From campesino to exporter

A hard-working Paraguayan, a good idea and a start-up $500 loan come together in this rags-to-riches story of a non-Spanish speaker who started selling fruit in his hometown and ended up venturing successfully in the export business.

In Guayaibí, one of the poorest and most conflicted-ridden areas of Paraguay, Antonio Bogado started planting bananas and pineapples on a piece of land that belonged to his parents. Initially sold the fruit in nearby areas and later in Asunción, and soon saw himself exporting to Argentina and Uruguay.

Bogado's entrepreneurial drive is turning Guayaibí into Paraguay's leading banana and pineapple producer. Moreover, he is giving full-time employment to 15 people and harvest-time employment to 15 more, according to a feature story in the new issue of MicroEnterprise Americas , a yearly magazine to be launched at the VII Inter-American Forum on Microenterprise in Cartagena, Colombia on September 9 and 10, 2004.

Bogado has already expanded his parent's piece of land into a farm with 55 hectares.

His luck would have been different without financial support. El Comercio, a local microfinance institution, granted Bogado his start-up loan of about $500. His most recent loan, to buy the farm for fruit production, was for $5,000. Still, “to this day he does not speak Spanish, only Guaraní,” according to MicroEnterprise Americas .

During the two-day meeting of the microenterprise industry, participants will discuss the latest ideas and tools, and share lessons learned from real-life stories such as that of Bogado to improve financial and business services for microenterprises. The forum will also analyze ways to eliminate barriers for starting up a business and social entrepreneurship programs that improve living standards in poor communities.