FINCA Programs Advance Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for all. These 17 global goals address a range of critical challenges, from ending poverty and hunger to ensuring clean water and sanitation, affordable and green energy, quality education, and more. Many global NGOs are working to advance Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This week’s United Nations General Assembly session highlights the urgent need to put the 17 SDGs back on track. With a mission to alleviate poverty through sustainable and scalable solutions, FINCA has aligned its efforts with 14 out of the 17 SDGs.

Collectively, FINCA programs and partnerships have an impact on the lives of over 10 million people around the world. An active presence in the world’s economically disadvantaged regions is enabling a pathway out of poverty for women entrepreneurs, smallholder farmers, and families on the margin. For almost 40 years, FINCA has been leading efforts to alleviate poverty in 55 countries around the world. To mark the UN 78th session, here is an overview of how FINCA advances four UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Solutions to Adapt to the Effects of Climate Change (SDG 13: Climate Action)

Since 1980, there has been an 8-fold increase in the number of natural disasters in low-income countries. Some experts warn that climate change will push up to 130 million people into poverty over the next decade. Extreme weather events, like the floods in Pakistan in 2022, are displacing low-income communities and destroying fragile infrastructure. In other parts of the world, like East Africa, recent droughts have reduced agricultural productivity and negatively impacted people’s health. 

Clearly, climate change is affecting people’s ability to break out of poverty. FINCA’s microfinance network is helping communities build resilience against its adverse impact. Innovative financial solutions help low-income households, women, and small businesses adapt to the effects of climate change. Recently, FINCA Tajikistan launched a low-interest Climate Resilience Loan that enables customers to invest in energy-efficient equipment like insulated greenhouses and drip irrigation systems. So far, 380 loans worth $900,000 have been disbursed, and 27% of loan recipients are women.

Similarly, FINCA Ventures invests in companies that propagate climate-smart practices. One of these partners is Chanzi. Based in Tanzania, Chanzi produces animal feed and plant fertilizer from sustainable sources. Their process uses black soldier fly larvae that eat household food scraps and agricultural waste products. Ultimately, these insects become a sustainable protein source for animals like chickens and livestock. A by-product of this process is also sold as organic fertilizer.

Chanzi staff at a facility in Tanzania

Chanzi buys organic waste to feed the flies. In doing so, Chanzi diverts waste away from landfills and reduces methane emissions. Also, the larvae are a cheaper and cleaner alternative to soya and fish for food producers in East Africa.

FINCA’s climate strategy is focused on climate adaptation, helping customers maintain financial health and supporting social enterprises (like Chanzi) that are adjusting to expected climate impacts. Ultimately, FINCA programs advance Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by helping communities manage their risks and quickly recover from looming climate shocks. 

Helping People Overcome Poverty (SDG 1: No Poverty)

One of the most fundamental SDGs is to eradicate poverty in all its forms. Since 1984, FINCA has pioneered solutions for lifting communities out of poverty. Early on, Village Banking was an idea that was quickly put into action. It allowed the poor to obtain small loans without collateral at interest rates they could afford. Village Banking spread to many other parts of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa.

Mimie Mboyo is a member of a Village Bank in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She runs a small business importing agricultural products from neighboring Angola and selling for a profit to small businesses in Kinshasa. Mimie travels for two days to the border, where she buys a sack of rice for $12 and then resells it in Kinshasa for $20. Before joining the Village Bank, she did not have enough capital to make the trip worthwhile. However, with the backing of her Village Bank, she borrowed $300 from FINCA in addition to her own savings to afford a truckload of products. She sold all her goods within a week and repaid her loan.

Mimie Mboyo is one of 12 members of a Village Bank in Kinshasa, DRC

Today, FINCA’s microfinance programs provide small loans and financial services to approximately 2.8 million customers in 17 countries. These capital injections are enabling low-income individuals and entrepreneurs to start or expand businesses. Increased economic activity is leading to higher incomes, job creation, and improved living standards, directly addressing SDG 1 and to advance Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Building Resilience Against Food Insecurity (SDG 2: Zero Hunger)

According to the World Food Programme, up to 783 million people go to bed hungry every night. Recent global supply chain shortages and inflation raised the price of wheat and essential goods, which continues to stress vulnerable communities. This is a global emergency which requires a coordinated response to enable more families to put food on their tables.

FINCA is contributing to this SDG by introducing agricultural loans. Some 80% of FINCA microfinance clients are self-employed or smallholder famers. This demographic represents significant percentage of the world’s poor. FINCA provides agriculture loans that are timed with the harvest cycle. This enables farmers to invest in seeds, fertilizer, and equipment when they need it and then repay the principal once revenue from harvest comes in. To reach remote rural areas, where roughly 40% of FINCA’s microfinance clients live, FINCA has been able to develop digital banking services. Watch this short video to see what life looks like for these farmers and how FINCA is supporting financial health in even the most rural communities.

Also, FINCA partners with local agricultural companies in sub-Saharan Africa. FINCA Ventures has invested in partners that are working to reduce the cost of food. One of these partners is NatureLock. Based in Kenya, NatureLock buys leftover produce from farmers and small vendors. The excess produce then goes through a food preservation process that retains nutrients. The preserved food is converted to affordable and nutritious packaged meals, called StewsDay. It is made from 100% fresh vegetables and is rich in vitamins and minerals.

NatureLock staff member sorting StewsDay packages in Kenya

Enabling Access to Education (SDG 4: Quality Education)

FINCA recognizes that education is a powerful tool for breaking the cycle of poverty. Access to quality education for children is among the top aspirations of FINCA microfinance clients. Unanimously, parents say they want to keep their children in school because they know education can give them a shot at a better life. One way that FINCA supports SDG 4 is by offering low-interest education loans. These loans help parents cover school fees and expenses, ensuring that their children have access to quality education, thus contributing to a more educated and skilled workforce.

Furthermore, FINCA is opening up education opportunities for vulnerable communities in Uganda. Recently, FINCA partnered with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to support early childhood development education centers for children under the age of 8. A grant of $500,000 will go towards funding quality early childhood education in Uganda, particularly in refugee-hosting locations.   

Access to education is critical to ending global poverty.

Additionally, FINCA Ventures invests in two educational enterprises, Eneza Education and Rising Academies. Recognizing the need to provide remote learning, Eneza Education is on a “mission to make 50 million African learners smarter.” It provides notes and learning materials through text messaging.  Rising Academies aims to promote quality K-9 education in Africa. The company provides an all-in-one digital school improvement solution, including curriculum and school management, to education providers for a subscription fee. It is serving over 300,000 students in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia, Uganda, and Rwanda.

FINCA’s commitment to ending global poverty aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Eradicating poverty, combating the effects of climate change, reducing food insecurity, and providing education are ways FINCA programs advance Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As FINCA continues to innovate and expand its reach, so will its impact on the SDGs.