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Mercy Corps to launch ‘toolkit’ of mobile banking and agricultural services for farmers in developing world

Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, June 12, 2012

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The global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps today launched a multi-country program that will use mobile technologies to give farmers in the developing world a package of services to increase their harvests. As first of its kind, the Agri-Fin Mobile initiative - in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) - will identify and connect leading financial institutions, agriculture specialists and mobile network operators and provide mobile-enabled, bundled packages of financial, training and information services to more than 180,000 small-scale farmers. Agri-Fin Mobile will launch in Indonesia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, with the aim to expand to an additional 5 countries after this first three-year phase.

Agri-Fin Mobile will provide participating farmers with ‘bundled’ support via mobile phone, integrating locally-appropriate financial services, market information and agricultural expertise. Working with local partners, Agri-Fin Mobile will support the design of and launch a commercially sustainable, affordable toolkit of services for farmers. This comprehensive set of services will allow small-scale farmers to grow and sell more crops, boosting the food security of struggling rural areas and enhancing the economic prospects of farming families. Farmers will also be able to access remote training on topics like pest and disease prevention and managing weather patterns.

“In Africa, agricultural output is 56 per cent below the world's average,” said Lesley Denyes, Programme Director of Mercy Corps’ Agri-Fin Mobile initiative. “With AgriFin Mobile we want to give small-scale, low-income farmers access to resources and services that have traditionally been beyond their reach. Bundling services together makes essentials like crop expertise, loans, insurance and market information affordable, and providing them by mobile allows far greater reach and scale.

“This initiative has the potential to bring about significant change for farmers and their families. We’re committed to developing a proven business model for boosting agricultural productivity that can be replicated around the world.”

Mercy Corps will work with a network of local financial institutions, mobile operators and other agricultural industry stakeholders to implement Agri-Fin. Together they will work closely to evaluate adoption of the services, impact of products and of the program on participants’ yields and incomes.

Pierre-André Cordey of SDC said: “We see this initiative as a great opportunity to reach an impact at scale through innovative partnerships between financial institutions, mobile operators and agricultural service providers. The key to success will be ensuring that smallholders’ demands and interests remain at the centre of the project, and we are confident that together we and our partners at Mercy Corps will prove up to the challenge.”