In many countries, the vast majority of the poor rely on agricultural livelihoods. Yet existing financial services providers reach only a fraction of the rural poor and often provide a limited range of services that are not tailored to agricultural cash flow cycles. Grameen Foundation is building and strengthening rural agent networks that reach the “last mile” and can deliver both financial services and essential information to farmers. In addition, we are applying our AppLab Incubator approach to design better, more appropriate financial products for farmers.
In Kenya, smallholder farmers are often isolated from markets and productive value chains, and lack access to financial services that would insulate them from swings in income. In addition, when prices are lowest due to excess supply at harvest time, most smallholder farmers cannot afford to wait for optimal prices before selling to traders. Large grain warehouses are not generally available to smallholder farmers, and many risk losing their entire crop yields by not following proper storage practices.
Grameen Foundation, in collaboration with Farm Concern International (FCI) and with support from USAID, is developing an integrated and mobile-enabled system to help smallholder maize farmers. The system will help farmers properly store and manage their crops, link to a financial institution to attain partial advances against the value of their stored crop, and connect with markets for final sale when prices rebound. We will also enable farmers to access financial services and information on managing their crops via mobile phones.
The Fairtrade Access Fund, launched in late 2012, is an impact investment fund designed to tackle the unmet demand for long-term financing for smallholder farmers in developing countries. It provides well-run, Fairtrade-certified (or certification-pending) producer organizations with long and short-term loans to help build up their businesses. These loans can be used for such projects as crop renewal, farm improvements, and new equipment or processing facilities.
The Fund also created a separate, complementary Technical Assistance Facility to provide farmers with the tools and information they need to improve their profitability. It offers farmer cooperatives and associations a holistic range of tools to help them build organizational capacity, access extension services and information via mobile phones, use the Progress out of Poverty Index® to track the poverty levels of their members and information on Fairtrade certification.
Incofin Investment Management manages the Fairtrade Access Fund. The fund is sponsored by Grameen Foundation, Incofin Investment Management and Fairtrade International. To learn more about investing, please contact info [at] fairtradeaccessfund [dot] com.