The Initiative for Smallholder Finance (ISF) is a multi-donor and investor platform for the development of financial services for the smallholder farmer market. It was launched in May 2013 with the intention of making marked progress toward closing the gap between the over $200 billion in smallholder financing need and the current $50 billion supply in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia.
ISF’s latest landmark report, Inflection Point: Unlocking growth in the era of farmer finance, puts forth an ambitious call to action that would allow formal financial institutions and value chain actors to double projected annual growth (from roughly 7% to 14%) and allow these providers to meet more than half the need by 2025.
With this in mind, the ISF’s primary role moving forward is to act as a "design catalyst." The emphasis is on mobilizing additional financing for smallholders and seeding replication of innovative models in new markets.
The ISF is housed in the Global Development Incubator (GDI), a non-profit, public charity designed to support innovative organizations and initiatives that have the opportunity to create large-scale social change. To date, sponsors of the ISF have included the Citi Foundation, Ford Foundation, Gates Foundation, MasterCard Foundation, Skoll Foundation, Small Foundation, and USAID. Root Capital, TechnoServe, the One Acre Fund, CGAP, IDH, Business Fights Poverty, and ANDE provide advisory support.
ISF engagement is most useful in developing high-potential yet nascent financial structures that lack either an “anchor” investor or funder or whose development sits between a set of organizations. In frontier markets such as smallholder agricultural finance, market actors – regardless of organization size or orientation – frequently lack the capacity, dedicated resources, or relative incentive to focus on the development of these activities until there is a refined business concept, an engaged set of investors, and local partners interested in moving forward. ISF activities can help shape these opportunities, bringing them to the point at which the principals involved, and the supporting cast frequently engaged in such transactions, have the incentive to execute the investment.
ISF’s investment generation and facilitation activities are backed by deep research into critical issues affecting the smallholder finance market. Learn more about core areas of ISF research to date here.
In partnership with Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab, we are excited to announce the release of our landmark report, Inflection Point: Unlocking growth in the era of farmer finance. Inflection Point suggests that while current efforts to expand financial inclusion are not sufficient to meet smallholder demand, concerted efforts around customer centricity, progressive partnerships, and smart subsidy have the potential to change the sector’s growth trajectory to best serve the world’s smallholder farmers.