DARSFIELD INVESTMENT TRUST (Darstrust)- a microfinancing Program

Darsfield Investment Trust (Darstrust) a subsidiary of Darsfield EarthCare & Farm-Tech Foundation (Darsfoundation) was incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the Republic of Ghana in 2008. Darstrust is headquartered in Accra the capital of Ghana. The organization was formed with the purpose of providing social and financial solutions to the poor. This business plan provides a rational framework for this microfinance subsidiary of Darsfoundation. The Company was founded by Edem Kodjo Shine and actively managing the company. Darstrust has already started a micro lending pilot project in rural communities and has scheduled to roll it out to 2000 families in Awutu Breku, Coaltar, Koforidua, Labo Labo, Anum-Bosso, Pampamsu (underserved area in Eastern Region) and Agbozume, Srohume, Klikor and Agbodokope (underserved area in Volta Region), by the end of 2013, in collaboration with other stakeholders The pilot project involved 100 families so this expansion of financial intervention services will require more capital hence a need for more financial partners/ investors.

The Darstrust intends to use Grameen Bank model, developed by Nobel Peace Award winner, Muhammad Yunus. Darstrust intends to reach out to 10,000 poor families in Ghana with microloans in the next five years in Agbozume & Aflao- Ketu South, Akwapim South & Asougyaman, Akutiakrom- Coaltar and Ho. Achieving this goal Darstrust will expand its business in 2016 to Volta, from Eastern Region. Darsfoundation management philosophy is to gain self- sufficiency within five years.

In Ghana, the problems in financing small firms have significantly hindered the role these small-scale enterprises play in the overall macroeconomic performance of the Ghanaian economy. Access to finance has been identified as a dominant constraint facing the Ghanaian Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). Previous studies have identified a growing gap in the financial support offered to Ghanaian SMEs. The high interest rates, collateral requirements and the cumbersome processes have often been mentioned as the main impediments to SMEs’ access to bank loans in Ghana. Some problems faced by SMEs in accessing financing Schemes obtained from our survey are-

  • Lack of securable assets (Collateral)
  • Lack of knowledge by finance providers about applicant business
  • Do not meet eligibility criteria
  • Lack of knowledge by applicants business about lending criteria used by providers
  • Difficulty in finding out about available, suitable/ appropriate financial option or institute
  • Bureaucracy
  • Lack of financial performance track record of business loan seekers
  • High Interest rate

This project started in 2010 in partnership with Chapter 58 Trust- a local micro-financial institution in Accra. The funds were made available as a loan to Darsfoundation for Darsfoundation farming members & farmers associations. Our assistance comes in the form of:

  • Soft loan as working capitalization
  • Provision of Inputs/ Equipment
  • Hire purchasing of Equipment and machinery
  • Training and capacity building of Societies.

Micro Financing Schemes

Rural poverty is often community wide and livelihood systems are more vulnerable with food insecurity prevailing for virtually all community members during part of the year in the north.
In the north, women and the youths out migrate to the south in search of employment and the children are lodged with kinfolk during times of distress.

Although, the youths are neglected in all political arrangements, women have from certain economic reforms; they are still in a vulnerable socio- economic position. Women head one third or more of all households in the poorest group and continue to have less access to social services such as education, health-care, credit and technology; of major concern is the low enrolment status of girls at all levels of educational establishment.

Societies that were successful to assessing the loan from Darsfoundation were-
 Wli Todzi Norvisi Vegetable Farmers Association (Wli near Hohoe in Volta Region). This is purely vegetable farming groups, their intentions were to expand in the cultivation of the vegetables in the dry seasons. They intend to venture into collective group farming, where all members would partake in the activities of the project through harvest to sales.

 Adom Wo Wiem Vegetable Co-operative & Marketing Society (Pampamsu near Nsawam in Eastern Region). This is another vegetable farming group but the group needs the credit facility to purchase some water pumping machines and pipes for the dry season farming. This would aid in massive vegetable produce for exports and for the local markets.

 Wli/ Fodome Andoh Kente Weavers Association (Wli near Hohoe in Volta Region). This group is mainly wood carving & kente weaving society. The credit facility was aimed at purchasing produce materials for the weaving of more traditional clothing.

 World of Hope Women Farmers Association (Samsam- Odumase near Ga- West in Greater Accra Region). This society is made up of purely women farmers and women engaged in buying and processing raw cassava into gari. This group is educated on the concept of value chain. The credit facility was issued to them to buy more itemized materials for the production of finished product- gari.

Each society were given/ issued in the names of their society a cheque of one thousand Ghana cedis (Ghc 2.500) as seed money to support the activities of the associations. The societies are to use the short term credit facility intensively and repay within four (4) months with interest.

In the year 2013, Darsfoundation in partnership with Ghana Student Programs assisted farmers of Ketu South

Secondly, the following Farmers groups were assisted with agricultural financing from the Ghana Students Programs, Boston of USA. The grant facility was to support the cultivation of oyster mushroom in Agbozume “Runners Village” they were given six (6) months to repay the principal plus the interest and to which interns from the University would come to understudy the application of agricultural financing in the community.

Five Farmers Groups in Ketu South of Agbozume, financial support of one thousand Ghana cedis (Ghc 1000) were loaned to the groups to purchase mushroom spawn. The groups’ are-

  • Sro Agric Farmers Association (SROFA), from Srohume community at Ghc 1000.
  • Mawuli Fish Farmers Association (MAFIFA), from Agbozume community
  • Dorke Farmers Association, from Agbodokope community at Ghc 1000 and
  • Xornam Farmer Association, from Klikor community at Ghc 1000.
  • Euninuk Ventures, from Ho community with juice processing machine at Ghc 4500

Financial assistance comes in the form of soft loan for farmers and families to implement their ideas, buy improve inputs ana carry out their farming activities, which are repayable after sales of produce or establishment of trade. Darsfoundation provides consultancy and project finance assistance to ensure that the loan is put to a profitable end. Alternative sustainable livelihood would be community dependent, factoring in the available resources, obtainable resources and available market.

Darsfoundation would provide her farmers with fish-cage or help design/ construction of fish ponds as loan to fish-farmers. Fish farmers would need fingerlings and feed, which would be given to them on credit. There is also the need for aquaculture extension services that the communities can rely on at anytime since this is not too familiar a profession to them. The target harvest would require a cold storage system to preserve the produce for distribution throughout the season and maintain the value and integrity of the fish market demands.