London-based impact investor , in partnership with the , has announced the launch of a $15.4 million initiative to boost the incomes of smallholder farmers in seven African countries.
With the goal of increasing farmers' productivity and their ties with local agribusinesses, AgDevCo's new Smallholder Development Unit will provide farmers in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia with training and better-quality inputs, mobile technology solutions, and long-term purchase contracts. While AgDevCo and its sister working capital facility, Lending for African Farming (LAFCo), already invest in storage, trading, and processing businesses that source crops such as maize, sunflower, groundnuts, and avocadoes, the Smallholder Development Unit will work to develop twenty-five "outgrower schemes" over five years that directly benefit up to half a million farmers, half of them women under the age of 35.
"Boosting farmer productivity is not enough," said SDU head Sandi Roberts. "Farmers need long-term relationships with trusted buyers who pay fair prices. The SDU can help farmers who need reliable markets and local agribusinesses [that] need quality raw materials."
"We are excited about the potential of this work with AgDevCo to drive the adoption of new technologies — such as mobile phones, cashless payments, and micro-insurance products — by a younger generation of African farmers," said Ann Miles, director of financial inclusion and youth livelihoods at the MasterCard Foundation. "We want to help to shift the perception of agriculture so that young people see it as a viable livelihood in which they can imagine a beneficial and sustainable future."