Heifer International, a global non-profit organisation and Mastercard have partnered to empower smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The partnership will deploy Mastercard’s Community Pass, an innovative digital solution that helps connect smallholder farmers to financial and agricultural value-chain ecosystems.
The Community Pass makes it safer and easier for farmers to get paid more and faster for their produce. Under the partnership, the two will focus on advancing digitisation and financial inclusion among smallholder farmers in Africa, who have no financial footprint in the banking sector.
Through the platform, farmers’ production or harvest and sale records will enhance access to credit potential.
Mastercard Community Pass is designed to address infrastructure challenges that arise in digitising rural communities, such as unreliable connectivity, low smartphone ownership, and lack of consistent identification or credentials.
The Community Pass provides farmer visibility through simple and affordable issuance and acceptance infrastructure that enables digital transactions and creates a farmer digital presence that will then enable Heifer International to better reach and serve them.
The solution supports Heifer International’s objective of leveraging technology and innovation to accelerate Africa towards a digitally dominant agriculture sector with strong value chain networks that create sustainable living income and stability for smallholder farmers and farming communities through access to finance, access to markets and partnerships.
Heifer International Senior Vice President for Africa Programmes Adesuwa Ifedi said access to finance remains a critical challenge for farmers on the continent.
“Heifer International is working to enable financial inclusion by working with innovators and leveraging on innovative platforms that utilise data to create digital footprints, providing visibility for farmers who on average are unable to account for everyday data they generate from business transactions and commodity exchanges for goods and services,’’ said Ms Ifedi.
By working to improve farmer visibility, she said Heifer International aims to connect social entrepreneurs to farmers and farmer data, enabling these innovators to provide tailored solutions to support farmers and co-operatives at scale.
This is in line with Heifer’s plan of reaching six million smallholder farming households in Africa by 2030.
To achieve this digital visibility for smallholder farmers in Africa, Heifer International through Mastercard Community Pass will initially focus on smallholder farmers in selected African markets, starting with Kenya and Tanzania.
So far, two million smallholder farmers in five African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Mauritania have been on-boarded on the Community Pass platform with plans to reach 30 million by 2027.
“The sustainability and transformation of Africa’s agriculture, as well as the development and increased living incomes for smallholder farmers remain at the heart of all we do at Heifer International. This is why our collaboration with Mastercard is crucial to ensure smallholder farmers are financially included, removing some of the barriers that keep them unbanked and perceived as high risk by traditional financial institutions,” said Ifedi.
“We remain committed to ensuring that smallholder farmers have the right resources and support required to thrive by leveraging innovation and key partnerships. We firmly believe that smallholder farmers play a foremost role in ensuring the continent’s agricultural food resilience and self-sufficiency.”
Mastercard Executive Vice President and Global Head of Community Pass Tara Nathan welcomed the partnership with Heifer International, saying it will really help remote and marginalised communities in Africa. “I love the opportunity for the collaboration, one of the giants in digital technology, partnering with one of the giants and oldest organisations working and supporting smallholder farmers, together we believe that we can really actualise achieve this vision,” she said.
“To build that ecosystem of partners we recognise it is not just the two organisations but it’s going to take an ecosystem of actors financial institutions and agritech, Fintech, and financial institutions and we hope to be that glue that brings it to reality so that we can serve the Communities that are that are most underserved,” she added.
Mastercard is working to connect individuals in underserved, remote and frequently offline communities with digital tools, including millions of farmers in Africa who use Community Pass to access agricultural markets, inputs providers and financial services to help build and grow their enterprises.
The two organisations said the Community Pass platform will also do away with middlemen, since it connects farmers with buyers and thus give them bargaining powers to a range of buyers within it.