Smallholder farmers in Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania are to benefit from a 15-million dollar grant from the MasterCard Foundation under a project dubbed “Financial Inclusion for Smallholder Farmers in Africa Project” (FISFAP).
The deal, signed by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in partnership with Kenya Commercial Bank Group would facilitate the implementation of a platform to enable smallholder farmers across the East African region access credit and training.
The initiatives are to contribute to the professionalization of the agricultural sector and the diversification of rural economies through enhancing access to appropriate, affordable and sustainable financial and technical services.
Mr Paa Kwesi Awuku-Darko, Associate Program Officer of FISFAP, who disclosed this in Accra at a stakeholder’s workshop, said the five-year project between 2015 and 2020 aims to improve food security and incomes of over 700,000 farmers in the three countries.
The project is to enable partnerships between financial services providers, value chain actors such as agro-dealers, aggregators, and mobile network operators to develop appropriate and affordable digital products and services for organized smallholders.
Mr Awuku- Darko said the emerging digital highways in the target countries allowed the services to reach farmers at a much lower cost and with reduced risks as more data on smallholder farmers become available for analysis, certification and rating purposes.
The products and services may include savings, insurance and credit, or non-financial services such as agronomic extension, financial literacy or access to markets.
“AGRA aims to catalyze a major shift in Africa’s agriculture through innovation-driven, sustainable productivity increases and access to finance that improves the lives of smallholder farmers. Increasing agricultural productivity has the greatest potential for increasing incomes of rural families in Africa,” he added.
Mr Awuku-Darko noted that the Sub-Sahara Africa was the fastest growing region in terms of digital infrastructure and mobile phone usage with 329 million subscribers in 2014 and a region with the highest level of mobile money penetration.
Madam Hedwig Siewertsen, Team Leader for FISFAP, said the partnerships would contribute to knowledge and networks developed in agro-dealer support projects, farmer-based organizations projects and access to markets programs implemented by AGRA over the past eight years.
“Creating a vibrant agriculture sector in Africa requires increasing smallholder farmers’ access to extension and training programs; financial services such as savings and insurance; arable land; information technologies; and market opportunities,” she added.
She said FISFAP would look for commercial or non-commercial service providers that qualify to develop, pilot or roll-out products or services for smallholder farmers that lead to yield and income improvement.
Madam Siewertsen emphasized that those organizations would be invited to share their ideas with FISFAP in a concept note.