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The Business Case For Financial Inclusion of Female Smallholder Farmers

Through its Financial Inclusion for Smallholder Farmers in Africa Project (FISFAP) funded by the Mastercard Foundation, AGRA is striving to improve the quality, cost-effectiveness, access and impact of financial and agribusiness products and services for smallholder farmers.

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Despite the predominance of agriculture in subSaharan economies, the skyrocketing need for increased agricultural productivity to accommodate population growth, the promising innovations fueled by digital technology, and the growing proportion of women in the smallholder farmer workforce, female farmers remain persistently underbanked, overlooked and underserved by financial service providers, agribusinesses and other key actors in the rural economy.

The UNDP estimates that women’s economic exclusion costs Sub-Saharan African countries $95 billion in lost productivity per year, and the FAO asserts that if female farmers had the same access to financial, training and agricultural resources as men, their productivity would increase by 20%-30%. The substantial gap in women’s access is a critical hurdle for continued agricultural and financial inclusion progress and the attainment of sustainable development goals across Africa. In the context of its support for improving services for African smallholder farmers, AGRA engaged its partners in an interactive study and a learning event on expanding outreach to and inclusion of women.

AGRA contracted Ayani and its team of experts to conduct a study of five AGRA FISFAP partners, focusing on their current approach to women’s inclusion and the business case for enhancing outreach to female smallholder farmers. AGRA selected five partners for the in-depth case studies, drawn from Kenya (ACRE and East African Farmers Federation), Ghana (Success for people and Advans) and Tanzania (SELF /Mucoba). These five partners offer a variety of solutions targeting smallholder farmers, such as warehouse receipting systems, village based crop insurance and nonfinancial awareness-raising services and are at various stages of the product life cycle— primarily in the development and growth stage. Following a literature review, desk study and field research, AGRA convened all of its FISFAP partners for a collaborative review of the results and to engage them in a broader, analytical learning discussion of the rationale, costs and benefits of increasing outreach to women.

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