More than half of the population of the African continent works in agriculture. Despite its significant economic share, the sector has failed to fully exploit its potential, due to a lack of modern tools, the inability to maximize productivity and difficult access to financial markets. The African Rural Smallholder Strengthening Program (STARS) has improved the working conditions of thousands of smallholder farmers and given them a fair chance.
STARS is a partnership program between Cordaid and the Mastercard Foundation. The five-year program (2017-2021) is developing market systems to improve access to finance and markets for more than 200,000 farmers in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Senegal. In Ethiopia, STARS improved access to finance and markets for 66,000 farmers, affecting a total of 330,000 household members.
Closing event To celebrate the successful end of the program, farmers, government officials, representatives of civil society organizations, private sector partners and microfinance partners gathered last week at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Addis Ababa for a closing event.
The aim of the event was to highlight achievements and share useful lessons with those who would like to implement similar programs in the future.
At the opening, Mr. Mengistu Tesfay, director of the Agricultural Inputs and Rural Financial Services Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture, said, âThe results deserve special attention and the learning points will be used. Close collaboration between actors will bring lasting results.
Women and young people The results are truly encouraging. The STARS program has focused on the position of women and youth, who are the most disadvantaged in accessing finance and markets in rural Ethiopia. The target group was supported in two key areas: market access and value chain development.
HÃ©lÃ¨ne van der Roest, director of the Cordaid East and South Africa cluster, underlined the important role of each actor in the project: âNow we can say that we have succeeded and now we have finished it. But you, the farmers, the microfinance organizations, the private partners and, of course, the government, are the most important actors. We had plans and visions. Things have changed. You helped us make this change.
Loans to 41,000 farmers According to Maurice Koppes, head of the STARS program, the figures speak for themselves. STARS has financed microfinance institutions enabling them to grant loans to more than 41,000 farmers. 60% of group loans and 43% of individual loans were granted to women.
Then it was time to talk about lessons learned and best practices. The professionals agreed on the success of the Agri-Credit Assessment Tool, or A-CAT, that is to say tailor-made agricultural credit products for the cultivation of vegetables and the sectors.
The panel discussed how the STARS team invested a lot of time in getting to know their farmers and how this enabled the team to understand the cycle of farmers’ farming activities, costs, risks and benefits. . This allows them to better analyze their economic performance and predict their ability to repay their loan. Thus, the financing of agriculture is no longer a risk but becomes a more attractive opportunity for microfinance institutions.
Ensuring Sustainability Ms. Akinyi Walender, Country Director of Cordaid Ethiopia, pledged to use the successes of the program to create more economic opportunities while focusing on tackling youth unemployment. âUnless we integrate the private sector into our programs, we cannot guarantee sustainability,â Walender said. âWe need the private sector to maximize our gains. “
Walender also expressed his gratitude to the organization responsible for funding the program. âWe are very grateful to the Mastercard Foundation. It is thanks to them that we were able to achieve these results and innovate in digitalization. We will continue to seek to work with them on the trajectory of linking agriculture and youth employment. “