SPECIAL REPORT: Rural Outreach and Innovation Action Group Highlights Apps, Soil Test Kits, Funding Agricultural Cooperatives

On European Microfinance Week 2017the first afternoon of European Microfinance Week, the European Microfinance Platform’s (e-MFP’s) Rural Outreach & Innovation Action Group presented a range of services that are reaching rural areas today.

Amsalu Alemayehu of Ethiopia’s Wasasa Microfinance explained that his organization has been financing agricultural cooperatives for about five years and how this can be an efficient method for serving a large number of people. However, the number of cooperatives Wasasa serves remains small. Mr Alemayehu explained that many of the 78,000 cooperatives in Ethiopia are member-managed and need significant capacity building to become creditworthy.

Marina Kortenbusch of Switzerland’s Business & Finance Consulting (BFC), who is also the chair of the Action Group, spoke passionately about using ideas from farming, gardening and cooking to increase job satisfaction.

Michael de Groot of the Netherlands’ Rabobank Foundation discussed SoilCares, which offers soil test kits for as little as USD 10 that can help farmers increase profitability, reducing risk for lenders. Using the test results, one group in Kenya boosted its maize yield by 55 percent.

Mariel Mensink of the Netherlands-based ICCO Terrafina Microfinance discussed the Mastercard Rural Finance Program, through which ICCO Terrafina paired agricultural extension officers with loan officers to support farmers. The agricultural extension officers assisted the farmers with soil data and observed their practices, stepping in – for example – when one farmer was using 10 times the allowable amount of pesticide on his tomato crop. The program also employed spreadsheets to help track data in a simple way. She described the approach as “high tech, high touch,” arguing that program uptake may be as low as 20 percent without a strong training component.

Etienne Mottet of BFC described several apps with which his firm has experimented. These offer information such as weather data, crop advice and pricing data. In Myanmar, he suggested the Golden Paddy app could be funded by selling lenders the data that farmers enter into it. In Georgia, the Traktor app might be monetized through commissions on farming inputs sold through it. Akido, another app in Georgia, allows farmers to order products and brings in money from advertisements placed by home improvement and other firms.

This interview is part of a sponsored series on European Microfinance Week, which is ongoing in Luxembourg through December 1. MicroCapital has been engaged to promote and cover the event on-site.

Sources and Additional Resources

European Microfinance Week 2017

MicroCapital Coverage of European Microfinance Week Since 2012

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