The majority of women MicroLoan supports are farmers in rural regions of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Geographically isolated, accessing finance in these remote communities is challenging, and women especially suffer the consequences of financial exclusion. Without capital to invest in their farms, female farmers are unable to purchase the seed and fertiliser they need to boost their crops. This low productivity leads to heightened food insecurity and widespread hunger. Many more women urgently need our support.
Since 2020 we have been developing a new agricultural programme to dramatically increase our reach in rural regions of Zambia to better support smallholder farmers. We aim to empower some of the poorest women in the world to build sustainable, profitable farming businesses so they are able to provide for their families.
Together, we can achieve more
Partnerships for the Goals is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals we are committed to. As experts in finance for the poor, MicroLoan is partnering with one of the leading agricultural organisations in Zambia, the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU). Together, we can have a life-changing impact for some of the poorest women in the world, living in remote, rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
What does our new agricultural loan product set out to achieve?
Microfinance in the agricultural sector is seen as a highly risky venture by many Microfinance Institutions and most do not offer products built to meet the needs of smallholder farmers in rural regions. We aim to rectify this, and reach female farmers who have been largely financially excluded.
Our new agricultural programme has been created to alleviate the financial pressure during the growing season. It is a deviation from our normal business loan in that it closely matches the cash-flow needs of smallholder farmers.
Our goal is to reach 5,000 female smallholder farmers by the end of 2022 in the regions of Chipata, Katete, Petauke, Lundazi, Choma and Mazabuka. Once successful, we will scale up to all regions in Zambia. With our support, these women can achieve food security, build savings and assets, and improve their own living standards.
How will women benefit from this new programme?
The CFU will introduce female smallholder farmers to MicroLoan, who will assess their needs and offer a suitable loan. With our comprehensive business training, women will flourish as entrepreneurs as they learn to see their farm as a business to generate household income, not just to feed their family. Our Loan & Training Officers will teach them core business skills such as the importance of making savings, and market research.
The CFU trains 100,000 female farmers every year in conservation farming methodology. For example, the women learn how to minimise disturbance of their soil and rotate their crops to increase their yields. With conservation farming techniques, women will learn to farm efficiently for themselves, and for the planet.
Farmers will be supported by MicroLoan and the CFU throughout the growing season, which will have a number of positive outcomes including:
- Higher yields
- Increased household income
- Increased food security
- Resilience against market and environmental shocks
- Less soil erosion and better soil health
We know that women are more likely to suffer the consequences of climate change, and this partnership with CFU specifically developed for female farmers aims to build resilience of a particularly vulnerable demographic.