Lessons from the farm in China

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Euromoney is a great believer that if you’re going to cover inclusive finance properly, you have to talk to the people who are supposed to be on the receiving end of the inclusion.

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In January, this commitment took us into the deep interior of rural China, to Henan province, to meet women farmers who receive a form of microfinance through a scheme run by Beijing-based CreditEase.

We learned a great deal from this trip, about the difference small loans can make to the lives of farmers, about the exceptionally low default rates among borrowers, and about the power of digital methods to connect the city-dwelling wealthy with the rural poor.

We also learned some other things.

One is that if you enjoy rice wine that is 38% ABV and one of your hosts has distilled from his field, it will make the evening go with a swing, though it will make your head swing the next morning for all the wrong reasons. 

Another is that if you are the first westerner to visit a Chinese village that anyone can remember, your visit to the local cooperative-funded kindergarten may be disruptive, as the toddlers stand in stunned silence at the arrival of a weird orange-headed alien.

And a third is that a makeshift greenhouse is a very pleasant place to conduct an interview when it is minus five degrees Celsius outside, but it comes at the cost of having to crawl through a slim dirt tunnel to get in there in the first place. 

The mud took a little explaining at Zhengzhou immigration the next morning.