INNOVATE - Adoption of Agricultural Innovations through Non-Traditional Financial Services

Join MEDA INNOVATE for an upcoming learning event or webinar.




NTF4Ag: Emerging Lessons and New Frontiers

This digital learning event has now concluded. Thank you to participants and speakers who joined us in discussions of non-traditional finance to deliver sustainable and scalable agricultural innovations for smallholder farmers.

Past Learning Events

On January 24th, 2020, MEDA INNOVATE hosted a virtual bonfire chat about: “Using Data to Better Understand Smallholder Farmers.”

We were joined by the following speakers:

  • 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.

Key Messages:

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 bonfire chat convened a diverse group of practitioners to share and learn from experiences collecting and using data from smallholder farming families to provide tailored products and services.

Links and Resources:

On September 30th, 2019, MEDA INNOVATE hosted a side event before the AFRACA International Conference on Best Practices in Rural and Agricultural Finance (1-3 Oct 2019) on: “Learning Journeys of Smallholder Finance and Innovation Adoption Side Event”

We were joined by speakers, Calvin Miller and INNOVATE partners: Bidhaa Sasa, Dodore Kenya Ltd., and World Relief Rwanda.

Key Messages:

This event showcased lessons and partner journeys on learning, testing, and documenting how non-traditional finance can support smallholder producers to adopt agricultural innovations and technologies in Kenya and Rwanda. The learning event aimed to stimulate dialog and discussion around the MEDA INNOVATE learning agenda on relevant themes and topics for the region with special focus on non-traditional financing models, gender, and women’s economic empowerment.

Links and Resources:

On September 26th, 2019, MEDA INNOVATE hosted a webinar exploring “A Customer-Centric Lens for Good Agricultural Practices” (GAP).

We were joined by speakers, Nick Ramsing (Technical Director, Market Systems Global Programs, MEDA) and Anne-Cécile Delwaide (Independent Management Consultant). Presenters drew on practical lessons and best practice from INNOVATE’s diverse project portfolio, and shared insights into challenges and opportunities for customer centric GAP from the Chithumba model for soybean farmers, implemented by INNOVATE partner, Agronomy Technology Ltd. (ATL) in Malawi.

Missed this webinar? The webinar recording is available now.

Key Messages:

Industry actors need to expand on the 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 decision making by smallholder farmers. In order to adequately address these factors, it is necessary to:

  1. Emphasize the market context, not only the agronomic and growing practices;
  2. Adopt a customer centric perspective that treats smallholder farmer segments differently; and
  3. Adopt a business orientation to promote the business case and the value proposition.


Links and Resources:

On June 20th, 2019, MEDA INNOVATE and the ANDE Sustainable Agribusiness Learning Lab co-hosted a learning event on “Lean impact for agriculture: Transforming how we approach, design and fund solutions for smallholders”.

We were joined by speakers, Ann Mei Chang, a leading advocate for social innovation and author of LEAN IMPACT: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good; Colin Christensen, Global Policy Director of One Acre Fund; and Rocío Pérez Ochoa, Co-Founder and Director of Bidhaa Sasa, an INNOVATE project partner. Panelists led an engaging discussion and learning session among donors, investors, and implementers on how we approach, design, and fund solutions for smallholders.

Key Messages:

The world’s 450 million smallholder farmers live on less than $2 per day and farms under 5 acres (2 hectares) produce 30-34% of the global food supply. Closing the $150 billion smallholder finance gap can enable smallholders to have access to appropriate and contextual financial services for investing in agricultural activities, inputs, and services, and ultimately improve their livelihoods. Funders and implementers can better understand and serve smallholders by leveraging the Lean Impact approach, inspired by the Lean Startup Framework. Deploying hypothesis-driven experiments that reduce risk and increase the pace of learning can disrupt methods of excessive planning and prevent costly interventions that may have low adoption among smallholder farmers.

Links and Resources:

On January 30th, 2019, MEDA INNOVATE hosted a learning event in Nairobi, Kenya, called: “Building Customer Centricity into Innovations in Smallholder Financing”.

MEDA and its partners shared insights and learning from the INNOVATE project portfolio focused on testing and exploring non-traditional finance with potential for smallholder innovation adoption. The portfolio contains 10 projects (5 pilots, 5 case studies) around the world (East and Southern Africa, South Asia and South America), and is part of a 3-year project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Key Messages:

The event focused on customer centricity, with an emphasis on the relevance and importance of designing products, services, and solutions with the customer (in this case, women and men smallholders) at the center of the process and how to continue to carry that approach through programs. The event convened perspectives and lessons from entrepreneurs, designers, and digital financial services experts on experiences with testing new products and solutions for their respective smallholder customer segments.

Links and Resources:


This program was undertaken with the financial support of the International Development Research Centre.