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 train and support over 4,000 farmers in the region, connecting them to resources and coffee cooperatives both throughout and beyond the Zone. In addition, we provide financial services and EduQuality services to seven 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 is piloting a new Gemena Opportunity Zone in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through a new branch in the region, Opportunity will provide financial services to the community and help connect farmers in Gemena to financial services and agricultural best practices, helping them improve their yields and increase their incomes. We are also focused on promoting women-focused products and services to engage more female famers, enhancing their decision-making power on their farms and within their households.
Our partners at Congo Leadership Initiative (CLI) are providing leadership and business training to young people in Gemena, helping them launch youth partnership businesses.
Training for Agribusinesses
In addition to financial services and support, Opportunity trains rural entrepreneurs in financial literacy and business management, including digitizing important paperwork, budgeting, and business forecasting. These valuable business skills help agribusinesses strengthen their operations and sustainability, equipping them to better serve farmers.
Strengthening Agricultural Systems
Opportunity International is growing its data collection to better understand farmers' preferences and behavior. Farmer profiles, which are collected digitally by Farmer Support Agents, provide information on the types of crops grown in rural regions, the inputs and suppliers used by farmers, average yields, potential yields, offtakers or processors used, household demographics, market accessibility, mobile phone ownership, and financial history. This information will help financial institutions and agribusinesses identify areas for growth and strengthen agricultural systems.