2017 AgriFin Accelerate (AFA) Learning Outcomes Highlighted at 2nd Annual Learning Event

The Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate (AFA) program seeks to address the financial inclusion gap for smallholder farmers with greater access to affordable, accessible, and demand-driven financial products and services. As part of AFA’s 2nd Annual Learning Event, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya on 31 January 2018, AFA is releasing a wide range of blogs and documents highlighting its program and learning outcomes from the past year in Kenya, Zambia, and Tanzania.

They include:

Of Bulk and Benefit: Lessons from Promoting Digital Payments among Cotton Ginners in Zambia. This series analyzes key learnings regarding the use of digital bulk payments as a potential catalyst for financial inclusion among smallholder cotton farmers in Zambia.  Cotton is a key cash crop in rural Zambia, but adoption of digitization efforts has in the industry has met with limited success. The documents, including this post and presentation, explore the challenges and potential of digital payments across multiple levels, from the individual farmer to the broader cotton sector ecosystem.

Increasing Women’s Financial Inclusion in Zambia. In Zambia, AFA is leading a consortium of partners to develop and scale a range of bundled digital financial and other services for women farmers under the Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSDZ)’s Women’s Financial Inclusion (WIN) initiative. Using a human-centered design approach, the initiative has explored the financial exclusion context, seasonal financial cycle, and system of financial and service uptake influencers from the perspective of women smallholders, and has looked the heterogeneity among women smallholders in their financial strategies and management. Products include a slideshow and the first two of a series on the initiative. See the stories here and here.

Old Meets New – Don’t Lose The Plot Reality TV ‘Edutainment’ Series Engages Youth to See Farming as a Business Through Digital Media and Tools
With the average age of African farmers rising above 40 years, AFA collaborated with the Mediae Company to develop a reality TV show – aimed at young people and supported by digital tools and services – to see if the use of television and technology-driven innovations could help engage more youth in farming as a business. Called Don’t Lose the Plot, the show aired in 2017 in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania drawing over 3.4 million viewers – more than 60% of them aged 18-34. AFA developed an interactive, Web-based farm budgeting tool to accompany the show called Budget Mkononi, which turned out to be the show’s most popular social media feature. An AFA Focus Note describes the show’s development and learnings to date, introduced by this short post.

Digital Financial Services for Smallholder Farmers- What Data Can Financial Institutions Bank On?

How can digital data relevant to smallholder farmer activity be used to unlock better access to finance? What types of digital data are most likely to help financial institutions assess and price the various risks smallholder farmers face (which include timely input/offtake, weather, market-price risk) and reduce the need to send loan officers across long distances to visit the farms? This paper goes through a simplified description of how credit scores are built, then looks at some of the types of data being collected by AgriFin Accelerate partners and discusses which are most likely to work well in credit scoring models.

 Supply Side Constraints to Rural Agent Network Viability in Zambia

In Zambia, where the vast majority of the population lives in rural areas, penetration of financial inclusion is high, at 60%. But active use of digital financial services (DFS) in Zambia is only 35%. Multiple barriers contribute to the slow evolution of DFS in Zambia, including demand-side, supply-side, and ecosystem constraints. In April 2017, AFA-Zambia and UNCDF MM4P Zambia conducted a workshop in Lusaka to address these barriers, focusing principally on supply-side constraints. Learnings and insights from the workshop are synthesized here. See also: Tackling the Rural Agent Network Challenge: 10 Cases & Learnings.

 AFA Reverse Hackathon Taps Smallholder Innovation for Digital Solutions and Eco-System Change to Improve Farmer Capacity

Technology tools aimed at improving farmer capacity and productivity tend to fall short, because they have not been designed with input from end users and offer a fragmented user experience that neglects key service delivery needs. In 2017, AFA conducted a Reverse Hackathon, bringing smallholder farmers to the technology table to share insights with product designers, providers, and other partners for tailoring tools to their needs and preferences. The results brought greater alignment between smallholder demands and provider solutions. And they highlighted the potential for cross-sector collaboration and innovation within the broader farmer capacity context, as presented here.

 Farmers’ Benchmark Study – Zambia First Round of Data Collection

This study presents results from a first round of data collection in Zambia, based on a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of smallholder farmers, to set a baseline for understanding their potential or current digital inclusion. Detailed profiles of smallholder farmers and their preparedness for or use of financial and digital services are presented, as is data regarding their access to agricultural advisory services and to financial services. Farmers’ perceived challenges, threats, and coping strategies are also included. Profiles include factors such as gender, education, types of livelihoods, geographic location, phone usage, and more. Results are presented in this slideshow.

Farmers’ Benchmark Study – Third Round of Data Collection: Kenya

This study presents findings from a third round of data collection in Kenya regarding smallholder farmers. While the first two rounds of data collection focused only on two Kenyan counties, this one is based on a nationally representative, cross-sectional sample of rural farmers. The results present a detailed profile of smallholder farmers (e.g., determinants of farm size, household decision making, expenses, modes of payment), their preparedness for digital inclusion, degree of digital financial inclusion, access to agricultural advisory services, and access to financial services. See the results.

AgriFin Accelerate Data Analytics, Tanzania: FinScope 2017

This study was designed to generate deeper insights on smallholder farmers in Tanzania using data sourced primarily from the recent FinScope 2017 Survey. Building on AFA’s overarching learning questions, the analysis is structured around five thematic areas: 1. Profiles of smallholder farmers, 2. Uptake and usage of financial services by SHFs, 3. Readiness, uptake, usage, and challenges of digital financial services, 4. Information services, training, and gaps, and 5. Opportunities for growth and resilience based on perceived livelihood threats and coping strategies. See the results.

Comparative Analysis of Smallholder Farmers in Kenya, Zambia, and Tanzania

This review analyzes results from FinScope Tanzania 2017 and the two AFA benchmark studies in Kenya and Zambia to assess gaps in agricultural productivity, resilience, gender equity, and financial inclusion across the three countries and identify opportunities for addressing these gaps through digital financial services (DFS). It explores seven research questions aimed at describing the profile of an average farmer in each country, comparing smallholder’s uptake and usage of financial services, an how they save and borrow. They also compare uptake and usage of DFS; how farmers access information, training, or advisory services on agriculture or finance; and farmer perceptions and coping strategies regarding the most serious threats to their livelihoods. Results are presented here.

Over 260 participants graced the 2nd Annual Learning event which was held on 31st January 2018 in Nairobi.
A side event at the ALE where participants formed the Data Utilization Working Group.
Sean Granville-Ross (center), Regional Director, and Melaku Yirba (top-left), Deputy Regional Director networking with participants at the ALE.
Participants had the opportunity to network, share experiences and exchange lessons learned during the ALE.
Eight workshops were held in the 2nd edition of the ALE.