Mercy Corps, in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, recently hosted more than 300 participants from around the world where various stakeholders shared experiences in executing financial inclusion initiatives involving smallholder farmers. The event was held to disseminate lessons learned throughout the year in the programme and influence ecosystem change according to its theory of change. Its theme was: ‘Technology disruptions and agriculture systems.’
Mercy Corps’ AgriFin Accelerate programme (AFA) represents USD 24 million in innovation funding from the MasterCard Foundation to support development, testing and scaling of digitally enabled services. The programme’s objective is to develop sustainable services that increase the farmer’s income, productivity and resilience by 50% (with 50% outreach to women and youth). AFA works as an innovation partner with private sector scale partners such as banks, mobile network operators, agribusinesses, as well as technology innovators and governments committed to serving smallholder farmers at scale. The programme helps the partners to develop, prototype and scale bundles of digitally-enabled financial and non-financial services. It supports partnership development between market actors that leverage their strengths.
Speaking at the event, Leesa Shrader, Mercy Corps AFA Programme Director, said : “We have just reached the 2 million smallholder farmers in Kenya with digital tools that we have helped our partners to build, test and scale, doubling our target of 1 million farmers in five years. In Kenya, we serve over 1.6 million registered farmers, 40% of whom are women. AFA seeks to address the inclusion gap for smallholder farmers who lack access to affordable, accessible, demand-driven products, services and markets that contribute to higher productivity and income for farm families.”
Smallholder farmers are the most underserved group in the world by financial services, with women and youth at a particular disadvantage. Investment in this sector is critical, as economic growth from agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty, as growth in other sectors. At an estimated $450 billion, the global demand for smallholder agricultural finance is largely unmet. Impact-driven agricultural lenders are estimated to reach no more than two percent of the demand.
AgriFin Accelerate employs a market facilitation and technical assistance model to catalyse the development of digitally enabled products and services for smallholder farmers. It works with ecosystem actors committed to serving farmers sustainably and at scale including mobile network operators, financial institutions, farmer networks, technology innovators, agriculture value chain players, government and other key market stakeholders.
The event’s participants will share learning on how to make digital financial services &financial markets work for Africa’s smallholders and how to leverage technology to create inclusive job opportunities for youth in agriculture & rural economies.