Stories tagged: fintrac

#FillTheGap! Making queens in Mozambique

This is the second post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.

For Mozambican women who dream of building a business from the fields up, they are often thwarted at the first furrow: women account for just a quarter of official land owners.

Josefina dos Santos Lourenço had aspirations of owning her own business but she wasn’t even earning enough selling food at her small market stand to support her family. Though she believed in herself, she couldn’t find a way to put her talents to use increasing her income.

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Digital Loan Process Transforming Smallholder Access to Credit in Kenya

By Jessica Joye, Communications Director at Fintrac.

In Kenya, smallholder farmers lack access to financial services and face high barriers accessing commercial banks and community lending institutions. These institutions rarely approve loans to smallholders or have a slow turnaround time for approval, preventing farmers from getting capital when they need it in the agricultural cycle. Smallholder farmers not only face the improbability of loan approvals, but, even if approved, they often encounter hidden fees on top of already-high interest rates. To overcome these challenges, Fintrac’s Partnering for Innovation program is working with Musoni, a Kenyan microfinance institution, to pioneer and commercialize a digital model specifically targeted toward smallholders.

Musoni developed a model to reach high volumes of remote smallholder customers with an agriculture-specific “Kilimo Booster” loan. Village-based loan agents meet directly with farmers to discuss their credit needs and, using a cash flow software developed by the Grameen Foundation, can wirelessly submit farmers’ loan applications on the spot. Farmers don’t have to worry about traveling long distances to a bank or completing complicated applications requiring extensive documentation.

At many Kenyan banks, customers usually need personal or family connections in order to schedule appointments, making it difficult to inquire about loan or repayment details. In contrast, Musoni customers can receive immediate attention via walk-in appointments for any issue. Unlike many traditional Kenyan banks, Musoni wants to see its customers grow, and building personal relationships helps Musoni determine if and when customers are able to increase their loan amount or transition into other types of credit offerings. Although its interest rates are on the higher side, Musoni does not charge any hidden fees and customers have been willing to pay the higher rates in exchange for this personal attention.

Once a Kilimo Booster loan is approved, it is deposited into the customer’s mobile money account within 72 hours, ensuring farmers have timely access to the finance they need during specific times in the agricultural cycle. Musoni’s software also tracks customer information, including repayment information and changes in income, to make loan processing more efficient.

This client-focused approach benefits both customers and Musoni, which profits from reduced time needed to complete each application. Musoni also offers customers a mobile platform from which they can receive payment reminders and obtain other information about their loans, reducing the need to make visits to physical banking locations.

Michael Chege, a Kenyan farmer, also points out that “Musoni is flexible in case of disaster and willing to work with farmers to get payments in.”

In just 18 months, Musoni disbursed more than $6.4 million in loans to rural smallholders, proving its high-touch, efficient approach is gaining traction in the market. Musoni has built a reputation of valuing its customers, building relationships, and successfully applying digital technology to the smallholder market. By paying a relatively high interest rate, smallholder customers prove they place a premium on easy processes, personal and trustworthy customer service, and transparency.

10 Ways Agriculture is Improving Lives in Asia

In this latest instalment of our “Supporter Spotlight” series, we take a trip to Asia to learn about the innovative projects Farming First supporters are working on all over the continent to improve food security and farmers’ lives.

1. Fintrac: Beating Drought with Smart Water Management in Cambodia

When the rains did not come in 2015, one group of farmers in the northeastern province of Pursat not only survived, but thrived. They had banded together to form a Water User Group, that managed farmer access to the Polyum Canal. By maximising efficiency and eliminating conflict around water use, and using good agricultural practices taught by the Cambodia HARVEST program, group members have increased their productivity from an average of 2,500 kilograms per hectare to more than 4,000. As a result, their household incomes have increased by 536 percent! Read more >>

2. GAIN: Meet the Wheatamix Women in India

Through funding from the Bestseller Foundation, GAIN is working in the states of Karnataka and Bihar in India to improve the nutrition and lives of groups of semi-literate women. These women are trained to run their own factories producing a quality blended complementary food product called ”Wheatamix” in Bihar and “Shakhti Vita” in Karnataka. This complementary food product, fortified with vitamins and minerals, has the potential to reach thousands of women, adolescents and children in the region. Read more >>

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3. CropLife: An Indian Farmer Perspective on Biotechnology

In this interview with CropLife International, Balwinder Singh shares his experience of planting an insect-resistant strain of cotton. “I was lucky to be part of the trial when Bt cotton came to India, and when I saw the benefits of this technology; I was the first person to say, this is what is going to save us,” he said. “I took a gamble, and took an additional 50 hectares of land on lease to sow Bt cotton.  It has paid off and my family is enjoying a decent living.” Read more >>

4. IPNI: Healthier Soils Make Indian Farmers More Maize

Access to water has created a challenge for many Indian farmers, increasing interest in alternative crops to flooded rice. Working in West Bengal, research staff at the International Plant Nutrition Institute have focused on developing a rice-maize rotation as an alternative to rice to address the water challenge. Research showed that adding potassium, phosphorus, sulphur and zinc in order to grow maize effectively added US$80 – $290/ha to the farmer’s income. Not only was the maize yield increased, but similar responses were recorded in the rice in these on-farm trials. Read more >>

5. CNFA: Building a Network for Agro-Input Services in Bangladesh 

CNFA implements the USAID-funded Agro-Inputs Project (AIP) to improve the knowledge of and access to quality agricultural inputs for farmers in Bangladesh. CNFA provides trainings and technical assistance on business management and ethics, basic agronomics, safe use and handling of pesticides and other related topics to 3,000 agro-input retailers. Of this, 300 women-retailers are specifically targeted. These agro-input retailers are expected to serve 1 million smallholder farmers, impacting more than 5 million individuals across 20 southern districts of Bangladesh, generating more than $100 million in sales. Read more >>

6. Livelihoods: Mangroves Restore Agricultural Land in Indonesia 

In 1987, Northern Sumatra had 200,000 hectares of mangroves. Today, less than half of that amount remains, with only 83,000 hectares standing. This Livelihoods project has restored mangrove forests, and as a result, increases the safety of the local population. Replanting coastal mangroves significantly buffers coastal communities from future tsunamis akin to that of the 2004 tsunami. Mangrove forests also help to restore vital agricultural land. Additionally, this project generates new sources of economic income. Local villagers are able to increase their revenues by selling the by-products of the mangroves such as fish, mollusks, batik dye and honey. Read more >>

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7. HarvestPlus: Iron Pearl Millet Enriches Diets in India

Iron deficiency is rampant in India, affecting 7 out of 10 children. It impairs mental development and learning capacity, increases weakness and fatigue, and may increase the risk of women dying during childbirth. HarvestPlus is working with partners to promote varieties of pearl millet rich in iron, to help combat malnutrition. Read more >>

8. iDE: Saving Time and Earning Money Through Water Access in Nepal 

Rural villages in Nepal lack several basic services, but the primary issue for many is access to water. Multiple-Use Water Systems (MUS) are an improved approach to water resource management, which taps and stores water and distributes it to households in small communities to meet both domestic and household agricultural needs. In addition to dramatically decreasing the workload of women and girls, MUSs provide benefits in health and sanitation, as well as enabling communities to improve their decisions on the allocation of water resources. “After we got the water it was easy to grow vegetables,” says Kamala Pariyar, a rural farmer in Dikurpokhari. “I used to ask my husband for money to buy basic things. Now, by selling the vegetables, I can earn 600 rupees a day. I have enough money.” Read more >>

9. World Vision: Mangrove Planting Revitalizes Philippine Fishing Community

When a fishing village in the western part of Leyte in the Philippines was struggling to catch enough to feed their families, World Vision helped to implement a mangrove planting initiative. Each family was provided with an average of 1,000 mangrove stalks to plant in the area near their house, to provide a safe habitat of various species of fish, where they can lay their eggs without being disturbed by double net fishing. There is now abundant fish for catching once more, and the community is protected from the risk of typhoons. Read more >>

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10. IFA: Combatting Iodine Deficiencies Through Fertigation

Globally it is estimated that 2.2 billion people in the world are at a risk of iodine deficiency, which causes a wide range of physiological abnormalities, mainly related to defective mental development and brain damage. The content of iodine in food depends on the iodine content of the soils in which crops are grown. In Xinjiang Province, in the North West of China, the soil is particularly poor in iodine with an associated high infant-mortality rate. A project was put in place to supply the water irrigation system with iodine using an iodine fertilizer dripping technique, called fertigation. With this technique, the iodine from the treated water is absorbed by the soil and progresses through plants, animals and humans that eat the iodine-rich plants. Thanks to this project, rates of infant mortality halved and local livestock production increased by 40% in the first year! Read more >>

Do you have an inspiring story about Asian agriculture? Tweet @FarmingFirst and tell us about it!

Andrew Medlicott: Driving Growth & Prosperity in Honduras Through Multi-Functional Farming

In this guest blog post, Andrew Medlicott, the Executive Vice President of Latin America & Caribbean at Fintrac outlines the importance of multi-functional farms for reaching numerous development goals. 

Achieving prosperity in the poorest corners of the world hinges on transitioning smallholders from subsistence to farming as a business. At Fintrac, we specialise in making this happen. As a result of our work in 2015 alone, 800,000 smallholders applied new technologies and climate-smart practices, achieving $530 million in sales.

Our success achieving scalable impact is rooted in a multi-functional approach to agricultural development – one that focuses on on-farm productivity and climate adaptation and mitigation, value-addition, and household health and nutrition. Expanding economic opportunities for women and youth also figure prominently in all activities.

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Video: The Value Chain Approach to Boosting Rural Economies

In the latest episode of Farming First TV, we talk to Dr. Richard Pluke, Senior Agricultural Advisor at Fintrac, about the organisation’s “value chain approach”.

“People complain about problems with markets,” Dr. Pluke comments. “The truth is, the markets are out there, you just need to produce for them and become a dependable supplier.” If smallholders are able to plug into markets and become successful, he argues, the entire rural economy can be boosted as a result.

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#FoodPrize15 Twitter Chat Summary

To gear up for the Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines next week – where Farming First will be acting as media partner to hosts the World Food Prize Foundation – we ran a Twitter Chat with leading spokespeople at the event and Farming First supporters.

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation kicked the discussion off with reasons why agriculture is such an important tool for poverty reduction.

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Ambassador Quinn was joined by the Director of Agricultural Development at the Gates Foundation, Pamela Anderson. She had this response to why the empowerment of youth and women in agriculture can make such a big impact:

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Winner of the 2015 World Food Prize, BRAC also joined the debate. When asked how we can ensure technologies end up in the hand of farmers, they introduced the idea of “frugal innovation”.

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Farming First supporters Dr. Katrin Glatzel of Agriculture for Impact, and Jay Kaufman of Fintrac also joined the discussion. They shared their ideas on how to ensure that development interventions are holistic and tackle more than one area of development.

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The live debate then kicked off, and 12 viewers submitted real-time questions for our panel to tackle. Adam Willman asked about the refuge crisis:

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Chandra Nath Misha asked how more investment can be channeled into staple crops:

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Farming First will be in Des Moines all next week, bringing you live commentary from the conference and posting a series of exclusive expert blogs. Follow @farmingfirst and stay tuned to #FoodPrize15!

For a full recap of the one-long chat, click the Storify tweet collection below.