The Enterprise Development Programme



Most of the world’s poorest people live in remote rural areas and depend on subsistence farming to survive. They are often barely able to feed their families, let alone earn a decent income, and have little money to pay for basic rights, such as healthcare and education. As a result, poor rural communities often have high under-five death rates, low literacy levels and a high occurrence of violence against women and girls. It is extremely difficult for these communities to escape poverty. Without training, expertise and access to capital, it can be impossible for businesses to grow; businesses that would provide a stable income and a brighter future for families.

However, most investments in developing countries are focused at either end of a very large spectrum. Many organisations provide support to communities during the very first stages of business activities, providing individuals with very small-scale loans (micro-financing), while others invest in businesses that have already built the capacity to export. In between these two extremes is the ‘missing middle’ for which there is almost no assistance available. Without supporting potential businesses in this ‘missing middle’, families will continue to suffer and Oxfam will never be able to achieve its vision; a just world without poverty.

Oxfam knows from firsthand experience that what poor people, especially women, want is a regular income that allows them to buy food, access healthcare and send their children to school. Put simply, poor women we speak to want a job. According to the World Bank, the most effective way to reduce extreme poverty in rural areas is to create successful, sustainable small and medium sized businesses in the agricultural sector. These businesses provide decent and secure jobs – jobs that help build communities.

We are finding and supporting promising businesses to grow, employ people and connect subsistence farmers to markets.

Oxfam has extensive experience in improving livelihoods and has been working with experts to develop EDP. EDP provides businesses that enter the programme with a tailored package of interventions designed to support them to the point where they can stand alone; profitable and able to secure investment from banks or social investors beyond Oxfam. The package includes:

  • direct financial support – a mix of grants, loans or bank guarantees appropriate to the size and stage of development of the business
  • connecting the business to financial organisations, vital for ongoing sustainability
  • training in all aspects of business from technical advice to improving productivity, to financial management, to sales and marketing, all through a local business mentor.

Providing loans to enterprises is an innovative activity in the sector, moving away from typical development programmes that focus on grants. Our aim is to enable enterprises to become viable businesses and create a culture in which credit can be acquired and businesses thrive in poor agricultural communities, resulting in jobs and opportunities for all.

We use this experience to influence wider change – advocating for financial institutions, governments and other key stakeholders to change policies to benefit poor rural farmers.

EDP will invest in enterprises in Bangladesh, Honduras and Rwanda, extending to Ethiopia and Nepal as the programme develops. We plan that ten sustainable enterprises will successfully graduate from the programme having been profitable for a minimum of two years and able to access finance independent of EDP. We anticipate working with a minimum of 30 enterprises to achieve this result. As importantly for Oxfam, we will:

  • increase the income of 50,000 farmers, including 25,000 women
  • create a minimum of 200 new full-time equivalent jobs
  • leverage change in both Private Sector and Government polices stimulating wider change in the target countries.

Download the latest EDP Annual Report
The 2018 report reflects on a year of significant and exciting change for the Enterprise Development Programme. (PDF, 1.5MB).