Mercy Corps and The MasterCard Foundation recognize the unique position of AgriFin Accelerate in the emerging field of digital financial services (DFS). A program of this scope and complexity has a responsibility to not only deliver impact to smallholders, but also to carefully examine our approach and interventions, learn from both successes and failures, and widely disseminate the aggregated and synthesized results without compromising our confidential relationships with our commercial core partners in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. Program Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) is well underway with collaborative development of indicator plans, evaluation methodology, and baseline assessments. Ongoing and regular program monitoring will yield detailed information on progress against targets, determine success or failure of core and secondary partnerships, and establish feedback mechanisms for farmers who are the end-users of bundled services.
Mercy Corps and strategic learning partner Dalberg Development Advisors have conducted ecosystem analysis and strategic engagement planning in Kenya and Tanzania to examine ways in which to possibly improve performance levels of ecosystems that can enable useful, relevant and impactful DFS for smallholders. This research has focused on developing a sophisticated ecosystem view of the agricultural sector, identifying value chains and intervention points that may have the greatest impact on smallholder farmers over time. We will try to measure that impact on farmers, institutions and markets.
Market ecosystem actors and the development community tell us they often lack sufficient information, proven products and tools, and effective partnership models to successfully provide digital financial services to farmers that are impactful, scalable and viable. The program aims to serve as a public information resource related to digitally-enabled services for smallholder farmers, sharing program research, impact evaluations, tools and project engagement learning, as well as convening stakeholders and disseminating lessons learned through newsletters, our website and social media.
Learning questions are central to guiding, informing and extracting maximum value from the program for the financial and agricultural sectors. The learning questions highlighted below are the primary questions that guide the program. These learning questions are informed by a subset of learning questions and the collection of “lean data” and indicators formulated with our core commercial partners around specific interventions to deliver digital solution to smallholders:
- What impact have AFA-supported partners had on smallholder farmer (SHF) income, overall productivity, and resilience to shocks?
- What financial and value-added services do SHFs, including women and youth, value most and why?
- How does bundling of products or services impact uptake and usage of digital financial services? What capability building tools have highest impact on SHF willingness and ability to use?
- What distribution channels are most effective for delivery of digitally-enabled financial and non-financial services to SHFs?
- How and to what extent have AFA-supported partners been successful in achieving scale and commercial sustainability?
- What are the main drivers of success and failure of different partnerships and approaches?
- What ecosystem features are most important for success and expansions of digital solutions for agriculture?
- How can market intelligence, convening, dissemination, and partnerships help to shape these ecosystem features and “crowd in” activity in the space?
The main objectives of the MEL function within AgriFin Accelerate (AFA) are to:
- Understand the link between activities, outputs and outcomes at the client, partner and ecosystem level and their link to achieving the program impact
- Collect and analyze baseline data on smallholder farmers and the ecosystem that will aid in evaluating the impact of the program over time
- Ensure that planned activities are being implemented as per the schedule and are in line with program objectives
- Capture learnings, identify any threats to program performance, share successes and challenges encountered during the program that can be useful to ecosystem players
- Ensure consistency while maintaining some level of flexibility in supporting partners to develop and update products that address smallholder farmer needs
- Effectively disseminate program learnings
The below graphic illustrates how the MEL objectives will be carried out, by linking our Results Framework and design, through to the activities and key learning questions, through to the learning process itself and how insights and lessons are disseminated to have wider impact.
AgriFin Accelerate is supporting the expansion of digital financial services – e-payments, savings, credit and insurance –to one million farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) over six years, delivered by growing ecosystems of diverse service providers. AgriFin Accelerate’s primary target group is unbanked smallholder farmers living on less than $2.50 per day. Will we reach these bold targets, and equally important what will we learn on the journey? Join us.