Maria Elena Querejazu has been elected on the board of INAISE in May 2016 during the general assembly. Maria Elena is CEO of Sembrar, Bolivia, an organization that provides financial and technical support to farmers. I have had the opportunity to entertain with Maria Elena to learn more about the reality of family farming in Bolivia.
How would you present the Sembrar foundation?
The Sembrar Foundation was created in 2009 but has origins since 1986 by a group of microfinance foundations in Bolivia. This foundation was created in order to serve the rural poor. We work in agricultural development with emphasis on access to financing to the small farmers. Among our tools, we have the IFD (Development Finance Institution), regulated by the financial authority of the State, and have more than 55 million dollars of which 50% is dedicated to the agricultural sector. We are a non-profit foundation, but we don’t have a vocation to make losses and we seek projects that are sustainable over time. The most important project is the IFD, which is the financial arm of the foundation.
How do you see the situation of family farming in Bolivia?
Small producers face many limitations, one of three things is crucial to note is that they do not have access to finance, no access to knowledge, which is the technology etc., and they do not have equitable and sustainable access to markets. All this is expressed in low productivity. Therefore, the small
producers not only need credit but they need a set of services that can support them in these limitations. This is why we have designed a model from the IFD. We give technical assistance to support the technical knowledge and have a comprehensive view of services that does not include only the credit.
We have a Financial Technical Assistance (ATF) model to raise productivity. With this model, we provide financial services, training and information on markets and facilitate market access. We seek financial sustainability, social profitability and we are friendly to the environment.
Family farming in Bolivia and the rest of the world is very important. Our interest is not only to respond to the needs of small producers subject to poverty, but contribute to family farming because it is the way to achieve food security at the end. You cannot abandon farmers otherwise they are the ones that will leave the field for poverty reasons. This sector is very important to us because of its social role it plays.
What can a network like INAISE bring to your organization?
INAISE interests us because it has a focus on rural theme and has the social heart that is lacking in many banks. The social vision is important to respond to the needs of the rural area. We believe there is a network of contacts who can share that philosophy and can share knowledge and experience across the members of INAISE.