This article is part of an ongoing series called Across Africa with Bitcoin, detailing the writer’s current journey in exploring financial inclusion through Bitcoin in multiple countries across Africa.
Bitcoin keeps changing lives around the world, and Africa is no exception. One of the difficult economic processes here in my continent is getting access to credit.
How do you have access to credit when you don’t even have a bank account? The answer is not far-fetched. The situation is worse when vulnerable people like the poor and women are involved.
According to the Zimbabwe Independent Newspaper, 73 percent of people living in rural Zimbabwe are poor. In fact, 30 percent of the above figure are food poor or extremely poor.
The reality is that most of these rural folks eke out a living tilling the land. A few are in fact, being able to mechanise their operations in other to make farming activities commercial.
This is where BitMari, a Zimbabwe-based organisation and the first black-owned Bitcoin startup founded by African-American Sinclair Skinner is making a great distinction in the lives of women farmers. Using Bitcoin, the organisation grant loans to rural women to raise crops, poultry and improve on farming methods.
BitMari has ten groups consisting of 10 women in each group dotted around the country. I drove 150 kilometres out of Harare to Hwedza on Friday to meet a group of women who are raising crops and chicken with the Bitcoin loan they received.
The leader of the group, Florence Chigudu explained to me at her farming cottage that without the Bitcoin loan life would have continued to be unbearable. “We would have still relied on the loan sharks who charge exorbitant interest”, Florence related to me in Shona, the widely spoken language in Zimbabwe. “In such a situation we are not able to make any profit at all”.
The Bitcoin loan project which is run in conjunction with the Women Farmers Land and Agriculture Trust (WFLAT) is packaged in such a way that, beneficiaries receive Bitcoin on their BitMari Wallet and they redeem it for inputs at selected suppliers.
Mrs. Phides Mazhawidza, President of WFLAT informed me they co-ordinate the farmers and assist them in improving their activities through a regular visit by an Agricultural extension officer. There is also a monthly meeting where evaluation is done. She was full of praises for the initiative and BitMari. She stated:
Prior to the Zimbabwe land reforms, women had no access to land but the reform ensured that 10 percent of land went to the women folk. After gaining access to land, the next headache was getting funds in order not to be stuck in peasant farming. This initiative is life changing for the 100 women, who are currently benefiting from the project. It is my hope more women in Zimbabwe would become part of this in the second phase.
From my interaction with the women, it came to light the current problem is markets and fair prices for their products. They live in far off areas and have no vehicles to transport their products to the nearby cities and towns.
“Middlemen with trucks come over here and rip us off with unfair prices. If we can get our products to markets in the cities, we’ll make a lot of profits”, Florence told yours sincerely.
I suggested to them the Blockchain can have a solution to this common problem which can be found almost everywhere in Africa. With the advent of mobile telephony that is awash in Africa, a software can be created on the Blockchain that can link farmers to buyers in their cities and across the world. Farmers could just download their products on the software on their cellphones and buyers could get in touch with them.
I think this project is very laudable and the global Cryptocurrency community should support BitMari to scale it. On the other hand, altcoins can also get involved in providing cheap loans in a way to get publicity for their coins.
More on BitMari this week. Kindly support the Across Africa With Bitcoin journey by sending some Satoshis: 1GZQhtC15GVkq3eWwNrwYz9BCfDd3MmMo5.
Images from Frisco d’Anconia for CCN.