, a 65-year-old woman who is making it on her own. Dairy Farming and livestock which she acquired through three loans of Rs.50, 000 from Agromart over the past few years.
“I just had one cow for my personal needs and then decided to take it further by starting up my own farm,” she said adding that she too received a chance of touring Thailand and learning new techniques as well.
“Now I am able to get 50 litres a day and we give it to Milco for a considerable profit,” she said adding that they sell a litre for about Rs.30. Furthermore, Chandrasekara grows her own CO3 grass and uses cow dung as biogas to cook her food.
“Also some of the dung which goes to waste she uses as carbonic fertilizer for my agriculture products,” she said adding that rearing a flock of goats is another thing she does with her profit.
Tourism for the environmentally responsible
The stunning architecture of Kandalama Hotel has been described as Geoffrey Bawa’s ‘best expression.’ Testifying to the genius of the man, Prema Cooray recollects his first impressions of the site, “When I landed by helicopter with Geoffrey Bawa, I couldn’t imagine how you could even build a house there.”
The process of building the hotel was accompanied by unprecedented protests. “Environmentalists took us to task,” says Cooray, a former chairman of Aitken Spence. “But we managed to survive the onslaught of protests that came in from NGOs, environmentalists and even the Opposition - and built this hotel. There were more than 600 newspaper articles during that controversy.” Cooray is writing a book about his experiences with Kandalama, which is expected to be on the shelves in about a year’s time.
The Sinharaja rainforest project, of which Cooray is Chairman, is an extension of the vision to take nature tourism forward. A world class eco-lodge is being put up, which will adopt best practices in planning and construction, materials used and preservation of environment. The eco-lodge is being designed by international experts and will have a canopy walk at the treetop level. There will also be a research facility for 30 scientists.
Competitors in the tourism industry – Aitken Spence, John Keells, Jetwing and Hemas - have joined forces to invest in this venture. “USAID is chipping in with a grant of US$ 900,000 for the environmental side,” noted Cooray.