Sunday, December 19, 2010

Facebook for farmers and Wokai which means I start

Meanwhile, in two other Chinese counties, a social networking site is linking donors as far afield as London and California with farmers who seek micro-finance to develop small rural businesses.

Enter the web platform, Wokai, which means "I start".

It has profiles of borrowers from Sichuan and Inner Mongolia, and profiles of contributors from 47 countries who select online which projects they want to support. In many ways, it is a Facebook for farmers.

"You have the second largest micro-credit demand in the world and almost no supply of micro-credit," says Casey Wilson, CEO and co-founder of Wokai.

"And the reason for that is that the practitioners that are doing micro-finance on the ground don't have access to capital. And so given that context, the internet is one of the only ways that you can mobilise a global community to reverse that cycle and to get micro-finance in China on the map."

In two years, Wokai has raised over $370,000 and financed 500 projects - from small pig farms to roadside noodle stands.

Registered micro-finance partners administer the loans locally - and earn from the interest. Wokai doesn't take a penny from the money pledged, relying instead on donations and sponsorship to cover its running costs.

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