Kigali, Rwanda, November 9th, 2016 – ICCO Cooperation with ICCO Terrafina Microfinance in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation today launched the Strengthening African Rural Smallholders (STARS) program. This five-year initiative that will reach more than one million people in four African countries. STARS will address challenges that smallholder farmers face such as poor farming techniques, lack of credit, minimal access to markets, and limited access to appropriate financial products.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a quarter of the world’s hungry people live in Sub-Saharan Africa and 75% of those people are farmers, yet there is a wealth of opportunities for agricultural growth, innovations and varied cultivation if certain roadblocks such as access to finance are removed. Supporting small-scale farmers is thus critical to reducing hunger and poverty in Africa.
With the aim of breaking the cycle of poverty and food insecurity, the STARS program will directly support 210,000 farmers (50% of whom are women) in rural Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Senegal in accessing financial markets and agricultural services. In this way, they can diversify their crops and increase their production for food security; as well as improve their economic situation and their ability to participate in the formal economy.
As women are key players in the agricultural and rural economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, the STARS program ensures that 50% of the people participating in the project are women. The program will support and empower women in rural areas to access different financial products and services that will enable them to increase their productivity, as well as improve the well-being of the whole family.
“Supporting smallholder farmers is fundamental for changing the livelihoods of rural communities who heavily depend on agriculture, in fact the majority of rural farmers in Africa are smallholders,” said Netlyn Bernard, STARS Director. “Given the right opportunities and tools, farmers can become entrepreneurs, access the financial services that they need, improve the economic situation of their households and of their communities and become an important driver of their country’s economy.”
STARS will work with Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) to develop and implement innovative risk-mitigating tools and sector specific agricultural finance products for smallholder farmers so that MFIs can provide the necessary loans to farmers in need of cash. Once farmers acquire the resources that they need, they will to be able to diversify their crops or to buy equipment to increase their production.
“We are excited to be working with ICCO Corporation and ICCO Terrafina Microfinance to provide relevant and affordable agricultural finance products to smallholder farmers,” says Ann Milles, Director, Financial Inclusion and Youth Livelihoods at The MasterCard Foundation. “STARS will enable unbanked farmers to access a wide range of finance services such as savings and insurance as well as other agricultural products that will help enhance their livelihoods. Value chains will also be strengthened, making it much easier to reach and serve poor farmers in rural areas.”
STARS will link smallholder farmers to agricultural training services and local business development services (BDS), so they can improve their agricultural skills and their position in value chains. The program is looking forward to broadening the evidence base in rural agricultural finance and value chain development, and sharing lessons learned with the broader financial inclusion community.
About The MasterCard Foundation
The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest, private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.
About ICCO Cooperation
ICCO Cooperation is a global, non-governmental organization that works towards a world in which people can live in dignity and well-being, a world without poverty and injustice. From a coherent theory of change ICCO Cooperation designs, manages, implements and finances programs for inclusive development with focus on economic empowerment of smallholders, food and nutrition security and responsible business. ICCO Cooperation offers brokering services for public private partnerships and is experienced in working with a wide range of financial instruments: microfinance (ICCO Terrafina MicroFinance), impact investments (ICCO Investments) and co-entrepreneurship (Agribusiness Booster).
About ICCO TERRAFINA Microfinance
ICCO Terrafina Microfinance, a product of ICCO Cooperation, boosts smallholder farmers to improve their business and income through microfinance. Its Mission is to contribute to rural development and poverty reduction through rural financial support and improved services. Terrafina Microfinance partners with 70 Microfinances in Africa.