How Financial Tools Can Feed a Family

September 22, 2015

Opportunity International

Elizabeth Afrakome’s family was producing and selling enough cocoa to provide for themselves – until Elizabeth’s husband suffered a stroke three years ago. As the family’s sole provider, Elizabeth struggled to maintain the farm and keep the family fed. Like so many subsistence farmers, Elizabeth longed to provide for her family but didn’t have the resources and training she needed to grow her farm.

Then Elizabeth discovered Opportunity International – and learned about tailored financial tools and training designed to equip and assist famers like her.

Courtesy: Opportunity International

Courtesy: Opportunity International

Opportunity’s Agricultural Finance (AgFin) initiative serves smallholder farmers and agri-businesses in more than thirty value chains across seven African countries (Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya). Opportunity reaches into rural communities through alternative delivery channels including mobile staff who use tablet-based technology, cell phone banking, mobile vans and other avenues adapted to the specific circumstances of each country and region. Opportunity offers agricultural and rural households a menu of financial services including financial education, bank accounts, a variety of savings and loan packages, electronic/mobile money transfer and micro-insurance. Through Opportunity’s partnership-based business model, farmers access a broad range of services – training, inputs, equipment and markets – to sustainably improve their yield, cash flow and quality of life. These partnerships also mitigate the risk of agricultural lending, and reduce costs of delivering rural financial services.

Since its pilot in 2009, Opportunity’s AgFin portfolio growth has been exponential. As of July, 2015, Opportunity had disbursed more than 310,000 agricultural loans, valued at $58.8 million.

While many initiatives extend financing to farmers in the context of donor-funded agricultural development programs, Opportunity establishes long-term relationships with farmers and partners, linking them to financial systems and agricultural markets. Using this AgFin model, Opportunity identifies crops with high potential to generate significant returns to smallholder farmers. Opportunity then engages with key partners who support smallholders to access inputs, training, technology, information, infrastructure and/or markets, while Opportunity provides financial services that support farmers to better access and use these services.

Partnerships with on-the-ground practitioners and financial supporters including Caterpillar Foundation, DfID, John Deere, The MasterCard Foundation, Monsanto, Mars, Inc., Toro and USAID empower Opportunity to offer an integrated package that helps farmers to significantly increase their productivity and income, while enabling Opportunity to efficiently reach larger numbers of famers with reduced risk.

Courtesy: Opportunity International

Courtesy: Opportunity International

As Opportunity’s portfolio matures and stabilizes, Opportunity also seeks to address social factors that impact family farms, including a better understanding of the gender dynamics of agricultural client farmer groups, trading relationships and households in order to enhance the impact on women’s access and gender equality. Gender-enhanced strategies have proven to help families improve gender relations and have given women a strong voice in farm and household decision-making. In 2014, approximately 40% of agricultural loans went directly to women, and roughly one quarter went to young people.

As one of these women, Elizabeth Afrokome’s life turned around after discovering Opportunity’s AgFin services. Now, in addition to loans and training, Opportunity Ghana provides her with access to a safe place to save and with the protection of insurance. She said, “Today, I rest easier because my children are secure; I can save for education and for medicine when they become ill. I feel respected by my neighbors – I never imagined I could be the woman helping others in my community. Until now.”

Learn more about Opportunity International’s innovative Agriculture Finance Initiative and discover how you can invest in farmers around the world at opportunity.org/farmers