Digital innovations and the spread of smartphones are making it easier for poor people to manage their daily finances, access credit to grow a business or handle an emergency. Yet two billion people today still lack access to basic financial services. This year, the CGAP Photo Contest sought to highlight the various ways people are using digital finance to improve their lives. These photos show how they cope with crises, and how technologies are opening new opportunities for reaching excluded groups and remote regions. The photos illustrate the economic lives of poor people and the enormous impact financial services can have in a wide range of social, economic, and developmental contexts.
The 2017 CGAP Photo Contest received more than 3,000 submissions from photographers in 76 countries. Entries were judged on technical excellence, subject matter relevance, artistic merit, overall impact, as well as the story behind each photo. A panel of distinguished judges selected the winners. The judges were Sarah Richardson, Director and Global Curator at Citi; Indira Williams-Babic, Director of Photography and Visual Resources at the Newseum in Washington, DC; and Karly Domb Sadof, Photo Editor at The Washington Post.
"Translating the ongoing work of inclusive finance into visual form is an interesting challenge. These photographers created compelling narratives that illustrate the profound impact of inclusive finance. Each photo tells a different story, which made reviewing the group like a trip around the globe."
―Sarah Richardson, Citi
HONEY COLLECTORS | Traditional honey collectors break into a wild beehive in the forests of Sundarbans, a place of vast natural resources in the coastal region of western Bangladesh. It is a wildlife sanctuary, home to giant bees as well as tigers, crocodiles and venomous snakes. The honey collectors, known as ‘mouaals’, risk their lives to harvest thousands of pounds of honey every year, there are so few other options to earn money. They use torches of smoking twigs and leaves to scatter the bees. In this UNESCO World Heritage Site, people build their homesteads adjacent to the forest and live mainly off its resources to sustain their lives.
"The image pulls you in. It's immersive for the person in the image and the person viewing the image. It does a great job of making you part of that experience."
―Indira Williams Babic, Newseum
“It has a mythical feel to it. You can tell the photographer was part of the experience. Out of all of the images, this is the most different - the only image that I thought was something completely new.”
―Karly Domb Sadof, The Washington Post
RAY OF HOPE | Lepchakha is a remote village of West Bengal, India, where electricity has reached only recently. But the service is very poor, and most families depend on solar energy to light their homes. Manisha explains that solar technology helps her stretch the family budget: "Pure energy from the sun reduces our collective dependence on fossil fuel and saves money."
FISH FINDER | Fishermen use an app on their mobile telephones to locate fish in the Riau Islands of Indonesia. For these men, the fish finder app saves them time and money, making their fishing trips more profitable. Apps are creating new opportunities for poor people to improve their productivity.
GIVE US SUNSHINE | Sheroes Hangout is a café and boutique run by women who have survived acid attacks. Working in the café fosters confidence in the women and provides them with a means to earn a living. Rather than remain victims, these women decided to open a business located near the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, with the help of the Chaanv Foundation. The café's “pay as you wish” contributions go directly to survivors of acid attacks in India.
BICYCLE DISTRIBUTIONS | Building sustainable livelihoods can oftentimes begin with simple solutions. A village savings group listens as Tonny explains bicycle maintenance to villagers in Gulu, Uganda. Tonny works for Bicycles Against Poverty (BAP), a social enterprise that provides asset financing to smallholder farmers in isolated areas of northern Uganda, using bicycles as collateral to back their loans. BAP's focus is to increase opportunities for smallholder farmer families, and bicycles do just that. As part of their loan, new bicycle owners receive training and support from mechanics and BAP staff on how to keep their bikes in working order, and stay on track for financial success.
HOPE IN THE HEIGHTS | In the mountain plateaus of Ondores, Peru, cattle ranchers must cope year after year with heavy frosts that can kill their livestock. A woman holds in her arms a lamb, in a photo that portrays the immensely close relationship that people have forged with their environment and livestock, their form of subsistence.
POTATO HARVEST | October is the right time for harvesting potatoes in Dehgolan, one of the largest regions for cultivating this crop in Iran. The soil and water conditions allow farmers to plant potatoes on more than 95 percent of their land each year, and the crop plays a major role in growing the economy in this Kurdistan province.
TRADING | Cash is still the common method of payment in Jogia, a small village in Yogyakarta. Here a transaction is taking place in this rural area of Indonesia.
RETURNING HOME | Women return home at the end of the day after collecting firewood from the forests in West Bengal, India. Firewood remains a major source of fuel in poor rural areas, requiring women to walk long distances.
VIDEO MARKETING WITH TABLETS | An agent uses a mobile tablet to show smallholder farmers in Kenya a video on asset-backed borrowing. The video from One Acre Fund, a nonprofit social enterprise providing financial inclusion to more than 500,000 smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, has testimonials from other smallholders on the asset-based loans. One Acre Fund is running a trial to see whether they help clients who are rarely offered loans to better understand how the credit works and how working together they can improve their harvests.
KNITTING A BETTER FUTURE | La Cana Proyecto de Reinserción Social (Social Rehabilitation Project) works with women in prison to teach them productive skills that will help them reintegrate into Mexican society, reducing the rate of recidivism. The knitting teacher (center), trains various weaving and embroidery techniques at a weekly workshop held in each correctional facility. With the money women earn from the sales, they are able to buy personal hygiene products and meet their basic needs. La Cana seeks to empower women to create a brighter future for themselves and their families, beyond the prison walls.
THE QUINOA FARMER | Gabina is an indigenous woman who lives with her four children in the town of Yanque, Peru. She works in a quinoa farm in the Colca Valley. Her routine starts very early in the morning. After sending her kids to school, Gabina walks more than two hours up the mountains to plant and harvest vegetables and quinoa. Gabina, like many other poor people in Peru, works in informal ways to provide for her family, harvesting quinoa and selling crafts that she makes herself.
FESTIVE WORKSHOP | In this workshop near Calcutta, statues of gods and goddess are manufactured in time for the religious festivals held throughout the year. This statue maker receives financial assistance from the microfinance committee of India.
CEREMONY | A man cooks a thick Iranian stew of vegetables and noodles called ‘ash’, which is believed to bring good fortune for those at the annual New Year ceremony. He lives in Oraman, an ancient settlement in western Iran. The abundance water in the rivers of this mountainous region feeds various gardens, which produce plentiful, high-quality produce known throughout the country.
FISH TRAP MAKER | This man works as a traditional fish trap maker. He is able to complete one fish trap in two or three days, depending on its size. He makes the traps from bamboo and sells them locally in his village as well as to hotels and resorts for interior decoration. From this job, he is able to generate income for his family.
COCOON EXPOSING | This woman earns her living by gathering silk from silkworms to process and weave into fabric that is then sold.
RIVER VIEW | This photo was taken on Pakkouku Bridge in Myanmar. It depicts the traditional life of the local Burmese people for whom water is an essential part of their daily life, health, and working conditions.
THE CREATOR | This clay artist, Ashim, is completing the model of a goddess/idol. He deploys great artistry and creativity. As the only member of his family to earn an income, his skill enables him to improve his economic conditions and sustain their livelihoods.
FAMILY LUNCH | This family is not rich in monetary terms, but they work hard to live a happy life. They are farmers who work together to earn their living.
“It’s about people. This is what the CGAP Photo Contest is all about.”
―Indira Williams Babic, Newseum
CGAP (the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) is a global partnership of over 30 leading organizations that seek to advance financial inclusion. CGAP develops innovative solutions through practical research and active engagement with financial service providers, policy makers, and funders to enable approaches at scale. Housed at the World Bank, CGAP combines a pragmatic approach to responsible market development with an evidence-based advocacy platform to increase access to the financial services the poor need to improve their lives. Learn more at www.cgap.org.