Mercy Corps together with 18 partners including mobile network operators, international NGOs, banks, government departments and agricultural research institutions with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation recently launched the Agri-Fin Mobile Program in Indonesia.
The launch was a culmination of a partner selection process and a product development survey that was carried by Mercy Corps between June and August 2012. The partner selection process focused on understanding the perspectives of each stakeholder and determining the role, incentives and limitations of each player in the agriculture, financial and mobile sectors in Indonesia.
As noted during the launch, the relationships between mobile network operators, financial service providers, research institutes and rural advisory service providers are going to be of a mutual benefit for all the players involved. It was agreed during the launch that each provider offers only one part of the bundled service that cannot be done independently of the other players.
During the launch, Leesa Shrader, the Senior Director, Financial Innovation for Mercy Corps also presented the results of the baseline and product development research that was carried out in July with the primary objective of looking at the challenges facing smallholder farmers in accessing different services and products such as access to markets, cost of financial transactions, access to mobile phones among others in Indonesia.
From the baseline, the major concern centred on lack of access to high quality inputs, high price of inputs and constraints to selling goods linked to pricing data among other issues. From the results of the baseline, farmers showed a strong interest in accessing information and financial services over the mobile phone as a result of high cost of travel and lack of information.
Another surprising aspect coming out of the research was that more than 67 percent of the farmers use domestic transfer and remittance services to suppliers, traders and family.
During the launch, Steve Zimmermann – Mercy Corps Vice President of Social Innovation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, Ministry of Agriculture, International Rice Research Institute, 8villages and Bank Andara. The MoU will facilitate a good working relationship between Mercy Corps and the partners involved in the Agri-Fin Mobile Program.
Following the launch, activities continued with a one-day workshop between the Agri-Fin Program and the partners. The purpose of the one day workshop was to draft a work plan for the implementation of the Agri-Fin program through the end of May 2013.
The Agri-Fin Mobile program is an innovative social enterprise to provide low-income farmers in the developing world with ‘bundled’ support integrating financial services, market information and agricultural services to boost their harvests. The program aims to increase the income of 180,000 low-income farmers in Indonesia, Uganda and Zimbabwe by 30 percent within the first three years.