Program Phase: Sustained
ProgramPartners: Ironbark Citrus, Minerals and Metals Group (MMG)
Year Completed: 2017
With MMG’s Sepon mine looking to close in the coming years, the MMG Community Development team was seeking to build a diverse sustainable economy beyond those linked to the mine’s operation.
Many farmers in the region struggled to grow sufficient rice – a staple food – to feed their families. Growing citrus, a high value crop, was seen as a way to provide farmers with a basis to sustainably exit poverty, netting a tenfold increase in income over traditional crops.
Ironbark Citrus, a Queensland based citrus producer, was seeking a region in Asia that could be counter seasonal to their Australian citrus production. Laos was a perfect location.
Business for Development worked with Ironbark Citrus and MMG to establish a revolving fund that provided credit to new farmers and used the repayments to allow new farmers to enter the program. Each family was asked to provide a small deposit, to demonstrate commitment to the program.
In 2015, to kickstart the establishment of a citrus farm in Laos, 20,000 seeds were planted in Ironbark Laos’ nursery.
The business recruited 50 families, each receiving 100 trees. A revolving fund was initiated with $30,000 to fund this initial cohort. The fund was designed to appreciate in value, enabling more farmers to purchase required inputs and become citrus farmers.
Over time a social enterprise was established by Ironbark Citrus called Ironbark (Laos) Sole Co Ltd. The Laos business is beginning to successfully export citrus across Asia.
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