> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

It’s well acknowledged that in designing financial products, service providers should connect with prospective clients and their needs. Though the extent to which this actually happens remains a cause for concern. That’s a big part of why AgriLife, a new mobile-based financial services platform for smallholder farmers, intrigues me.

AgriLife is open-ended, built as a platform with integration points through which providers can “plug in” and deliver their services. These include financial services providers, mobile network operators, and a variety of agricultural players. On the client side, the farmers use the services available through AgriLife – like crop insurance, input payments, and savings accounts – and in turn provide information through the platform on their own farming activities. Farmers can provide information on their crops – what they’re producing, how much, and what they’re yielding. This user data is collected and analyzed by the providers and used to better shape their offered services. Over time, the user information amasses to establish a farmer’s production capabilities. These production capabilities can be used by farmers to access credit through AgriLife’s associated services. Additionally, the resulting electronic transaction records for many of these farmers helps them build a credit history that can be used, via AgriLife services or otherwise, for financing throughout the value chain.

AgriLife recently launched in Uganda. One of its early adopters is the Farmers Centre, a farmer-centric agribusiness in Northern Uganda, and its thousands of affiliated farmers. These individuals often travel long distances to the Centre’s warehouses to purchase inputs and aggregate their produce for processing and selling. Previously, these transactions had been done on paper with data stored on a single computer. AgriLife makes it possible for these processes to be done much quicker and, as it’s cloud-based, more securely. With more robust records on their farmers, the Centre is able to make informed recommendations on what farmers should plant and which inputs they should obtain, and make informed linkages between farmers and buyers.

AgriLife was developed by MobiPay, a Kenya-based IT company. MercyCorps is supporting the expansion of the platform throughout Uganda, facilitating connections with service providers. MobiPay anticipates AgriLife will serve 100,000 farmers by the end of the year. A recent report from Dalberg, a development consulting firm, characterizes a big and currently unmet opportunity in agricultural financing for the world’s 450 million smallholder farmers. The report asserts that with increased financing, farmers can improve their products and yields, and feasibly double their incomes.

Image credit: tech360 magazine

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