AgDevCo, in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, recently announced a $15.4 million plan to boost the incomes of smallholder farmers in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia writes SAM OKWAKOL.
AgDevCo, which is a specialist agriculture impact investor, has developed a Smallholder Development Unit (SDU) to work with the farmers to increase their productivity and strengthen their ties with local agribusinesses.
Sandi Roberts, the newly appointed head of AgDevCo’s SDU, said, “Boosting farmer productivity is not enough. Farmers need long-term relationships with trusted buyers who pay fair prices. The SDU can help farmers who need reliable markets and local agribusinesses who need quality raw materials.”
Activities will include providing training and better quality inputs to farmers, implementing mobile technology solutions, and brokering long-term purchase contracts.
The SDU will develop 25 ‘outgrower schemes’ over five years, directly benefitting up to half a million farmers, half of them women under the age of 35 years.
Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion and Youth Livelihoods at The MasterCard Foundation, said, “We are excited about the potential of this work with AgDevCo to drive the adoption of new technologies – such as mobile phones, cashless payments and micro-insurance products – by a younger generation of African farmers.
The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. It is one of the largest, independent foundations and its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to alleviate poverty.
Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by MasterCard when the Foundation was created in 2006.
Miles said: “We want to help to shift the perception of agriculture so that young people see it as a viable livelihood in which they can imagine a beneficial and sustainable future.”
According to a release, many smallholder farmer projects help improve yields, but do not establish reliable links to markets.
The SDU can take advantage of the fact that AgDevCo – and its sister working capital facility Lending for African Farming LAFCo – already invest in storage, trading and processing businesses which source crops such as maize, sunflower, groundnuts, chillies and avocadoes.
The SDU aims to make an important contribution to AgDevCo’s mission of investing in agricultural enterprises in Africa to create jobs, improve food security and increase rural prosperity.
The AgDevCo partnership adds to The MasterCard Foundation’s growing portfolio of work supporting smallholder farmers in Africa. To date, the Foundation has committed more than $175 million to agricultural finance projects which will improve lives of an estimated 3.5 million people living in poverty.