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Aurora Co- Operative Society organised a workshop on the “Opportunities and Challenges ofAccess to Finance for agro-based SMEs and farmers” at the Conference Room of the Daily Star Nespaper, on  3rd September 2016.

Mr. Sushen Chandra Das, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Industries, and Project Director, Bangladesh INSPIRED graced the workshop as Chief Guest; whileMr. Khairul Kabir Menon, Ministry of Industries, and INSPIRED Deputy Secretary; Mr. Shafiqul Islam, Managing Director, SME Foundation; Mr. ThumburAravind, Syngenta Foundation, India; Mr. Mashiar Rahman, General Manger and Team Leader, Enrich, PKSF; Mr. Swapan Kumar Roy, General Manager, SME &SPD of Bangladesh Bank, and Ali Sabet, Team Leader, INSPIRED Project attended the event as Special Guests. Ms. Anne Raine, Senior Short term Expert of INSPIRED Project was also present at this event.

During this workshop a wide range of topics were discussed including the need for simplifying lending procedures of banks and regulators, as rural SMEs and farmers find it difficult to properly access the available loans.

auroa-2Establishing the cluster system for farmers plus and the formulating of proper guidelines for rural SMEs is a priority in order to ensure the best chance of them receiving a loan from a bank and importantly also demonstrating the best use of such a loan to the bank. It was pointed that there are other procedural complexities when applying for loans, for example a farmer may not be able to read the brochures which are often in English. As a result the farmer is not clear on the procedures to be carried out and feels hesitant to apply for a loan.

The “without collateral” loan ceiling for women entrepreneurs set by the Central Bank is BDT 250,000 however,many women cannot access the loans due the reluctance of the bank branch managers to lend to women. To overcome this barrier much more training needs to be organised for the bank managers of rural branches in order to change their negative mind-set towards women entrepreneurs.

A suggestion from the workshop was for the monitoring of the success rate of rural SMEs that apply for loans from banks against the number actually getting loans. In addition, the reason for loan defaulters maybe because the loans are being handed to the wrong SMEs and a survey of where the support to rural SMEs should be directed would be useful for all parties.

The participants of the workshop also supported, formulating a common platform comprising NGOs, banks and government organisations to discuss the support structure to farmers and SMEs.

A presentation on the achievements of the INSPIRED grant project was then given by Md. Quamruzzaman, CEO of AURORA. This has been a relatively low cost, simple, clear and focused project and, as result, despite some administrative delays, AURORA has achieved everything they set out to achieve.

With a contract extension until 21st September 2016 AURORA managed to rearrange and deliver the activities as per stated in the project plan.