The challenge of ending extreme poverty, a key objective of the Sustainable Development Goals, is inextricably connected to agricultural development. This is because people in developing countries who depend on agriculture for their livelihood are typically living in deeper poverty than people who work in other sectors of the economy. If we can help farmers improve their profitability and increase their income, we can have a tangible impact in lifting them out of extreme poverty.
It is with this understanding that Opportunity launched its “Rural and Agriculture Finance Initiative” in 2008. Our goal was to help farmers access the inputs they need to grow profitable agricultural enterprises: high-yielding seeds and fertilizers, access to mechanization services, agronomic and business skills training, and access to markets. Opportunity pioneered agriculture finance in new markets across Africa, and we established ourselves as leaders in developing and delivering financial products and services to smallholder farmers. Through partnerships with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mastercard Foundation, Caterpillar Foundation, John Deere, USAID, and many others, Opportunity has delivered almost 500,000 agricultural production loans valued at over $80 million to smallholder farmers. We have worked in seven African countries, providing finance for farmers, cooperatives, input suppliers, and off-takers.
Africa is poised to lead the global growth in agricultural production. Sub-Saharan Africa contains nearly half of the world’s uncultivated arable land and is home to a rapidly growing and youthful workforce. Investments in agricultural R&D, transportation, and telecommunications infrastructure—together with improvements in the regulatory environment for agriculture and business operations—create the conditions for transformational change. Opportunity will be there, continuing to develop new and innovative ways to help smallholder farmers succeed.
Opportunity is developing new financial products to help more farmers benefit from mechanization services for planting, spraying, and harvesting. We are designing tools to de-risk agriculture financing for banks and reduce collateral requirements for borrowers. We are harnessing technology to reduce the cost of delivering finance to rural areas, while more effectively providing extension services to farmers. We are working in new markets and expanding access to more people in harder to reach areas. Together with our partners and supporters, we are helping our clients grow their way out of poverty and towards a better future for themselves and their families.