Zarqalam is 57 years old, married and has five children. She sells watermelons and melons, as well as such seasonal fruits as pears, oranges, apples, pomegranates and bananas. With the help of AqroInvest CU Zarqalam was able to start her own business. She has 10 years of experience and the reason to start the business was poor living conditions and a low pension.
Fruits are very popular among Azerbaijan people and in high demand during the year. People like to eat it fresh and this is one of the main desserts for guests. She sells crops from her house where people regularly stop by to buy some fresh fruit. Her monthly income from this business is 180 AZN. Zarqalam's husband helps sell the fruit.
Zarqalam wants to expand her business. The amount of products she sells is not enough to cover high demand. She would like to purchase more fruit and vegetables and increase turnover as well as to improve living conditions for her family. For this purpose, she applied for a 1500 AZN loan. This will be her second loan and Zarqalam has good client history.
Aqroinvest Credit Union was founded in 2001 by a group of 32 farmers from Imishli. It has since grown to become the largest credit union in Azerbaijan, owned by its more than 5,400 borrowers and boasting a portfolio of nearly US$12 million.
AqroInvest is focused on providing loans to the following groups of people: rural farmers, people living in distant southern villages with little or no access to finance and internally displaced people and refugees, many of whom lost their homes and livelihoods during the violent conflicts in the 1990s.
In May 2011, Aqroinvest started a new project with Kiva proving higher education loans to students. The project gives students the support and financing they need to continue their education and helps pay for tuition fees at various universities in Azerbaijan. Aqroinvest is the first credit union in the country to offer students loans.