Combining high-impact value chain development with access to financial services
Nearly half of the world’s workforce relies on growing food for their livelihoods . That equals two billion people in the developing world – 400 million smallholder farmers and their families – who are dependent on agriculture. Smallholder farmers grow crops and raise livestock to contribute directly to household food security, and to sell their products in the marketplace earning the income they need to provide for their families.
Despite the important of small-scale agriculture, smallholder farmers remain some of the poorest people in the world. Most live on less than $2 a day. Farmers must contend with poor infrastructure, unfavorable governance, limited access to business services, and a range of daunting laws, regulations and standards. These tough challenges limit their ability to successfully compete in the marketplace, resulting in limited opportunities to raise themselves out of poverty.
Increasingly, Mercy Corps has combined multiple program approaches in recognition of the need to ensure farmers’ access to investment capital and other financial services, increase farmer productivity, and increase the competitiveness of the agricultural market chains. Mercy Corps has also been working to combine two major areas of our core agricultural capacity, namely, high-impact value-chain development and increased access to financial services.
In 2010, Mercy Corps conducted an Agriculture Development Learning Study to investigate the efficacy of the organization’s focus and investment in combining high-impact value chain development and access to financial service activities. After several years of program implementation, Mercy Corps undertook this study to analyze whether the combined approach is in fact more effective than focusing on each element separately.