Addressing the needs of smallholder farmers

Posted on October 09, 2015

On Monday, 14 September 2015, a welcome dinner was held to mark the beginning of the Programme in Agricultural and Rural Finance. The programme, established in 2014, is the result of a partnership between FinMark Trust and Continuing Education at the University of Pretoria Trust (CE at UP). It provides both context and a deeper understanding of what is needed to reach out to smallholder farmers and low-income rural households, and to sustainably serve them with an appropriate range of financial products and services.

Mr Geoff Orpen, Head of Credit Development at FinMark Trust, welcomed 17 delegates from Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia. ‘We support the theory that if people have access to finance, it leads to an improvement in their lives. If we are made aware of the needs of the poor and the types of financial instrument they require, we will be able to create greater financial inclusion,’ Mr Orpen said. He explained that that the needs of the poor can be met much more effectively in the long run if the needs of smallholder farmers are met and if potential financiers are educated on the importance of developing new products.

Shaimin Vieira, a delegate and agronomist from Mozambique, said that although she has a lot of know-how in agriculture, she does not have a strong financial background. ‘I want to get more knowledge on the finance sector and use that practically in agriculture,’ she said.

The programme provides strategic guidance for senior and middle management in southern African agricultural finance institutions and non-bank organisations (eg NGOs), and also benefits senior staff in government departments and parastatals that are tasked with supporting the provision of financial services to smallholder farmers, or with monitoring the private sector’s performance in this market.

Mr Lucas Modiba works for one such NGO. He says that he is excited to be part of the programme after being unable to attend last year. ‘There are experts from various fields, countries and backgrounds and I want draw lessons from what they have experienced. Just by attending the course, I will gain exposure in terms of what I have done, and will be motivated to do more. I will also get valuable practical experience.’

Mr Mike de Klerk, an independent consulting economist, believes that any initiative to help agriculture is imperative – especially in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. ‘Anything that can be done to improve smallholder farmers’ access to finance on a sustainable basis is important,’ he said. ‘There is always a way to deal with the challenges we face, we just need to learn how other people are doing it and see how we can do it ourselves.’

Owing to the realities we face on the African continent and the importance of agriculture and rural economic activities, employment of many people in the SADC region depends on a greater emphasis being placed on financial education and skills development. In line with the FinMark Trust’s agricultural and rural finance focus, this training partnership aims to ensure the more sustainable inclusion of people from lower income brackets in rural financial markets.

Mr Orpen reflected on the positive outcome of delegates creating networks, stating that, ‘the greater part of learning is learning from one another. It develops a community of interest, talking about the same thing and realising we are striving for the same thing.’


2015 was the second consecutive year that FinMark Trust, in partnership with CE at UP, sponsored the Programme in Agricultural and Rural Finance. It was presented from 14 to 26 September 2015. FinMark Trust supports access to finance for agriculture as a key driver in ensuring that food security in the SADC region is attained. To this end, the programme forms a key component of FinMark Trust’s own agricultural and rural finance development programme for the SADC region. For more information on courses presented by CE at UP, visit


- Author CE at UP

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