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From honey to money: How we’re helping Burundi’s beekeepers triple their income with digital loans

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

In Burundi, people have practised beekeeping for generations using simple, traditional techniques. Modern methods and equipment, like wooden beehives and honey presses, help farmers produce a higher quantity and quality of honey – netting them more money that makes a real difference to their families and communities.

The catch is that better equipment comes at a high cost. Most beekeepers just can’t afford it on their own, and they also struggle to access the credit that would help them bridge the gap.

When SPARK – a fellow Dutch not-for-profit development organization – brought the story of these Burundian beekeepers to our attention, we knew we had to help. It was an ideal chance to use MoneyPhone’s digital loan origination solution to give farmers access to the credit they needed to increase their output and income. Here’s how we did it.

Picking the perfect partner

The first step was to find a local financial institution to back the initiative. After meeting with eight organizations, we chose Burundi Lend and Lease (BLL) as our financial partner. They’re a small MFI with a mighty entrepreneurial spirit and equally big ambitions to go digital. BLL can also offer beekeepers an attractive loan interest rate, plus a flexible repayment plan that fits the seasonality of honey production. They really ticked all the boxes for us!

Applications made easy

Together with BLL and SPARK, we built a fully digital lending platform that’s tailor-made for the honey value chain.

It all starts with a new online portal, where beekeepers fill in basic details like their requested loan amount and phone number. The portal then links them to a website where they can complete the application process – either by themselves or with help from their local cooperative.

We translated both the portal and platform into Kirundi and French (two of the most common languages in Burundi) to make the process as easy as possible for applicants.

When applicants arrive on the online application platform, they’re invited to fill out a set of questions. For this, SPARK took BLL’s standard lending questionnaire and updated it with more targeted questions for beekeepers. That includes historical production info going back at least two seasons (like how many kilos a farmer produced and their total sales) as well as expected production levels in the future. With these details, BLL can better assess a beekeeper’s eligibility and provide a loan that fits their repayment capacity.

A community-led effort

Right from the start, we made sure to get local beekeeping cooperatives involved too. They play a key role in helping borrowers navigate the process of applying for a loan and opening a bank account, even providing access to smartphones in some cases. Key stakeholders from each co-op also verify the info submitted by applicants and act as guarantors for approved loans.

Better experiences for lenders and borrowers

We also built a digital loan management portal for BLL, so they could process all the applications efficiently. In the portal, loan officers can review and score each loan application, as well as manage disbursement and repayments for approved loans.

As a loan moves through the process, BLL sends applicants and guarantors regular updates via text message, so they’re always kept in the loop. Approved borrowers can qualify for a loan of up to 550,000 Burundian francs, at a 14% annual interest rate. They’re required to repay the loan 6 months after issue in two equal instalments.

Finding sweet success

So far, BLL has approved 50 loan applications through their new MoneyPhone platform. Behind each and every one of those loans is a person who can now afford to invest in modern, long-lasting beekeeping equipment.

It’s helping beekeepers produce more honey in a season and earn more money – up to three times more, in some cases! And people aren’t the only ones who benefit: better beekeeping helps protect endangered bee populations, so these powerful pollinators can continue to support all-important food chains and ecosystems.

Our work with SPARK, BLL, and Burundi’s beekeepers is a great example of how easier access to affordable credit can make all the difference to people’s lives and livelihoods. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories of how we’re helping financial institutions to build a brighter future for all through inclusive finance and digital technology.


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