Asia Initiatives


Throughout India

From 2000~2008, Asia Initiatives provided funds through MSSRF (M.S. Swaminathan Foundation) for sustainable enterprises via our Micro-Credit Bank (MCB) program, under which interest free loans were given to groups of people, mainly women, from rural areas. Over 200 MCBs were established in partnership with MSSRF by Asia initiatives (formerly Friends of MSSRF) and Friends of Swaminathan in Australia.


These loans have facilitated job led rural economic growth by promoting eco-entrepreneurship among landless and marginal households through Self Help Groups (SHGs), by way of identification of enterprises, demystification and customization of on-farm/off-farm/ non-farm technologies available in the universities and research institutions (especially on biological software's like bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers) to suit the local conditions with appropriate forward and backward linkages, business enterprises and capacity building in multiple livelihood systems among the rural men and women. With access to capital, these people have proven themselves to be successful entrepreneurs, developing and expanding small business ventures of handicrafts, papermaking, garment production, and entrepreneurship. The key elements of this program were:

  • Need-based credit
  • Timely and effective support
  • Low transaction cost
  • User-controlled revolving fund

Aspects looked into while providing interest free loans were determined by the following parameters:

  • Empowering women
  • Environment friendliness
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Economic viability
  • Increased job opportunities

Through this program 282 SHGs, 2 SHG Federations and a Farmers' Federation have been supported. More than 4,000 individuals have availed support under this program, the details of which are provided in the Micro Credit Banks database located on the MSSRF website at

This program was closed in 2008, after the government mandated all State banks to make micro lending to rural areas at least 2% of their entire portfolio.  While this legislation has made loans widely available, it also prohibited NGOs such as MSSRF to provide micro-credit services.  The funds returned by borrowers from the profits of the businesses they had started have been rolled over to other projects, supported by AI with MSSRF, which are reported on this website:


Villipuram, Tamil Nadu

  • Enhancing livelihoods through cattle loans
  • Promotion of cultivation of organic green, leafy vegetables

Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu

  • Enhancing livelihoods through cattle loans
  • Rejuvenation/Deepening of open-wells to restore water bodies in the region


  • Livelihood Programs