Grameening the 

Majeedah's husband had been sick and unable to work for several years.  In addition to the small piece of land which Majeedah tilled once a year, their only other source of income was a milk-producing cow purchased after taking a loan from a milk wholesaler. The terms of the loan stipulated that Majeedah would sell all the milk produced to her creditor, at a price that was Rs 100 per maund less than the prevailing market rate. Translated into real terms, this meant that Majeedah was paying interest at 300 per cent. Recently, Majeedah took a loan from Kashf Foundation. And by adding Rs 1,000 from her savings, she has managed to clear her debt. Her family�s income has since increased by Rs 800. 

Established in 1995, to bring credit services to rural women entrepreneurs, Kashf Foundation , whilst presently in an action-research project stage, aims to develop into a large-scale microfinance program along the lines of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Unlike many other credit programs run by NGOs involved in general social uplift, Kashf is probably the first NGO in Pakistan focusing exclusively on extending credit to poor rural women. 

Currently the project has 100 borrower-members who are involved in a number of activities. In the predominantly rice growing area that Kashf is working in, many women are involved in small-scale commodity trading.  They buy and sell rice, making money on the price difference.  This is a quick turnover business with a pay back period of about 10-12-weeks. Another popular income generating activity is goat rearing. This, however is a more risky venture.  The dry spell this winter, for example, resulted in severe illness and death amongst the livestock. 
Kashf plays the role of a venture capitalist, providing loans for novel income generation ideas.  Kashf gives women access to collateral-free loans which can only be used for productive purposes. The loan program stipulates that regular savings be made from the income generated. To be eligible to participate in the program, five women from a similar background get together to form a group. The women select the members of their own group and vouch for each other�s credibility. This five-member group is the backbone of the program, providing women with the opportunity to pool together their resources and learn from each other in a peer-centered environment. 

Although Kashf currently lends to women, it maintains a flexible attitude to the future. Feasibility studies, conducted at the outset of Kashf�s operations, have shown that Kashf can eventually move away from being wholly donor-funded and become a commercially viable organization. To do so, however, it will need to extend its scope to include men as well. Currently, however, it needs to ensure that it gets enough help from donors to see it through, to becoming the commercially viable concern it aims to be. 

Roshaneh Zafar 
Kashf Foundation 
Lahore, Pakistan