Small-scale farmers to benefit from MasterCard Lab solutions

Smallholders farmers are set to be the first beneficiary of the MasterCard Lab for Financial Inclusion initiative launched in Nairobi early in the year.

The lab held its first LaunchPad event last month, bringing together a team of developers, designers and business stakeholders in a challenge to create an agricultural solution for smallholder farmers.

The team was tasked to come up with a concept, build a prototype and present a go-to-market strategy — all within a five-day innovation sprint.

During the LaunchPad event app developers and designers, together with other partners across East Africa were able to identify the critical agricultural challenges smallholder farmers currently face.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, an estimated five out of about eight million Kenyan households depend directly on agriculture for their livelihoods.

However, changes in climate and the economy have affected these farmers, who cultivate a relatively small parcels of land with low output and are generally less well-resourced their commercial counterparts.

“Ensuring financial inclusion for this population is important to help them to sustain their farms and enhance their livelihoods,” said MasterCard in a statement.

Based in Nairobi, the MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion was established earlier this year with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create and scale financial inclusion tools and expand access to these tools globally leveraging the proven innovation process of MasterCard Labs.

The labs are tailored to work as open spaces where techies and app developers will come up with tools to deepen financial inclusion in Africa.

The centres will also act as innovation hubs to match IT inventors with investors who will help develop their ideas into commercial enterprises.

As part of the challenge, MasterCard Labs invited partners including Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Kenya), Cafedirect Producers Foundation (East Africa), Yetu Microfinance (Tanzania), ACORD International (Tanzania) and Mount Meru Millers (Tanzania) to identify the problems and innovation opportunities to help solve these problems.

Each of these partners, who are critical players in the agrictural value chain, helped to narrow down the focus to three opportunity areas — client registration and aggregation, transactions and multiple channels of payments, and how to use transaction information to facilitate access to microfinance credit and help farmers run a more profitable business.

The team’s work through the Labs LaunchPad process culminated into a live presentation at a Research Summit hosted by Labs.