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ComBank expands ‘Dirishakthi’ scheme to transform value chains in rural Sri Lanka

 The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has embarked on an initiative to transform the way it supports micro entrepreneurs using its ‘Dirishakthi’ loans programme as the platform for a wider and holistic intervention encompassing financing and empowerment activities.

The Bank has announced that the Dirishakthi scheme launched to finance commercially viable livelihood opportunities at the grassroots level, has been enhanced to benefit not just individual borrowers but all participants in their value chains, further underwriting the prospects for success and growth.

The enhancements have been designed to increase the capacity of microentrepreneurs’ production chains by providing both financial and non-financial services and have been brought under the twin umbrellas of the ‘Dirishakthi Value Chain Development Programme’ and the ‘Dirishakthi Sustainable Entrepreneurship Development Programme’ that encompasses sustainability initiatives as well as knowledge development and capacity building.

The Dirishakthi Value Chain Development Programme is designed to increase the productivity and profitability of an entire value chain by understanding the needs of the private and public partners involved in it, from the point of production to end-consumer. From an agricultural perspective, the scheme is created to assist entrepreneurs from ‘farm to fork,’ the Bank said.

With this new development, the Bank will identify all participants in a value chain with the assistance of existing customers or Community Based Organisations (CBOs), provide financial services by reaching vulnerable players in the community such as women entrepreneurs and low-income individuals via coordinators of its Agriculture and Micro Finance Units (AMFUs) who will actively approach these members to provide personalized support. They will identify obstacles which hinder the efficiency of the value chain and solve cash flow and capacity issues, provide fund transfer facilities to remit sales proceeds and to pay suppliers through the formal banking sector, and improve technical knowledge and entrepreneurship skills of value chain members with the objective of improving the quality of the products and services they offer.

Under this initiative, the Bank will also facilitate new marketing opportunities to its members by linking them with its SME and corporate clients and provide cash in and cash out (CICO) services through the operations of the Automated Field Cash Collection (AFCC) and the Bank of Wheels (BOW) facility which is a fully-fledged mobile bank branch with a Cash Recycler Machine (CRM) and two teller counters.

Besides conducting financial literacy programmes, the Dirishakthi Sustainable Entrepreneurship Development programme includes networking opportunities for members, consulting and mentoring services, and training and capacity building with emphasis on financial inclusion and environmental sustainability.

Under this, micro entrepreneurs are provided space to display their products and establish connections with potential buyers and business partners that could influence sales, provided saplings in the spirit of encouraging environmental protection, and are continuously assessed by the Bank’s AMFUs and Development Credit Department (DCD) to ascertain the effectiveness of the programme and its impact on the participants’ economic and social development.

The programme will also influence the use of single-use plastic among participants’ value chains and raise awareness about how it pollutes the environment. Furthermore, the Bank said its DCD plans to assist entrepreneurs to gain exposure on digital market places by supporting them to trade their products via virtual platforms.

Recent initiatives conducted under the Bank’s Dirishakthi Value Chain Development Programme include assistance to the dairy value chain of the Mullaitivu Livestock Breeders Cooperative Society. This value chain consisting of farmers, milk collectors, producers, product transporters, and retailers to the end consumer were supported with banking services and access via the Bank on Wheels. Members of this community who had lost their assets including livestock during the war also had the opportunity to obtain loans to purchase cattle and develop cattle sheds.

Reaffirming its commitment towards the development of such value chains and the dairy industry, the Bank also recently donated a set of cooler boxes in collaboration with its Mulliyawalai Branch. The coolers help preserve the freshness of the products and are essential in the safe transportation of dairy products. Following these measures, community members reported an increase in milk production and their income. They are now able to distribute milk to distant shops, while curd, ghee, milk toffee, and yoghurt produced from the milk is supplied to wholesale outlets in Kilinochchi and Vavuniya.



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