• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

Rural Banking in Panama

Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) focuses on training farmers in Central America to engage in practices that promote environmental sustainability and reforestation, while, at the same time, advancing their standard of living and overcoming poverty. SHI provides the farmers with necessities like saplings, farming tools, chicken wire, and a sustainable approach to agriculture free of charge and without compensation from farmers. Because they rely solely on grants and donations, the organization is unsustainable and their growth is limited.

The goal of this initiative is to promote broad systematic change within the rural banking system in Panama. I will achieve this by helping Sustainable Harvest International reengineer its banking strategy. With Rural Banking, farmers have both empowerment and more innovative lifestyles while relieving the financial strain on Sustainable Harvest International through the loaning systems to create a more sustainable and expandable program. 

Personal Statement

My interest with social innovation and entrepreneurship began in the February of 2009. I had the amazing opportunity to begin working with Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), a successful non-profit that teaches sustainable land management techniques to rural farmers in Central America. By developing the farmers' organic agriculture techniques and business skills, SHI helps improve the economic livelihood of its participants while promoting environmentally sustainable agriculture. After working with the organization during the Spring of 2009, I felt a commitment to extend my services in any way possible. I fell in love with the Central American culture and the simple lifestyles of the farmers I lived along side. Becuase of this passion, during the Fall of 2009, a team of Brown students and myself researched and devised a rural banking scheme that SHI could initiate to become more sustainable and expand to more families. My work in Panama this summer will focus on revising this plan to be available to initiate.My hope is that with this scheme, SHI will be able to provide sustainable agriculture and increased standard of living to hundreds or thousands more farmers throughout Central America.