Funding For Rural Women In Agriculture

Updated on 25 September 2014

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Funding for rural women in agricultureRural women in South Africa not only face higher poverty rates, they also often have little to no resources available to them; with access to water, irrigation tools and seedlings a constant challenge.

For those women looking to start a business in the agricultural sector, it’s even more of a challenge, with many struggling to gain access to financial assistance to start their enterprises, because they often have no assets to put up as necessary surety.

In 2008, government partnered with Old Mutual’s Masisizane Fund to set up the R100 million Isivande Women’s Fund which invests directly in women enterprises by offering loans at lower interest rates, as well as offering non-financial support. The fund is an intervention to reduce poverty to this category of entrepreneurs who are often constrained by limited access to finance.

We unpack this government funding scheme that is aimed at improving the lives of women in business and women-led households.

What is Isivande Women’s Fund?

Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF) is an exclusive fund that targets black women at the bottom of the economic ladder. Its aim is to accelerate women’s economic empowerment by providing affordable, usable and responsive finance than was available.

Isivande is an IsiZulu name for “garden”.

The fund is managed by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) on behalf of the the Department of Trade and Industry through identity development fund (IDF) managers.

IDF is an SME financier aimed at supporting the creation of self-sustaining black and women-owned businesses by providing primarily financial and non-financial support to investee companies.

The fund, which falls within the R1bn IDC Transformation and Entrepreneurship Scheme, ring-fenced R300m for women-owned businesses until 2015.

How does Isivande work?

The IWF pursues deals involving start-up funding, business expansion, business rehabilitation, franchising and bridging finance.

The fund offers loans ranging from R30,000 to R2 million. Applications are made through an IDF manager.

Non-financial support comes in the form of business support services that are made available to the enterprises. Old Mutual provides free financial education to women-owned enterprises through its Masisizane initiative and the DTI is responsible for skills training, mentoring and after-care through third-party organizations.

Who qualifies?

This fund is aimed at assisting women-owned businesses based in a rural or peri-urban areas that require capital. The fund specialises in debt financing with a maximum loan repayment period of five years.

The women enterprises need to have at least a two-year track record in business with a bankable business plan, including financial forecast in order to qualify. Staff profile of the business must be 60% owned and managed by women, and 75% black (including people living with disability).

The businesses must show potential for growth and commercial sustainability, and have improved social impact in the form of job creation.

How to apply

To apply, entrepreneurs must first submit one-page business proposals online. After receiving feedback, they will then have to submit full business plans. WEF and IWF fund managers will consider the plans and have one-on-one meetings with applicants to discuss their funding needs.

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