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Group Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Title: Village bank reaches the farm woman : a case from Egypt
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081700/00001
 Material Information
Title: Village bank reaches the farm woman : a case from Egypt
Series Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Howard-Merriam, Kathleen
Publisher: University of Florida
Publication Date: 1986
Subject: Africa   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: Africa -- Egypt -- Middle East
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081700
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: African Studies Collections in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
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Full Text

--. ---..-. -" -- -- _" ----*.- ---.-" ...; -t

t-e -nv-ersi Vy- F-oii
Conference on


Kathleen Howard-Merriam
Associate Professor

Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio

EXTENSION Conference
at the University of Florida
February 26-March 1, 1986


"Bankers on Motorbikes Give Third World Loans" was a recent

headline in the Christian Science Monitor (November 5, 1985)

reporting on three case studies of bank credit being extended to

the landless rural poor in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. This

headline might well have have applied to another case in Egypt

where the Village Bank of the Principal Bank for Development and

Agricultural Credit(PBDAC) founded by the Ministry of Agriculture

has been providing loans to small farmers, owning or renting no

more than five acres of land under a grant from USAID {United

States Agency for International Development] in the amount of $25

million and the Egyptian government's contribution of $8.9


This Small F armer Production Project(SFPP) is intended to

enhance the access of small farmers to production inputs

including extension assistance and credit in three Governorates

as a pilot effort. The Project involves all aspects of the

operations of the Village Bank: administration and management,

farm management, credit, training, storage and handling of


The Project, since its inception in 1981, has had a marked

impact on the use of short-term and medium-term loan funds.

Moreover, the package of credit tied with extension assistance

has resulted in increased agricultural production. The clear

guidelines for operation, the performance incentives, and local

autonomy and authority have had positive results in facilitating

access to credit and extension assistance for small farmers, the

majority of the farmers in Egypt.

How has the Project impacted on rural women, an average of

47.6 per cent of whom participate in agricultural activities1

and who own 80 per cent of household enterprises, and 92 per cent

of dairy enterprises alone? Women, for some reason, were not

originally considered as a major target of the Project. It was

expected, apparently, that women would benefit as family members.

The Project Identification Paper, however, did call for periodic

review of the Project, addressing women's issues as part of an

on-going social analysis.

Women did emerge as major participants in the Project. The

income generating activities that were developed happened to be

those in which the women were already primary producers:

livestock and poultry. The Project administrators were prompted

to document the full extent of women's participation in the

Project and to examine ways in which women could more fully

benefit. It was in this context that I was engaged in the summer

of 1983 to make this study. This paper, then, presents an

account and an assessment of the Project's measures to deal with

the traditional constraints on small farm women, not as women but

as farmers, in obtaining farm credit, markets and employment.

I will first describe the socio-economic profile of the

target population sample and the farm women's sample. I then

discuss the Project's work in removing constraints to credit,

market, and employment for women, a concern of this Conference.


The format for this second part is taken from Ilsa Schumacher.

Jennefer Sebstad, and Mayra Buvinic's Limits to Productivity:

Improving Women's Access to TechnoloQv and Credit-



The study for the assessment of the Project' services to

women is based on interviews with 360 farm women, personally

conducted by me and my assistant, Mrs. Salwa Soliman Saleh of the

Ministry of Agriculture of the Government of Egypt(MOA) Extension

Research Institute, in the three governorates of Kalyubia,

Sharkia, and Assiut where the Project operated. The first two

governorates are in the Delta in the North with Kalyubia being

adjacent to Cairo Governorate and Sharkia north of Kalyubia. The

third, Assiut, is located 395 kilometers to the south of Cairo

and is regarded as culturally more traditional than the northern


The number of women was divided equally among the three

governorates and among the total of nine Village Banks,

representing a third of the number of banks involved in the

Project. Half of the sample consisted of farm women

participating in the Project, the other half were outside the

Project who may or may not have heard about it. The present

paper therefore focuses on the portion of the sample who were

participating or cooperating women. The randomly selected women

outside the Project serving as a control group were necessarily

characterized as non-cooperating.


Who were the women in the Project? The typical Cooperating

Woman is Fatima, about 40 years old and married with five

children. She markets her eggs through a middleman who collects

her eggs from her home, sells her products of cheese and butter

provided by her gamoosa (water buffalo) to her friends and

neighbors after she has taken care of her family needs. She

helps out her husband on their one and one-half feddans Cone

feddan = 1.038 acres], saves money after expenses on food and

education for their children, and expects to use some of the

savings for more income producing projects. The profits will

ultimately be used to help her son marry and set up his legal

office and her daughter to go to the university in the nearest

provincial town. Where did she hear about the Project and the

availability of credit and extension assistance? She happened to

hear of it through relatives and the bank manager himself, a

distant relative. With 200 Egyptian pounds(LE = $0.70 in 1983)

in hand for the chicken cages, Fatima did make the initial trip

to the bank unaccompanied. She had inherited money from her

father and saved more for many months.

In contrast, a neighboring woman who also obtained a loan

from the bank did not make the trip herself. Instead, she marked

the papers to be taken by her son. Fatima possessing a strong

and forthright personality is, for her part, generally pleased

with the services she has received from the bank; although she

was concerned at the beginning because some of her egg laying

hens died soon after delivery. But she found the veterinarian


helpful and decided that perhaps she had not been feeding the

hens properly.

She was more careful to follow his instructions after he

checked up on them and reviewed the directions for their care.

Since her husband is away all day in the fields and her children

are of an age where they can help with the housework, she goes to

the bank herself to make the loan payments. These trips give her

a chance to get out of the house and make for a change from the

bread-making routine. She gets to visit with her neighbors and

to find out what's happening in the town when she chats with the

woman bank clerk and on occasion her distant relative, the bank




Women in developing countries have suffered from various

constraints to accessing formal borrowing systems which has

limited their full contribution to economic productivity. In

Limits to Productivity Schumacher, Sebstad, and Buvinic list the

following common problems to women's participation in credit


1. Concessionary interest rate and loan rationing

strategies retarding savings and efficiency in

resource allocation.

2. Administrative problems of red tape, high bank

transaction cost in lending to the poor, shortage

of well-trained bank personnel, and slowness in

making loan decisions.

3. Concentration of control over resources by

wealthier farmers,thereby denying the poor access

to formal credit, with the limited amounts

available going most likely to the men who usually

control the purse strings.

4. Limited informational network or publicity

about the credit programs, with whatever

information available chanelled to the men who

attend the meetings while the women t-end the

housework and the animal husbandry tasks.

5. Higher total borrowing costs limiting the

poor's use of formal institutions credit, such as

forced purchase of lender services and service

fees, briberies to or negotiations with local

officials, and travel time required for loan


6. Collateral requirements in the form of house,

land, or other property held in many countries by


7. Absence of programs responsive to the kinds of

enterprises engaged by women, such as repayment

schedules compatible with women's pattern of

frequent but small payments.

S. Social mores and conditions limiting women's

participation in modern credit programs, such as


escalation or absence of women from cooperatives

or at least their meetings, and the high rate of

illiteracy among rural women--even when compared

with their menfolk.3

The Small Farmer Production Project has responded to the first

three major constraints positively, is working on the fourth,

fifth, responded positively to the sixth, seventh, and is making

progress dealing with the eighth constraint.

The SFPP's approach to really reaching the small farmer to

improve his or her income and agricultural productivity is 1)

simplifid but commercially sound banking practices, 2) improved

farm management assistance with 3) the integration of the two

components "under one roof," Credit was extended to farmers on

the basis of sound farming practices only, without collateral in

the form of mortgages required or referral to superiors for

approval. The SFPP offered credit with the commercial interest

rate of ten per cent to farmers who derived their principal

source of income from farming, owning or renting no more than

five feddans, and having "satisfactory financial stability" and a

sound farming plan rather than collateral.* Availability of

credit rather than low interest rates is considered key to credit

program success among small farmers.

The second constraint to women's participation, i.e.,

administrative problems, is addressed by the SFPP's encouraging

greatylocal bank manager authority. The PBDAC had moved in the

direction of decentralizing the banking system to allow for more

autonomy at the local level. The SFPP improved upon the bank

record by rationalizing banking procedures and giving the local

bank manager loan authority. Whereas the approval time for a

loan used to take from six to eight weeks, under the Project the

time has been reduced to two days at the most. As a result,

women were able to apply for loans without travelling long

distances or spending a lot of time away from their other

responsibilities. The women were also assisted by the bank staff

in filling out forms, learning bank regulations, and analyzing

the viability of their loan projects.

The credit and extension services have been integrated

"under one roof" by the formation of five-member Village Bank

teams comprised of the bank manager, the bank accountant, the

financial analyst, the extension agent, and an agricultural

researcher to coordinate the provisions of credit, extension and

research assistance.

Improvement of both banking service and farm management

assistance is an integral part of the Project. Careful screening

of bank personnel and extension agents for the Project, their

encouragement of quality performance by incentives, and their

replacement are important program features. The Project

extension agent is given human relations training as well as

updating on new technology, and close monitoring of the work

performed by the Project staff. Significantly, the five-member

team is selected from the local area with the result that the

members are familiar with their clients and can more readily'

identify their needs.0

Women borrowers and participants via their husbands' loan

activities (caring for the livestock or poultry the men bought

with the loans) therefore frequently know the bank-extension

staff. Consequently, the taboos against communicating with them

become irrelevant.

By the end of 1983, 20,691 loans had been made, totalling

15,233,722 pounds ($18.4 million), the average amount per farmer

in the Project being 736 pounds ($887). Loan repayment has been

prompt and virtually free of default. Women comprised eight per

cent of the borrowers at the time of our 1983 survey, an increase

from about two to three per cent before the Project. At the end

of 1985, this proportion has gone up to 15.2 per cent of 36,865

borrowers, the number of women being fairly evenly distributed

among the three governorates in which the Project was


A majority of the loans were made for poultry for meat

production or broilers (34.9 per cent) and egg production (.5 per

cent) and for livestock: water buffalo for milk (33.3 per cent),

and cattle and sheep breeding (11.3 per cent).

Women's participation in the Project, therefore, became

evident in the implementation of the program by their share of

the loans taken and by the type of loans made. Women in Egypt

under Islamic law do inherit property in their own right, though

not in the same proportion as do men. Thus, contrary to the

practice in some other countries in Africa and elsewhere where


only men held title to land and other property, Egyptian women do

not have the legal requirements inhibiting them from having

independent access to the land.

Women took out the loans for projects if they had inherited

the land or had the capital for the down payment, and/or if they

were widows and thus head of their own household. Sometimes,

both the husband and the wife would take out loans for different

projects, so as to spread out the burden.

Many women actually went personally to the bank to process

loans as Table I shows. A smaller number went to the bank in

Assiut, however, since it is the more culturally and socially

traditional of the governorates regarding women's role outside

the home. The more independent Assiuti women who did go to the

bank were widows or educated. Most women who went to the bank

came with their male relatives at first but then went on their

own on subsequent visits. Some women are sent by their husbands

busy in the fields to do the bank business.

Most of the women who did go to the bank for loans expressed

satisfaction with their treatment there, a finding corroborating

the earlier Project evaluation which surveyed a sample of

farmers (though only two of them female) on their perceptions of

the Project. Most (S1 per cent) indicated they had changed their

image of the bank and generally remarked that the loan

applications took much less time, were easier to obtain, and that

bank officials "like us to come now."e

Another constraint to women's access to credit is the


concentration of control over resoLurces by the economically

powerful. This was certainly the case in the years before the

agrarian reform, but was merely modified or transferred to the

rural middle class (owners of between ten and fifty feddans)

under Arab Socialism. Under the SFPP it is still true that the

relatively better off small farmer predominates (See Table I), in

terms of income per month, but less so according to land tenure:

A substantial majority of the women(cooperating and non-

cooperating) had family incomes of 100 pounds per month and

above,and comprised 72 per cent of the Cooperating Women. This

phenomenon of benefits accruing to the "better off farmer" within

this five-or-less feddan class is justified by the Project, as

these will be the ones to take risks and yet will spur others to

follow, if they succeed. On the other hand, over a third of the

Cooperating Women were in the less-than-one-feddan category.

In our study we learned that among the Cooperating Women,

information about the Project was transmitted through relatives

and friends. But among the control group of non-Cooperating

Women we found that many had not even heard about the Project,

and a few (personal informal observation) expressed distrust of

the Bank. Yet 61 per cent of the control group expressed

interest in loans for productive purposes once they were informed

by us of the opportunity. One or two extension agents

accompanying us, however, cynically predicted to us that many of

these women would not follow up, as habits of "mattress saving"

were too strong.


One constraint to women's involvement we perceived was the

absence of any women extension agents or financial analysts in

the Project. We hypothesized that the cultural norms limiting

women's contacts with men outside the family would confine the

information transmission to male networks and exclude women's

direct receipt of the new technology." As noted above, while

women already participating in the Project were not as hindered

by an all-male extension staff because of family ties and local

residence, we did find that those women outside the Project would

be more receptive to participating if there were women extension

agents who could provide the "understanding" approach women

farmers felt they needed. (See Table II)

We did recommend therefore the recruitment of women

extension agents and financial analysts to facilitate the women's

access to the Bank's credit and extension services. Apparently

this recommendation has been implemented in a limited way with

the engagement of a woman analyst a women extension agent for


Regarding the seventh constraint, the Project's innovative

provision of layered cages, improved feed, pullets, and extension

and veterinary assistance for egg production in a loan package

has promoted, if indirectly, women's enterprise needs. This

business can be operated in the home with a minimum of extra

effort, IS within women's traditional domain of activity,

requires relatively little capital outlay (200 pounds down

payment), respond to available markets through middlewomen or men


who purchase the eggs from the home, includes technical

assistance, and provides a nutritious and inexpensive food supply

at the local level.

This Project has been very popular. The major reasons cited

for desiring this project were place availability in Kalyubia and

profitability for women in Sharkiya. More women, particularly

the Cooperating Women, marketed their poultry products in

Sharkiya than did women in Kalyubia (26 per cent as against 14

per cent).


The Project has thus addressed major constraints affecting

women's access to credit by bringing the Bank to the village,

removing collateral requirements, making more flexible and

understandable loan terms, improving the quality of extension and

credit staff, and developing projects in areas of women's primary

agricultural responsibility. The participating women have

benefitted economically, have generally saved more than non-

Cooperating Women, and are enthusiastic about the Project. The

number of women borrowers continues to increase.

An indication of the Project's success to date is its

expansion to other governorates by the PBDAC's application of the

SFPP's credit policies to seven other governorates.

1.Figures averaged for 18 activities performed by women in Lower
and Upper Egypt as reported by K.Abou El Seoud and F.Estira in
their Study of the Role of Women and Youth in Rural Development
with an Emphasis on Production and Consumption of N.utr-itive
Elements, F'AO/ME 1977-78.

2.International Center for Research on Women, May, 1980 for USAID
Office of Women and Development.

3.A recent report indicated that 70% of Egyptian
women over. 10 are illiterate. The rural figures
are always higher than the urban figures. "Egypt
Isn't Solving Its Population Problem," The
Washington Post Weekly, January 27, 1986.

4. Evaluation Report Small Farmer Production
Project, AID Grant No. 263-0079, February 28,
1983, p. 91, Annex K. ECairo, Egypt].

5. Personal observation. Also see Evaluation Report, op. cit.,
pp. 54-55.

6,. See Agricultural Cooperative Development International
Annual Report, 1983, p. 13.

7. -Telephone communication with Jerry Lewis, ACDI, Washington,
DC., January 17, 1986.

8. Evaluation Report, Annex A, p. 18.

9.Hassan Dawood, "Integration of Women in Rural Development in
the Near East Region" in Al Raida(August, 1979) pp.3-45.See also
Barbara C. Lewis, Editor, Invisible Farmers: Women and the Crisis
in Agriculture (Washington, D.C.: Agency for International
Development Office of Women and Development, April, 1980 pp. 158-



%Labor in
Women's Share

< 1 fed.


%women's %Women
income from w/own inc.
Pltry/Lives. EE100 or

% Women
who save


who went to

Non-Coop. 33 51 36 21 21 28 48

Coo2erat. 56 _Al ------ 5--------3---30 .....--- a---------- --4----4 -- 30--------- 66--------

Total 46 46 36 39 52


Non-Coop. 45 43 31 4 63 15 18

oo.--------- 55 ---23 -4 .4------. 25.A2----3-------A3-------- --------0-------

Total 50 33 40 27 30


Non-Coop. 32 51 46 0 18 9 23

-co. ------ -- 25------55 -1.-------- 40 -------3--- ------8------

Total 39 38 51 13 31

TOTAL N of sample on this question was 42
Non-Cooperating Sample N= 60 per Governorate
1.% farmers with landholdings < one feddan:(According
Kalyubia: 45.8 2. 72 % w/ no

Sharkiya 43.7



4. Prior to Project,

8b .b

to Baseline Study for Project by El Kholy and Abbas, op. cit.p. 47
off farm income 3. Average income for farmers with-rmnning
as main occupation: EE 33 per mo. in 1980

qD,0 % dealt with the Village Bank in Kalyubia
8.2 Sharkia
53.3 Assiut

(Tbid., p. 248)





Desire for
(more) Proj.

Sources of Info
Re Proj. in %
1 2 3 4

% w/ TV
in Home

W/tech. ass.



8 40
20 45-

52 10 5 0
48 22 22 0

- - ----------------- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -
Total 77 84 33 21

Non-Coop. 12 41 51 48 12 18 3 60 20 8 41
Coop. 40 30 63 61 20 42 2 78 90 35 37
Total 57 69 57 21

Non-Coop. 2 3 58 55 15 8 3 48 20 10 22

Co2. -_10 15 1 _______ 55 65 26 6 1 75 36 35 32
--- 56 61 27 21

Column 3
Village Bank
Extension Agent/Veterinarian


Prior to Project, 32.3%



vizitsab y Extension agents in Kalyubia
4 or more times ,
visits by Extension agents in Sharkia

Total N for Kalyubia on this Question =42

13 5
50 38


`"~ "

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