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LEARNING SERIES

Adoption of Agricultural Innovations through Non-Traditional Financial Services


The MEDA INNOVATE learning series highlights research assessing the potential of non-traditional finance to promote agricultural innovation adoption among smallholder farmers across East Africa, South America, and South Asia.

INNOVATE’s learning resources are tailored to provide policymakers, implementers, and donors with practical insights and forward-looking solutions.

We invite you to explore our publications, blog posts and other resources produced by our partners. Our learning themes currently focus on customer centricity, smallholder products and services, smallholder household decision-making and policy and regulatory transformation.

Publications & Insights


Lessons from Farming Households: Agricultural Decision Making and Shifting Social Norms for Women’s Economic Empowerment
INNOVATE Learning Paper
April 2020

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Household-level agricultural decisions take place within the context of intramarital and familial relationships, the larger community, as well as social norms, beliefs, attitudes and livelihood constraints. These factors can encourage or hinder success in agricultural activities. This paper focuses on how decisions are made within agricultural households around production, including the adoption and uptake of new practices or inputs along with savings, credit and insurance products. The authors also share learnings and recommendations from MEDA's INNOVATE initiative on the differential impacts of non-traditional finance adoption on women and men within a household.

NTF4Ag: Emerging Lessons and New Frontiers
INNOVATE Final Synthesis Report
April 2020

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The INNOVATE final synthesis report brings together key results, insights and lessons from the case studies, pilots and cross-cutting research conducted by MEDA and its partners from 2017-2020 - with the overall goal of learning and documenting experiences of non-traditional finance for catalyzing smallholder agricultural innovation adoption.

Engagement of Financial Institution for Smallholder Farmers
Partner Publication
April 2020

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As part of INNOVATE, Krishi Utsho Micro Franchise of CARE Bangladesh implemented a project aiming to increase financial accessibility in the agricultural sector through modern banking and insurance services for women and men smallholder farmers. This policy brief prescribes national strategies and policies to engage financial institutions for last mile farmers in Bangladesh.

A Case Study of World Relief's Agriculture for Life and Savings for Life in Rwanda
Partner Publication
April 2020

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Under INNOVATE, World Relief conducted a study to understand the interaction effects between Savings for Life (Village Savings and Loan Association - VSLA program) and Agriculture for Life (Farmer Field School program) on poverty alleviation, food insecurity, and malnutrition throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Warehouse Receipt Financing: Tackling the Financial Needs of Smallholder Farmers in Pakistan
Policy Brief No. 1
April 2020

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As an INNOVATE partner, Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) conducted research on WRF in Pakistan as related to Smallholder Farmers (SHF). This brief is based on the case study completed by PMN in December 2019: Warehouse Receipt Financing: Tackling the Financial Needs of Smallholder Farmers in Pakistan. It specifically looks at the needs of SHF to adopt WRF and the partnerships and technical assistance required to engage them. This information is particularly important for Collateral Management Companies (CMCs), FSPs and government agencies, such as the Central Bank and Ministry of Agriculture, as they develop theWRF model in Pakistan.

Warehouse Receipt Financing: Tackling the Financial Needs of Smallholder Farmers in Pakistan
Policy Brief No. 2
April 2020

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As an INNOVATE partner, Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) conducted research on WRF in Pakistan as related to Smallholder Farmers (SHF). This brief is based on the case study completed by PMN in December 2019: Warehouse Receipt Financing: Tackling the Financial Needs of Smallholder Farmers in Pakistan. It specifically looks at the needs of SHF to adopt WRF and the partnerships and technical assistance required to engage them. This information is particularly important for Financial Service Providers (FSP).

Innovation Wallet Learning Project
Partner Publication
December 2019

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The Innovation wallet learning project was funded through MEDA and jointly implemented by COIN22 and Dodore Kenya, in partnership with the University of Nairobi. Innovation wallet is a non-traditional finance service which affords financially excluded smallholder farmers the convenience of saving and borrowing, all in a mobile account with restricted funds specifically earmarked for the purchase of inputs for increased productivity and income.

Digital Platforms and Customer Centricity: Fostering Adoption and Sustained Use of AgTech Solutions
INNOVATE Learning Paper
March 2020

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As mobile phone infrastructure and accessibility expand, internet penetration increases, and connectivity improves worldwide, the use of technology to enhance farming activities via agriculture technologies – AgTech – continues to grow. This paper examines the role of digital platforms and the importance of customer and user experiences (CX/UX) to reach and serve smallholder farmers. Through a review of the literature and in-depth interviews with firms leading the development of digital platforms for smallholders and relevant ecosystem players, this paper examines lessons learned for improving customer experiences and fostering increased uptake and sustained use of AgTech innovations.

Product Testing and Diversification of Bidhaa Sasa's Range of Products Sold on Credit
Partner Publication
March 2020

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Bidhaa Sasa is one of the participants of the INNOVATE initiative managed by MEDA which seeks to find practical and non-traditional financial services to scale up the adoption of agricultural innovations among women and men smallholder farmers. Bidhaa Sasa is a lastmile finance and distribution company founded in 2015 in Kenya. It helps to increase the quality of life of rural families in Kenya by making household goods, which include farm tools, both affordable and accessible to them and especially to low-income rural women.

Non-Traditional Financial Services for Smallholder Farmers in Nepal
Partner Publication
December 2019

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In Nepal, smallholders are unable to invest in good commercial opportunities due to a lack of agricultural finance. Despite hazards such as erratic weather, drought, flooding, and pest problems — all made worse by climate change — smallholders cannot obtain crop insurance to mitigate agricultural risk.

Under INNOVATE, International Development Enterprises (iDE) led a 20-month pilot project to test the hypothesis that community-managed rural collection centers acting as “business correspondents” on behalf of a commercial bank will profitably increase smallholder access to rural finance and crop insurance and therefore increase uptake of innovative technologies to improve production.

INNOVATE Interview: A Farmer-Centric Bank in Nepal
Blog Post
12 February 2020

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In this interview, Head of Small and Micro Banking, Vijay Kumar Gurung, and Assistant Chief Executive Office, Govinda Bahadur Raut from Muktinath Bikas Bank (Kathmandu, Nepal) share experiences and lessons from piloting a new finance model with INNOVATE and iDE Nepal to reach rural farmers through community aggregation centers, agricultural technical support, and input sales agents.

Mobile Money and PAYG Innovation to Scale AgTech Adoption in Smallholder Value Chains
Summary Brief
February 2020

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Through INNOVATE, MEDA engaged I-DEV International to implement the project, “Mobile Money & Pay-AsYou-Go (PAYG) Innovation to Scale: AgTech Adoption in the Smallholder Value Chain." This pilot sought to strengthen farming income and resilience of rural, low-income smallholder farmers in Peru's Northern Andean region through new drip irrigation systems.

This summary builds on the report produced by I-DEV International in November 2019 titled: Mobile Money & PAYG Innovation to Scale Agtech Adoption in Smallholder Value Chains

Non-Conventional Collaterals to Leverage Innovation Capital for Smallholder Farmers In Bolivia
Partner Publication
31 October 2019

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In March 2018, CIDRE IFD and MEDA signed the agreement for the execution of the project “Non-conventional collaterals to leverage innovation capital for smallholder farmers in Bolivia”. The purpose of the project is to develop, validate and standardize the registration, valuation and monitoring of the assets that have small rural producers and that can be considered and used as non-conventional collateral, as provided by the Bolivian Law 393 on Financial Services.

The project has four main components aimed at achieving the stated objective, the fourth and last components are captured in this report: summarize the implementation process and synthesize the results generated during the pilot.

INNOVATE Bonfire Chat: Using Data to Better Understand Smallholder Farmers
Bonfire Chat Presentation
24 January 2020

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Not all smallholder farmers are the same. How can we gather meaningful information to understand the unique experiences of smallholder farmers and the specific challenges and barriers they face to increasing their income and resiliency?

This virtual bonfire chat convened a diverse group of practitioners to explore how we can leverage data to better understand, benefit and serve smallholder farmers. INNOVATE was joined by:

  • Anthony Connor, Director of Partnerships, Dimagi
  • Brent Chism, CEO, Taroworks
  • Dan Barthmaier, Senior Technical Advisor – Markets and Value Chains, Catholic Relief Services
  • Jennifer Himmelstein, Director of Corporate Analysis & Technical Assurance, ACDI/VOCA
  • Nick Ramsing, Technical Director, Market Systems, MEDA

Missed this webinar? The webinar recording is available now.

Related resources:

Experiences in Gender-Sensitive Solutions to Collateral Constraints
Learning Paper
January 2020

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NCC can serve as effective security for loans and facilitate greater access to finance for women and smallholder farmers. NCC, together with an effective registry system and appropriate regulatory frameworks, can reduce risk for lenders while addressing the triple exclusionary bias against agriculture, smallholders with uncertain markets, and women who often lack traditional forms of collateral.

This paper provides financial service providers and policymakers with guidance on the potential for NCC to increase access to credit for women smallholder farmers, promote greater financial inclusion, and the importance of registries and sound legal frameworks to achieving this goal.

Redefining Finance for Agriculture: Green Agricultural Credit for Smallholders in Peru
Summary Brief
December 2019

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Under INNOVATE, Global Canopy conducted research to identify the gaps and opportunities to support and scale up green agriculture in Peru. This summary builds on the case study produced by Global Canopy in April 2019, titled: Redefining finance for agriculture: green agricultural credit for smallholders in Peru.

The Chithumba Model: Combining Pre-Harvest Financing, GAP Training, and Access to Markets for Smallholder Farmers in Malawi
Summary Brief
December 2019

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Agronomy Technology Limited (ATL) has been working on Malawian smallholder farmer value chains since 2010. The organisations’ core focus has been the development and implementation of innovative digital extension tools for rural environments. The long-term goal being the facilitation of commercially viable smallholder value chains and the integration of these value chains into the formal market. This summary builds on a case study conducted by ATL titled: A Case Study of the Chithumba Model: a non-traditional finance mechanism to improve access to farm inputs in Malawi. The case study was published in July 2019 and a webinar discussion with ATL and MEDA was held in September 2019.

Mobile Money and PAYG Innovation to Scale AgTech Adoption in Smallholder Value Chains
Partner Publication
November 2019

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I-DEV International implemented a pilot in 2018-2019 to test an ambitious model that offered rural, low income farmers in the Northern Andean region of Peru access to consistent and more water to increase tara crop yields and thus household incomes. The project faced a set of issues and challenges with the initially intended innovations (pay-as-you-go, solar irrigation technologies; mobile money), requiring a modified scope to focus on the critical and baseline innovations and agtech introduction to benefit tara smallholder farmers. This lessons learned report is a tool and manual for organizations working with and supporting cooperatives, with the specific goal of exploring and testing financial instruments to support the adoption of agricultural technologies.

Warehouse Receipt Financing: Tackling the Financial Needs of Smallholder Farmers in Pakistan
Partner Publication
November 2019

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Pakistan Microfinance Network is an association of retail microfinance providers. Its vision is to extend the frontiers of formal financial services to all and our mission is to support the financial sector, especially retail financial service providers, to enhance their scale, quality, diversity and sustainability in order to achieve inclusive financial services. MEDA INNOVATE supported Pakistan Microfinance Network to conduct case study research on the potential of Warehouse Receipt Financing (WRF) for Smallholder Farmers (SHFs) in Pakistan and provide key information on current landscape in this regard. The study focuses on four non-perishable crops: wheat, maize, cotton and rice.

INNOVATE Event at the 6th World Congress on Rural and Agricultural Finance: Learning Journeys of Smallholder Finance and Innovation Adoption
INNOVATE Side Event Presentation
13 November 2019

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MEDA INNOVATE hosted a learning event on November 13, 2019 after the 6th World Congress on Rural & Agricultural Finance in New Delhi India. This event showcased lessons and learning journeys from Nepal and Bangladesh of how non-traditional finance is supporting smallholder producers to uptake agricultural innovations and technologies. The two cases from INNOVATE demonstrate innovative partnership models between financial institutions and international NGOs can deliver appropriate and affordable solutions to last mile farmers. The event also featured guest speaker, Suryamani Roul, Deputy Director of TechnoServe India who shared about farmer producer organizations in India.

Smallholders as Customers, Not Pupils: Making the Case for Good Agricultural Practices
Blog Post
12 November 2019

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This article was originally published on NextBillion.

Governments, firms, NGOs and international organizations have expanded the market incentives for adhering to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). But the growing prevalence of GAP requirements is a risky business for smallholder farmers with low capacity to implement new production and rising standards. In light of this, smallholder farmers face a business investment decision involving substantial risk and complexity.

INNOVATE Event: Learning Journeys of Smallholder Finance and Innovation Adoption
INNOVATE Side Event Presentation
30 September 2019

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Hosted by MEDA INNOVATE, this learning event showcased lessons and partner journeys on learning, testing and documenting how non-traditional finance can support smallholder producers to uptake agricultural innovations and technologies in Kenya and Rwanda.

The learning event aimed to stimulate dialogue and discussion around the MEDA INNOVATE learning series on relevant themes and topics for the region with special focus on non-traditional financing models, gender and women's economic empowerment. Speakers included Calvin Miller and INNOVATE partners Bidhaa Sasa, Dodore Kenya Ltd., and World Relief Rwanda.

This side learning event was held on September 30 before the AFRACA International Conference on Best Practices in Rural and Agricultural Finance (1-3 Oct 2019).

INNOVATE Webinar: A Customer-Centric Lens for Good Agricultural Practices
INNOVATE Webinar Presentation
26 September 2019

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This webinar focused on the benefits of adaptive GAP, how they relate to customer centricity, and how implementers can incorporate this approach in their programming.

Presenters Nick Ramsing (MEDA) and Anne-Cécile Delwaide drew on practical lessons and best practice from INNOVATE's diverse project portfolio, and shared insights into challenges and opportunities for adaptive GAP from the Chithumba model for soybean farmers, implemented by INNOVATE partner Agronomy Technology Ltd. (ATL) in Malawi.

Read more about the featured resources:

Missed this webinar? The webinar recording is available now.

A Customer Centric Lens for Good Agricultural Practices
INNOVATE Learning Paper
26 September 2019

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Industry actors need to broaden and expand on Good Agricultural Practices’ (GAP) agronomic perspective (e.g. “how to grow”) to include a business case orientation centered on specific markets. Fundamentally, adopting GAP is a business investment decision that includes optimizing additional revenue and risk-based decisioning making by smallholder farmers. In order to adequately address these factors, it is necessary to:

  • Emphasize the market context, not only the agronomic and growing practices;
  • Adopt a customer centric perspective that treats smallholder farmer segments differently; and
  • Adopt a business orientation to promote the business case and the value proposition
Measuring what matters in smallholder agriculture: Key takeaways from ‘Lean Impact for Ag’
Blog Post
15 August 2019

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Why does measurement and the type of metrics we use matter? In a rapidly changing and complex world, we need to leverage data-driven insights to prove our approaches and programs create lasting impact for the clients we serve. Measurement was a key theme during our Lean Impact for Ag event. This blog post is the second in a three-part series highlighting key takeaways from the event.

A Case Study of the Chithumba Model – A non-traditional finance mechanism to improve access to farm inputs in Malawi
Partner Publication
July 2019

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Agronomy Technology Limited (ATL) has been working on Malawian smallholder farmer value chains since 2010. The organisations’ core focus has been the development and implementation of innovative digital extension tools for rural environments. The long-term goal being the facilitation of commercially viable smallholder value chains and the integration of these value chains into the formal market. The implementation of the Chithumba model and recently published case study provides valuable insights into the opportunities and constraints faced by smallholder soybean producers in Malawi.

Experimentation in smallholder agriculture - A key takeaway from ‘lean impact for Ag
Blog Post
27 June 2019

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How can we leverage learning and experimentation to better design agricultural innovations for smallholders? A ‘lean approach’ to testing and learning from pilots, demos, and other experimental methods can help validate assumptions with potential users before committing to costly interventions with low adoption or unintended consequences.

Redefining finance for agriculture: green agricultural credit for smallholders in Peru (Eng)
Partner Publication
April 2019

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This publication was originally published on Global Canopy’s website (04/04/2019).

The majority of Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from land use change, primarily caused by agricultural expansion into native Amazon forest. This occurs mostly in small patches and has historically been associated with smallholder agriculture. This means Peru’s agricultural sector needs to change if the country is to meet its climate targets.

Smallholders in the Amazon are one of the most vulnerable groups in Peruvian society. According to the most recent poverty statistics in Peru, around half of rural populations are poor. The jobs generated in these regions are predominantly in agriculture, and rural smallholders have not benefited equally from financial inclusion efforts, which concentrate in urban areas. Without access to the finance needed to transition to sustainability, smallholders are trapped in a cycle of deforestation.

This major new report details how this cycle of deforestation can be broken.

Redefiniendo el financiamiento para la agricultura: crédito agrícola verde para pequeños productores del Perú (Esp)
Publicacion de nuestro socio
abril 2019

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Esta publicación se publicó originalmente en el sitio web de Global Canopy (04/04/2019).

La mayoría de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI) de Perú provienen del cambio en el uso de la tierra, principalmente debido a la expansión agrícola en el bosque nativo del Amazonas. La mayor parte de esto ocurre parte en parcelas pequeñas que históricamente se ha asociado con la agricultura de los pequeño agricultores. Esto significa que el sector agrícola de Perú debe cambiar para que el país cumpla con sus objetivos climáticos.

Los pequeños agricultores en la Amazonía son uno de los grupos más vulnerables en la sociedad Peruana. Según las estadísticas de pobreza más recientes en Perú, casi la mitad de las poblaciones rurales son pobres. Los empleos generados en estas regiones son predominantemente agrícolas, y los pequeños agricultores no se han beneficiado igualmente de los esfuerzos de inclusión financiera que se concentran en las áreas urbanas. Sin acceso al financiamiento necesario para la transición a la sostenibilidad, los pequeños agricultores se encuentran atrapados en un ciclo de deforestación.

Este nuevo informe importante detalla cómo se puede romper este ciclo de deforestación.

Starting Small: Pathways to Customer Centricity
INNOVATE Learning Paper
January 2019

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The following learning paper on customer centricity is the first in a suite of documents from the INNOVATE learning series. This paper provides techniques and insights on improving customer centricity for financial institutions, agricultural companies, and implementers focused on:.

  • Smallholder farmer behavior,
  • Financial services delivery for smallholder farmers,
  • Customer segmentation,
  • Testing and promoting innovation processes and mindsets,
  • Applying a customer-centric lens, and
  • Stimulating the adoption of agricultural innovations.

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