Sh503m initiative targets a million smallholder farmers

Friday February 8 2019

A small-scale maize farmer in her farm in Chuka.

A small-scale maize farmer in her farm in Chuka. An initiative, named AgriFin Digital Farmer (ADF) will support the expansion of high impact, digitally enabled services to such smallholder farmers. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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At least a million farmers across Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria are set to benefit from Sh502.9 million initiative launched this week by Mercy Corp’s AgriFin Accelerate.

The programme seeks to address lack of access to financial and information services by smallholder farmers.

The initiative, named AgriFin Digital Farmer (ADF), will last two years and is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It will support the expansion of high impact, digitally enabled services to the farmers.

According to Mercy Corps, ADF is expected to increase smallholders’ income and productivity by 50 per cent and reach at least 40 per cent of women in all the countries.

“Our approach will be grounded in our innovation partnership model driving product design, testing and scale through a series of engagements,” said Leesa Shrader, ADF’s programme director.

She added the initiative will increase smallholder farmer inclusion, productivity and income, as well as create a range of digitally enabled models and institutional partners to boost inclusive agricultural transformations.

Smallholder farmers, according to her, are the most underserved group in the world by financial services, with women and youth greatly disadvantaged.

“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. The global demand for smallholder agricultural finance remains largely unmet, as impact-driven lenders are estimated to reach less than 2 per cent of demand,” she said.

The initiative, according to her, will build on the continuing success of Mercy Corps' AgriFin programme, which works with private sector partners and reaches more than 2.5 million smallholders in Africa and Asia, with digitally enabled products and services.

For the last four years, Mercy Corps has been running the Sh2.5 billion MasterCard Foundation-funded AgriFin Accelerate Programme, seeking to address the inclusion gap for smallholder farmers who lack access to affordable, accessible, demand-driven financial products and services that spur their higher productivity and income.