Responsible Finance Forum

Mobile Technologies And Digitized Data To Promote Access To Finance For Women In Agriculture

Smallholder farmers, male and female, face a persistent and well-documented finance gap; they are often invisible to or deemed too risky by banks to serve and their financial needs do not align with the terms of most microfinance lending. They lack access to other relevant products and services as well: agricultural insurance is notoriously difficult to provide, savings accounts are often accessible only in distant urban bank branches and extension agents are unable to reach many rural areas to provide needed training and capacity building. Recently, digital financial services (DFS) have greatly expanded access to many of these products, largely through the mobile device channel, and implementers of agricultural development programs and funds are enthused about their potential to create change along whole agricultural value chains. Yet, women have less access to these innovations than men do, which means they are consistently losing out on the potential to grow their incomes and build secure agricultural livelihoods for themselves and their families. Female smallholder farmers are key contributors to agricultural and rural economies and livelihood systems. They hold important roles in all parts of agricultural value chains, from production and management of crops and livestock to harvesting and processing to selling and trading products in markets. Women not only expand the productivity of agricultural value chains, they also pass on more benefits of income related to farming to their households (including children) than men do. Women, in turn, rely heavily on agriculture as a source of employment in most developing countries.