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© 2024 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit. EIN: 540907624.

Agriculture Finance

The fastest way to end the intergenerational transfer of poverty is by investing in rural economies.” 

Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank, and Director, Rockefeller Foundation

Opportunity International’s Agriculture Finance (AgFinance) initiative is built on the idea that, through targeted financial solutions, training, and support, farmers can increase their production, income, and employment to build thriving and resilient households in rural communities. Ultimately, we have one bold goal: help farmers grow more and earn more.

Through localized training and relationships, we are empowering farmers to operate their farms and businesses more effectively and productively. In addition, our partnerships with financial institutions are expanding access to finance in rural communities to accelerate investment and growth in the agriculture sector, creating sustainable economic opportunities for families living in some of the world’s most impoverished conditions.

Bertha, Farmer in Malawi
Bertha, Farmer in Malawi

Our AgFinance model brings scalable, tailored, high-impact training and loans to rural families living in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing three critical components to break the cycle of generational poverty:

  1. Technology-enabled training in critical skills to increase knowledge of agricultural best practices, increase farm productivity, improve financial literacy, strengthen credit-readiness, foster gender awareness, and build climate resilience.
  2. Tailored agricultural loans to maximize the quality and quantity of what farmers grow, consume, and sell.
  3. Empowering farmer groups to maximize profit from their crops.

By targeting the gaps and inefficiencies that prevent many rural families from earning a sustainable livelihood, we empower farmers to… 

Increase their incomes.

With higher-yielding crops, farmers are earning more and re-investing to improve their farms, such as adding irrigation.

Diversify their incomes.

Farmers invest income in additional sources of revenue, such as goats, cows, and chickens, or starting a small side business, improving their long-term financial resiliency.

Improve their living conditions.

With surplus income, farmers will purchase new metal roofs, water purifiers, food, and healthcare.

Send their children to school.

Improvements in farm productivity and income mean more children can go to school instead of staying home to help on the farm.

Chantal, Farmer in DRC
Chantal, Farmer in DRC

The Need

  • The majority of smallholder farmers produce only 20-30% of their potential yields.
  • Smallholder farmers make up over 80% of Africa’s farms.
  • Three out of four people living in extreme poverty are farmers, surviving on 1-2 meals/day.
  • Our current client demographic includes 61% female farmers; 52% of clients live below $1.90/day and 83% live below $3.20/day.
  • Current market assessments indicate that only 3% of agricultural finance demand is currently met, leaving a $200 billion annual financing gap.
  • Generations of rural families living in poverty have been left out of earning a sustainable living.

Investing in agriculture is one of the most powerful actions to improve rural livelihoods. More opportunities in agriculture mean that fewer people go hungry, fewer children miss school, and more rural families can build sustainable livelihoods.

Farmers' VSLA meeting in Malawi
Farmers' VSLA meeting in Malawi

Our Programs

Farmer Support Agents

Farmer Support Agents (FSAs) are farmers, community leaders, and agents of change who connect directly with fellow farmers to help them access finance, improve their farms, and increase their incomes. They are digitally equipped with a smartphone and taught to use a data collection tool and training content.

FSAs gather groups of farmers and provide trainings in various topics—from Family Business & Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, Good Agricultural and Regenerative Agriculture Practices, to Group Dynamics. These farming groups also gain access to support for input distribution, access to market information, and a network of farmers to learn from. Farmer Support Agents are improving transparency and driving more services where farmers need them most, equipping farmers with skills and support to produce higher-yielding, higher-quality crops.

Women’s Economic Empowerment

Opportunity’s AgFinance program is committed to Women’s Economic Empowerment, which ensures that women not only have access to financial and technological tools, but that they are comfortable using them. It means that she is able to make financial decisions in her household, ensure her children can attend school, and have security over her financial future. Through new women’s economic empowerment initiatives, our goals are to:

1. Champion better outcomes for rural women by reaching women in extreme poverty and increasing crop yields, household incomes, power in household decision making, control of productive assets, and economic gains.

2. Champion better services for women by equipping our partners to implement gender strategies, increasing female staff and women and leadership, and extending services to more rural women.

Financial Programs

In partnership with local financial institutions, AgFinance develops tailored agricultural financial services according to the seasonal needs of small farmers and rural agribusinesses. Opportunity focuses on building the internal expertise of financial institutions, which equips them to grow and maintain sustainable agricultural portfolios long-term so more rural clients can access the capital they need to grow their farms and businesses.

Digital Innovation in Action

Accurate, timely information can be life or death for a farmer’s crops. In Malawi, we built and tested an AI-powered tool that can answer farmers’ questions about farming practices. The system is populated with content from local sources—the government’s agriculture manual of best practices and Opportunity’s Agriculture Finance training material—together with ChatGPT-like conversational interface in WhatsApp, implemented through cloud services and application programming interface that enables scalability. This advanced technology allows more timely access to critical information. Well-received by farmers, the AgFinance and Digital Innovations teams will customize this solution for farmers in other countries and communities.

Climate Resilience

The increasing frequency and intensity of climate disasters, along with more unpredictable weather patterns, have jeopardized the income and food security of farmers across the globe. However, those living in extreme poverty are being disproportionately affected by climate change, and the lack of available resources makes rebuilding even more difficult. AgFinance is working to increase farmers’ resilience to climate change. AgFinance is supporting climate finance initiatives at financial institution partners and supporting regenerative agriculture (RegenAg) practices among smallholder farmers. RegenAg practices include minimizing soil disturbance, maximizing crop diversity, crop cover, living roots year-round, and integrating livestock. RegenAg practices support healthy soil with limited external inputs that improve crop resilience to both drought and flooding, and produce healthy crops.

Piloting Climate Solutions

In August 2023, Opportunity launched a pilot project offering training, support, and financial services to 2,500 rural families in southern Malawi, helping them to adapt, build resilience, and reduce vulnerability to climate change. In Rwanda, the team piloted RegenAg practices with demonstration plots to understand the real impact on yield and profitability for the smallholder. Using this data, AgFinance will launch a scaled RegenAg project across Rwanda in the coming three years. And in Uganda, AgFinance developed a new regenerative agriculture training curriculum.

Our Impact

Total capital released
Households reached
% of AgFinance clients that are women
Smallholder farm loans disbursed
Cumulative smallholder farm loans disbursed
$372.7 MILLION
Cumulative capital released
Farmers supported by FSAs
Financial Institution Partners

All impact metrics are as of Calendar Year End 2023. Capital released is the aggregate amount (in US$) of all loans made by Opportunity’s financial service partners, during a given time period, to schools, students, smallholder farmers, agribusiness enterprises, or microbanking loan clients.

Meet the Team

Meet the Team

Timothy Strong

As Head of Agriculture Finance, Tim manages a diverse portfolio of agriculture finance products and services throughout Africa…

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Marissa Benner

As Senior Director of AgFinance Operations & Stewardship, Marissa oversees Opportunity International’s Agriculture Finance program…

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Sakina Mandanda

As the Director of Financial Products for Opportunity International, Sakina Mandanda provides technical assistance services and…

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Luke Coulson

As the Director of Client Services for Opportunity International, Luke Coulson is responsible for developing innovative client-centric…

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Timothy StrongHead of Agriculture Finance
Marissa BennerSenior Director, AgFinance Operations & Stewardship
Sakina MandandaDirector of Financial Products, Agriculture Finance
Luke CoulsonDirector of Client Services, Agriculture Finance

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