As Opportunity International looked at the communities we served, we repeatedly saw the same challenges playing out. There weren't singular problems, but rather, a series of needs that compounded upon one another. Parents struggled to earn sustainable incomes, which meant that they didn't have enough money to send their children to school. Local infrastructure was lacking so farmers couldn't get their products to market, which meant they had to sell them at a reduced cost to whatever buyer they could find, which lowered their revenue. Families who were already struggling to put food on the table also lacked access to clean water and healthcare.
In 2018, we recognized the potential in bringing together our high-impact programs—Education Finance, microbusiness support and training, and Agriculture Finance—into the same areas to establish Opportunity Zones.
Opportunity Zones allow us to do what we do best: provide comprehensive services for the families we serve. This innovative, integrated approach leverages Opportunity's proven programs, combining increased incomes and jobs for parents with quality education for children, to accelerate the pace at which families and communities can escape extreme poverty.
Opportunity Zones in Action
Opportunity International launched the Mityana Opportunity Zone in Uganda, where we have trained and supported nearly 30,000 farmers in the region, teaching them best practices and connecting them to resources and coffee cooperatives both throughout and beyond the Zone. In addition, we provide financial services and EduQuality services to 39 schools in the Zone, equipping school leaders to learn from both education specialists and one another.
Opportunity is working with partners to develop credit products and savings to reach the youth of the Mityana Zone. We are working on setting up farmer field schools, where youth can access group savings and loans facilities, receive training on agronomy and financial literacy, and learn through demonstration plots.
In addition, Opportunity International launched an Opportunity Zone in Colombia, intentionally bringing together flagship programs like savings groups, education, and mircrobanking in a geographical region with a large population of people living in extreme poverty.
In the Cartagena Zone in 2022, Opportunity helped form 351 savings groups, helping over 5,000 people learn financial litearcy, build their financial footing, and receive peer support. In addition, 34 affordable private schools participated in our EduQuality program, two financial partners now serve local women entrepreneurs in the region with business growth loans and zero-cost digital savings, and 250 families participated in our inaugural Graduation Model program, a holistic initiative designed to serve those living in the most extreme forms of poverty.