Laval Yau, our B4T Developer in East Asia Pacific, heard about a group of Christian paddy farmers, who were depressed and in despair. He took the long journey by boat to their village and began to probe. The village was in disrepair. A spirit of gloom seemed to hang over the people and there were few smiles. Even the children seemed subdued and listless. As Laval dug into the problem he found that all of the farmers were in debt to loan sharks. These predators charge a minimum of 100% interest a year on any loan, and often more. People borrow for various reasons – from medical emergencies, to buy food to eat, to the repair of a roof devastated by storms.
Their houses were dilapidated, the Church building was falling down, and pathways were overgrown. The result of falling into the grip of loan sharks is always the same, a downward spiral into more debt. This were exacerbated the situation for the farmers by selling their rice immediately on harvest, or even before. This leads to them getting lower prices for their harvests, but they had to do it in order to pay off the interest of their loans.
Laval asked if they were interested to try to find a way out of debt through business, and of course they were! But they did not expressed a lot of hope. They worked together through the issues and began to put together a business plan, which involved:
- a loan from a B4T Investor for US $26,000 at reasonable interest;
- immediate repayment of loan shark loans;
- a rice bank to store rice after harvest until the price was at a premium; and
- a rice harvester.
Within two years their situation had changed dramatically after two investors loaned them the money. The Church was repaired and their houses were looking respectable again. There was a new spirit of hope sprang and two farmers started growing rice as seed for the Government at higher prices. Later on Laval gave an even better report on their situation:
- The yield of the paddy farmers has now nearly doubled from 40-50 baskets per acre to 70-80 baskets. Praise be to God!
- There is now a new dining hall.
- A wall is being built around the school.
- The church will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2025 and a much needed new church building is being planned. Currently some 400 people attend worship service every Sunday.
- The church continues to subsidize the school system as the government funding is insufficient for the 200 kids attending the primary school.
- There are now 20 farmers involved.
- The investment money is reinvested in other businesses.