Gender and Youth-Inclusion in Financing of the Seed Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa
This post was written by Valerie Davis, senior technical advisor agriculture — gender and nutrition, Catholic Relief Services.
This post was reviewed by Tamsin Scurfield, agricultural finance gender and partnerships manager, Opportunity International, and Tim Strong, head of agricultural finance, Opportunity International.
Compared to other markets, regulated financial service providers (FSP) in sub-Saharan Africa have limited agricultural financial products and capacity, but have expressed interest in expanding their financial products to seed sector stakeholders, according to Opportunity International’s financial scans in multiple countries. As FSPs take steps to expand their services, it is important that new services and products are gender-inclusive. A review of five Opportunity International reports (Financial Service Provider Inventory Scan (Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya), Seed and Post-Harvest Technology Provider Financial Bottleneck Analysis, Financial Service Provider Inventory Scan for Niger, An Analysis of Opportunities and Constraints in Regulated Finance for the EHAR Seed Sector in Uganda and Agro-Dealer Access to Finance Coaching Curriculum — Uganda) produced as part of the Feed the Future Global Supporting Seed Systems for Development Activity (S34D) identified three key gaps that hinder FSPs in developing and offering gender-inclusive services and products.
Gap 1: Missing Gender and Age Disaggregated Data
Lack of sex- and age-disaggregated, financial-related data was common across secondary data for all reports. This lack of disaggregated data at the portfolio level and in published FSP records significantly limits the ability to assess gender and youth ratios in finance availability to underrepresented clients seeking to participate in the seed sector. It inhibits a comprehensive understanding of what is needed to appropriately engage more marginalized groups, like rural women and youth. To address this gap:
- FSPs can collect and analyze gender- and age-disaggregated indicators, such as sex and age of account holders and gender-specific performance indicators, such as depth of outreach to women, women’s repayment capacity and women’s feedback, to guide product development, delivery approach and marketing.
- Digital farmer profiles that connect farmers to FSPs need to collect gender- and age-disaggregated data to help target interventions to traditionally under-financed client segments.
Gap 2: Offering Well-Designed, Gender-Inclusive Financial Products
Overall, the FSP inventory scans in Niger, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi suggest there are few, if any, appropriate gender-sensitive financial service products already available in the market. Tailored financial products can be done, as illustrated in the Uganda white paper, where detailed, disaggregated information on refugees allowed financial institutions to adapt and customize to the unique needs of the refugee client base. In crafting financial products tailored to adult and young female clients, there is a need to identify interventions to address stringent loan requirements related to collateral and documentation, such as Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements and business registration, which can be burdensome for seed systems actors. To help mitigate these challenges, FSP could:
- Adapt client segmentation processes that consider the intersectionality of female clients and their nonhomogenous financial needs to guide gender-sensitive product development.
- Transition toward financing based on cashflows instead of collateral, where permitted. With this transition, the local gender context, particularly if women do not have full control of income earned, needs to be understood to support women repayment.
- Reduce mandatory collateral requirements in countries that have targeted schemes to increase financial inclusion to underserved clients — women, youth and people living with disabilities (ibid).
- Use Movable Asset Collateral Registries to unlock gender-related collateral limitations enabling women access to small loans as being done by the International Finance Corporation in Ghana.
- Support women in accessing a national identification.
- Train agents and loan officers to help prospective clients to register their business with the appropriate government office under the best-suited business structure, tailored to each business’ needs, as being done in Uganda.
- Further develop guarantee mechanisms for women-led or -owned businesses and farmers that make agricultural financial services more affordable for clients and less risky for FSP.
- Differentiate between parity and equity in financial access, noting the gender-based variance in financing ticket sizes. Move beyond counting the number of loans and volume offered to women and consider assessing equitable access to the value of financing products.
Gap 3: Awareness of Available Financial Products Inhibits Uptake
FSP with well-designed products will need to understand the best ways to reach their target male and female adult and younger clients with knowledge on the product and its features. Some recommendations for FSPs include:
- Conducting market research that gathers and analyzes data-based gender, age, ethnicity, disability, location, etc.
- Surveying clients, particularly marginalized groups not yet reached, to understand their existing preferences and knowledge about financial products and to guide how to reach them.
- Producing relevant, contextualized, gender- and age-inclusive awareness campaigns.
- Considering gender barriers that affect women’s ability to make decisions on applying for a financial product and/or her control of the funds. This sheds light on how to bring awareness of the financial products to her and others that influence her ability to make decisions over it.
For projects, they could:
- Engage rural extension service providers and/or cooperatives to provide last-mile financing to hard-to-reach smallholder farmers requiring smaller loans. An inclusion strategy will be paramount in engaging and educating extension providers to ensure adult and young women are reached by agents, given barriers in attending meetings and gender biases.
- Support developing agent banker networks that consider specific barriers adult and young women face. Train agents in gender and age sensitivity. Work specifically to engage both adult and young women as agents, which may help traditionally underserved clients feel comfortable.
- Support FSP in digitizing operations to create more efficiency. Need gender- and age-sensitive strategies to address potential barriers faced by women in accessing and utilizing technologies to support uptake among traditionally underserved farmers.
This learning suggests there is some movement in reaching adult and young women with agriculture-focused financial services, but much more is needed to ensure women and female youth can access and benefit equitably from seed-targeted financial services.