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View from the Field: Updates from Our Latest Webinars

By Joe Dutra

Ending extreme poverty in our lifetime requires a global response, with support from governments, institutions, and individuals alike. Thanks to support from people like you, we have already been able to further our mission of financial inclusion to millions across the globe.

In the spirit of our collaborative efforts, Opportunity International recently hosted two insightful webinars spotlighting urgent global issues: tackling gender disparities in education, and promoting regenerative agricultural practices for smallholder farmers.

Facing Down Gender Disparities in Education

Our Education webinar, led by Executive Global Director Deborah Foy, examined gender disparities pervasive throughout education—from parents to students, teachers, and educators.

Experts Andrew McCusker, Head of Education Finance, and Anne Njine, Senior Education Specialist, started with valuable insights into the transformative power of girls' education to drive economic growth, mitigate climate change, and ensure clean water and sanitation. An additional year of schooling can result in a 15% income uplift for girls in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Even still, 205 million school-aged girls were out of school in 2000. While that number has reduced to 132 million, challenges persist. Only 38% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa complete secondary school, significantly impacting future income generation and human development outcomes.

And systemically, female school leaders are disproportionately less able to access finance due to societal barriers around property ownership. Perceptions around the value of girls' education can also lead to its de-prioritization in resource-limited households.

Opportunity International's education strategy addresses these barriers head-on by integrating gender across all areas of our work to improve outcomes for students, parents, school leaders, and teachers. We're reducing financial access barriers for female school proprietors and incorporating gender-responsive pedagogy training into our program curriculum. To put all of this into perspective, our own Senior Education Specialist, Anne Njine, shared the critical work to create an inclusive environment for girls in schools.

Embracing Regenerative Agriculture Practices

At our Agriculture webinar, Opportunity’s Head of Agriculture Finance Tim Strong joined Client Service Manager Lefani Kachisuzi and Climate Resilience Expert Sandi Roberts to lead us through our work in agricultural finance and the hurdles posed by climate crises.

They discussed Opportunity’s twofold approach: bridging the $26B farmer financing gap and enhancing quality farming through digital training and wrap-around services.

Our agriculture financing strategies have led to a 57% increase in harvest yields and a 67% boost in incomes for our clients, but these gains are now threatened by devastating climate events like the 2022 Cyclone Ana and this year’s Cyclone Freddy.

These catastrophes underlined the stark reality that the farmers we serve are at the frontline of the climate crisis. Weather extremes, droughts, floods, and cyclones destroy communities, destabilize local economies, and disproportionately affect the extreme poor. By 2050, it’s projected that 200 million people could be displaced by climate events.

Opportunity’s agriculture investment strategy takes a pragmatic approach to climate change, emphasizing adaptation over mitigation. We are dedicated to equipping farmers with training, support, financial services, and durable solutions to help them adapt to the changing climate.

A primary adaptation strategy discussed was "regenerative agriculture," aimed at improving soil health and farm resilience. These practices enhance crop production, diversify incomes, and make farms more profitable and resilient against climate change.

Significant resources in implementing these strategies are our Farmer Support Agents, who pass on their training and demonstrate best practices in their communities. Our team then highlighted ongoing implementations and pilot programs, such as the one in Rwanda, aimed at incentivizing behavior change for long-term resilience.

Join Us in Creating Change

We invite you to continue making an impact in this transformative journey. Your support and involvement can help bridge the gender education gap and promote sustainable agricultural practices, creating a brighter future for all. Visit www.opportunity.org/donate to contribute.

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