Bringing financial services to smallholder farmers

Microfinance in India
Microfinance in India. Photo: Peter Haden (CC BY 2.0)

Financial inclusion has made considerable progress in recent years. There are now a wide range of financial products which can help small farmers: debt financing, short term working capital to finance purchasing of inputs, long term working capital to finance machinery, equity and factoring. Whereas banks used not to want to go the ‘last mile’, ICT innovations have made it possible and profitable to do so. Vision Fund, for example, has over 1.2 million customers.

There is nonetheless still a large financing gap for smallholders: $50billion is being offered, but over $200 billion is needed. This means that smallholders often have to resort to loan sharks. In India for example 37% of loans are still from the informal sector with interest rates of 20-40%.

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Game changers: digital agriculture and new technologies

tablets-in-india
Tablets being used at a Plantwise plant clinic in India. Photo: CABI

ICTs play a pivotal role in facilitating solutions for smallholder farmers and the markets they are trying to access. For GLOBALG.A.P., the world’s leading farm assurance program, the only way to make the auditing of the 160,000 farms it covers economically viable is through technological solutions. CABI’s Plantwise programme also relies on ICTs for collecting data from plant clinics and to share plant health knowledge via the Knowledge Bank. Similarly, the provision of micro-finance and insurance services for smallholder farmers has only been made possible through advances in mobile technology.

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Plantwise: connecting smallholders to knowledge through ICT interventions

Plant doctor showing a specimen on his screen through a USB microscope in Balkheda plant clinic. Photo: MSSRF
Plant doctor showing a specimen through a USB microscope in Balkheda plant clinic. Photo courtesy: MSSRF

The emergence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the last decade has opened new avenues in knowledge management that could play important roles in meeting the prevailing challenges related to sharing, exchanging and disseminating knowledge and technologies. The types of ICT-enabled services are capable of improving the capacity and livelihoods of poor smallholders are growing quickly.

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Youth Changing the Face of Agriculture in Kenya

They are young and sophisticated technophiles operating in the fast lane of life. A typical day for them entails spending considerable amounts of time on the cyberspace. Additionally, they are innovative and have a proclivity for taking greater entrepreneurial risks.  Meet the burgeoning youth population that is revolutionizing the agricultural landscape in Kenya.

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How mobile technology could improve agriculture

A farmer looking at symptoms of cocoa black pod on a tablet device © CABI
A farmer looking at symptoms of cocoa black pod on a tablet device © CABI

Technological innovation is becoming increasingly important in agricultural development and productivity. The use of mobile ICT (information and communication technology) in agriculture provides a more efficient and cost-effective method for sharing and exchanging knowledge more widely. Farmers are benefiting  as they can access key information such as pest and disease reports, weather conditions and market prices. It can also improve communication between farmers and extensions workers, who are unable to visit farmers as often as both parties would like. Enhancing communication between farmers, extension workers, researchers and policy makers is essential to the improvement of agricultural efficiency.

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