Kamal M. is a 22-year-old farmer who sells pomegranates in his own village Varkhankend in the Imishli region of Azerbijan. He lives with his old parents. Kamal has two years of experience raising pomegranates and selling them to the local bazaar traders. Azerbaijan's climate is quite optimal for pomegranate tree growing, the average tree growing in 6-12 months. It starts to give fruit within a period of 8-14 months. Kamal has more than fifteen pomegranates trees in his garden. He gathers crops in the autumn and with the money from selling them he covers his family needs for the next three seasons. The conditions are hard but Kamal also has his small garden where he raises vegetables like potatoes and onions which he uses for food during the winter and spring.
Kamal is going to develop his business and start raising potatoes and onion for selling. He has enough experience in this field and for this purpose he applied for 1200 USD.
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.