A US$25 million programme called AgriFin Accelerate (AFA) has now also been launched in Zambia to drive digital advancement for small scale farmers.
The program was launched by Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian aid agency. It is run in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, which works with non-profit organisations to expand digital financial services. Zambian partners include Musika, the Zambia National Commercial Bank (Zanaco) and the World Food Programme.
“AgriFin Accelerate will employ market facilitation and technical assistance model to kick start the development of digitally enabled products and services for smallholders in Zambia,” says Abraham Mudasia, communications manager for Mercy Corps AFA.
“We’re really pleased to support this partnership because it represents a major step forward in Zambia to leveraging technology in order to increase smallholder farmer incomes. This is possible by enabling smallholder farmers to access digital financial services and markets more easily, while strengthening their capacity and skills to utilize digital information,” Olga Morawczynski, programme manager, Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation said during the launch.
Mudasia says Mercy Corps AFA will collaborate with Zambian agricultural role players committed to serving farmers sustainably and at scale. Role players include mobile network operators, financial institutions, technology innovators, agricultural value chain players and government.
The programme is aimed at ensuring appropriate digital solutions are developed and implemented to address the gap in access to financial and information services, in order to boost smallholder farmers in Zambia.
The programme has already been rolled out in Kenya and Tanzania, and will be available to all Zambian smallholder farmers.
Why digital farming?
Speaking during the launch of AgriFin Accelerate programme in Zambia, Leesa Shrader, AgriFin Accelerate programme director said: “New technologies and advances in mobile banking, as well as the increasing integration of smallholder farmers into better organized value chains, can promote solutions and affordable delivery channels that help close the inclusion gap for smallholder farmers who lack access to basic financial products and services.”
One of the Zambian partners is Musika, a non profit organisation which has done extensive work to generate private sector investments in smallholder markets.
Rob Munro, Director of Strategy at Musika, says digitisation of smallholder farming is not a silver bullet which will solve the multiple problems that Zambia’s smallholder farmers face. But they will benefit from the greater application of digital technology and AFA’s resources, and will profit through the programme’s regional experience, networks within the technology economy and in-depth understanding of the sector.
He says digital technology can mitigate certain challenges Zambian farmers face. These include:
- Informational challenges – market information, extension and training can be challenging and expensive and is usually shared face to face, if at all.
- Organisational challenges – the efficiency of the agricultural supply chain can be improved.
- Financial problems – opportunities for credit will improve with the availability of digital records of farmers over the longer term. Other financial services such as business-to-farmer, farmer-to-business, insurance payments and payouts and savings products can all benefit enormously through the integration of digital solutions..
Musika and AFA have for example already identified an existing project to support the cotton ginning industry in digitising payments to smallholder farmers.
Munro says the seven major ginning companies coming on board and the partnership with AFA – which will provide the technical capabilities to support digital solutions – is a step in the right direction in realising digitisation. It will also improve Zambia’s supply chain in order to increase profitability for the country’s so called emerging digital farmers.