AFA is continuously learning about and improving strategies to reach women with digital financial and information services. We strive to share emerging lessons with the agricultural and financial inclusion communities.
How should digital financial and information services target women farmers to increase their productivity?
Learnings from AFA Interventions in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia
Women smallholder farmers living in Sub Saharan Africa continue to face gender-based challenges due, in part, to systematic exclusion – both financial and informational. For example:
- Only 5-7% of all extension resources are directed at women
- Only 14% of donor resources target women smallholder farmers
- Less than 5% of women Smallholders in Kenya own a title to land
- Only 4% of women smallholders (compared to 14% of men) have access to credit.
It is estimated that if women had equal access to productive resources, they could increase their yields by 20-30%. To this end, AFA aspires to ensure that out of our target to reach 1 million farmers with Digital Financial and Information Services (DFS and DIS), at least half of them are women.
Insights from the Field
Over the past three years, AFA has supported and implemented a number of projects in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. In the course of our engagements, we have uncovered a number of findings which we present as six key insights on women smallholder farmers. These insights are:
1. Starting each project with women in mind increases product uptake
When launching DFS or DIS product for smallholders, it is common practice in both the private and public sectors to first use a mass-market approach and then see how different segments will interact with the product. User research we conducted in collaboration with FSD Zambia for a digital credit product established that women prefer savings and layaway products over debt. If DFS interventions assess the market with a gender lens beforehand, they can design and launch targeted products to ensure rapid and equitable uptake, priming the project for success from the outset.
2. Leveraging existing social groups and networks reaches more women
Social marketing approaches such as road/trade shows and town halls are often cost-effective ways to introduce a new product to thousands of potential smallholder clients. However, this does not always ensure an equitable number of women are reached. Because of their household responsibilities, as well as agricultural work, women are more likely to congregate in a domestic setting through social groups and networks. In Tanzania, after tweaking its marketing campaign to reach women through Village Community Banks (VICOBA), one mobile network operator increased the conversion rate of women to their product nearly three-fold.
3. Design a complementary and relevant bundle of products and services
Women are more motivated to adopt products whose benefits directly or indirectly impact the whole family. Incorporating incentives for women in DFS and DIS products not only ensures higher uptake of these products but will have a ripple effect on their households. For example, bundling a layaway product or agricultural input loan with child insurance or solar energy product will lower the financial burden of their other household responsibilities. On the other hand, incorporating a mobile phone with their DFS/DIS products addresses the gender gap in access to mobile phones, which is much lower in women than men at the household level.
4. Ensure interventions fit with the day-to-day realities of women
5. Technology is an enabler, but the human interface is still critical
It is also important to consider women’s limitations in mobility and time. Men are reported to be more mobile than men, who are limited to traveling within two kilometers. This is especially true in Tanzania and Zambia where women are unable to travel long distances to reach agents. Therefore, businesses should employ community-based agents who can do home visits or who are members of the co-ops, Village and Savings Associations (VSLA), and other groups that women belong to agents are a trusted means to reinforce technology-based behavior.
6. Use data analytics and human-centered design (HCD) to identify and act on blind spots
Following a DFS pilot in Tanzania, data analytics conducted with Busara Analytics revealed that most banking agents enlisted to recruit SHFs were men and so women could not relate to them, thus uptake among them was low. Recruitment was also done in mostly urban areas/centers where more men are, while female SHF are concentrated in the villages. The messaging (marketing SMS) did not resonate with women’s needs (education, health, and nutrition, for example).
Further Related Reading:
- Digital Finance in Bangladesh: Where are all the Women?
- Increasing Women’s Financial Inclusion in Zanbia (Blog 1)
- Increasing Women’s Financial Inclusion in Zambia (Blog 2)
- Acclerating Access to Finance for Women: Supporting Village Savings and Loans Associations
Lucy Kioko, Agriculture Manager, AFA.