The growing penetration of digital technology in Tanzania is reaching even low-income populations, providing access to individuals who were previously excluded from digital financial services such as payments, savings, loans, and insurance.
It is now the right time for digital financial service providers to design, educate, and promote relevant financial products to benefit low-income earners like smallholder farmers. Mercy Corps’ AgriFin Accelerate (AFA) through various partnerships addresses the inclusion gap for smallholder farmers (SHF) who lack access to affordable, accessible, demand-driven financial and information products and services that drive higher productivity and income for farming families.
AFA collaborated with Fundación Capital, a non-profit social enterprise working to expand financial inclusion by leveraging lessons from the field to develop innovative and scalable solutions for the poor. Together with Rungwe Smallholder Tea Growers Association (RSTGA) and CRDB Bank, a tablet-based learning application called Jijenge was piloted for eight weeks in Rungwe to promote financial inclusion through building capabilities among smallholder farmers in tea and Coffee value chains.
Jijenge is a tablet-based learning application employing an ‘edutainment’ (educational entertainment) methodology for an interactive way of learning about formal financial services. The application focuses on financial skills such as budgeting and savings plans. It also prepares farmers to transition from performing transactions in cash, towards digital management of finances through a mobile-based bank account known as “SimAccount”.
Jijenge was piloted for an interval of eight weeks, implemented by local facilitators targeting smallholder coffee and tea farmers in ten villages of the Rungwe district in the Mbeya Region of Tanzania. The facilitators used tablets with the Jijenge app, which works offline, to train the smallholder farmers in their communities. Two methods were used in training:
- Small group training of a maximum of seven members: each group met up to three times for approximately two hours per session.
- One-day trial: each participant could take the tablet home for a period of one day to independently use Jijenge to learn with family members.
This household tablet rotation proved to be very effective due to its ability to reach other household members beyond the targeted participant. Farmers were able to experience Jijenge with their families, enabling increased participation of women. The methodology also enabled different age groups to interact with the application and enjoy the edutainment experience.
The following outcomes are especially key to advancing the financial inclusion of smallholder farmers moving forward:
Promotion of Gender Equality by reaching women where they are
As expected due to socio-cultural dynamics, more men than women participated in the training. However, our flexible tablet-based methodology minimized the gender gap with 41% female and 59% male participants. More women were able to access and experience Jijenge in their homes without having to disregard their household responsibilities – flexibility that traditional training is unable to provide.
Reaching a wider audience through the home
The impact of the innovative method of learning has proven successful because of its ability to indirectly reach a larger audience – something which the traditional classroom format of learning cannot match. Participants can make use of the tablets at home, allowing them to engage other family members in the learning process. In the pilot, a total of 376 people that were not officially involved in it were able to utilize and interact with the app.
High Content Assimilation
The participants were able to recognize budgeting as a key tool to manage financial resources at home and also in business. Additionally, they were able to identify savings as a way to achieve personal and business goals and understood that the ability to save does not depend on the level of income. Furthermore, participants recognized the product (SimAccount) as a safe way to save money compared to other alternatives. Out of the 541 trained participants, a total of 223 (41%) were enrolled in SimAccount following completion of the Jijenge training.
REQUIREMENTS FOR SUCCESS
The integration of different actors in the digital ecosystem is crucial for the adoption and use of digitized financial services in rural areas. Firstly, it is key to engage the local leaders, ideally as agents or facilitators, in order to attain an element of trust from the beneficiaries. They have a significant influence on the beneficiaries, therefore their positive response to the digital payment transition is highly impactful.
Furthermore, it is crucial to commence payment activities during the training. Providing guidance to the coffee and tea farmers as they manage payments from their produce via SimAccount normalizes account activity. Such practical training urges farmers to engage in day to day transactions and provides a stronger incentive for long-term uptake.
Lastly, initiatives should be considered to increase access to agents in rural locations. The smallholder farmers portrayed a positive and enthusiastic response – the challenge of traveling long distances to reach an agent, however, was hindered by this transition.
Compared to traditional training methodologies, innovative digital solutions such as Jijenge offer unprecedented opportunities for reaching smallholder farmers at scale to promote digital financial inclusion:
1. Edutainment tools offer an effective way of approaching communities with the content, ensuring their engagement. Tablet-based training is inclusive – it can be utilized by anybody regardless of age and gender.
2. Disseminating the knowledge through a tablet-based app ensures consistency of message for all participants. This minimized confusion and encouraged trust in the new system and the acquired knowledge.
3. Having home access to the tablet and content allows participants significant flexibility to plan to learn on their own time. This promotes enrollment and participation of women, who are usually in charge of more household chores due to socio-cultural dynamics and gender inequality.
4. Giving beneficiaries autonomy to use the tablets at home increases the reach of the initiative, extending it to family members not formally part of the project.
5. Putting tablet-based tools in the hands of trained community leaders in a household rotation scheme offers significant economies of scale – after app development costs, the scaled-up rollout of the project will see a dramatic cost reduction of up to a third.
Happy Matthew – Senior Program Officer, AgriFin Accelerate Tanzania
Mauricio Romero Posada – Research and Evaluation Coordinator, Fundación Capital
Mwimbe Fikirini – Country Representative, Fundación Capital