Grameen Foundation supporter and actress Yeardley Smith (voice of “Lisa Simpson” on the popular TV show The Simpsons) and President and CEO Alex Counts traveled to Bangladesh in late July 2010. They visited Grameen Bank and some of the other enterprises Professor Yunus has launched to accelerate poverty reduction. This is Alex’s fifth and final blog post chronicling their visit.
My trip to Bangladesh with Yeardley Smith and the rest of our delegation was a terrific learning experience. It proved to be a window into a possible future for microfinance, since Grameen Bank, its affiliated companies, and other groups in Bangladesh are far ahead of the rest of the movement in many ways.
On the morning of our sixth day, we were joined by three French interns with Grameen-Danone. The original social business focused on combating malnutrition and poverty, Grameen-Danone produces fortified yogurt and engages the poor in the production and sales processes. First stop was one of four collection points where Grameen-Danone contractors test and purchase milk from local farmers, including quite a few Grameen borrowers. They set up in a convenient location and guarantee a fixed price all year round—both of which, based on random interviews I conducted, are appreciated by the local people even if they can occasionally get a higher price in local markets miles away.
Then we went to a cooling station where the daily milk collections are stored for a few hours before being sent to the Grameen-Danone plant. (Everything is transported using local rickshaw pullers and “baby taxi”—three-wheelers—drivers on contract. The time from milk collection to yogurt in a cup ready to be sold or shipped is just 36 hours!)