Partnerships for global impact: Hacking climate change for small-scale farmers

man using mobile phone

Mercy Corps and our partners are helping small-scale farmers fight one of their biggest challenges: climate change. The solution is already in their pockets.

All over the world, small-scale farmers are struggling with the new realities of the emerging climate crisis. With most people in low-income countries relying on their declining crops, nearly a billion people are currently going hungry. That number is expected to triple by 2050.

While the climate crisis is a huge challenge for any one farmer on their own, Mercy Corps knows that when we come together with the right partners and put resources behind bright ideas, a better future is possible.

And we’re bringing that future to farmers’ phones.

Together with our partners, we’re providing a set of tools that small-scale farmers can access from their mobile phones. While the solution may seem simple on its surface, AgriFin helps integrate a vast amount of information and services that farmers need in order to boost their climate resiliency. The result creates a direct connection between small-scale farmers and financial assistance, weather information, agricultural experts and marketplaces.

Small-scale farmers in Kenya have never before had an easy way to access a “one-stop-shop” like this, which is what makes Mercy Corps’ AgriFin truly innovative.

The partners we work with include organizations local to the region, like Arifu, Farm-Drive, Pula, and others. They’re essential in bringing relevant perspectives and effective strategies that lead to long-term resilience. Each of our AgriFin partners also helps to build out a robust suite of services and information — vital for small-scale farmers trying to survive in the face of climate change.

Learn more about them below.

Getting insured for climate change through Pula

AgriFin partner Pula provides weather index and yield insurance to small-scale farmers, helping to protect them from increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.

Mercy Corps’ collaboration with Pula has been critical in giving farmers more financial security. Pula insures the seeds and beans that farmers buy. When their fields don’t grow, farmers can get their money back and invest in a different crop.

Hands holding beans
Lucia with beans for planting. The beans and seeds he buys through AgriFin automatically come with insurance, so he’s protected against losses from flooding and drought. ALL PHOTOS: Ezra Millstein/Mercy Corps

"Farmers generally are not educated about all the different products that are beneficial to them that exist in the market,” says Elvin Lunani, partnerships manager at Pula. “[With AgriFin] it is almost like you are bringing the whole world to the farmer.”

Growing livelihoods with loans from Farm-Drive

Through Farm-Drive, small-scale farmers can set up savings accounts and get loans, allowing them to invest in their farms.

Many small-scale farmers rely on income from selling their crops to pay school fees, cover healthcare costs and buy basic items like food. Being able to access money when it’s needed most makes all the difference in keeping people safe and secure.

Peris Bosire, CEO of Farm-Drive, understands what poor harvests can mean for small-scale farmers. “The main challenge the farmers face is irregularity of cash flows,” she says. “Unlike formally-employed people who get paid at the end of the month, it's not the case for them. They get money when they sell.”

Farm-Drive looks at each farmer like they’re a business. “When you invest in an early stage or a small company, they're able to grow the scale, diversify, and add more process,” says Peris. “By giving them more money to invest, they're growing their production because they have access to better feed, or they are able to get more labor to get their work done, or they are able to diversify.”

Answering farmers’ questions through Arifu’s digital school of agriculture

Mercy Corps’ AgriFin partner Arifu connects small-scale farmers with chatbots that can answer a host of questions they may have.

Craig Heintzman, CEO of Arifu, has always seen education as a fundamental right for everyone. With Arifu, he has furthered that mission and created a platform where small-scale farmers can quickly find solutions to help with whatever they’re facing at any given moment.

Woman farming
Patricia has been using AgriFin for two years, and it’s helped her test soil and get access to better seeds. Now she’s considering taking digital lessons on raising chickens.

“We built a product that allows people to learn skills through their mobile phones by chatting with the Arifu chatbot,” says Craig. “So it's like a digital teacher or digital advisor. It can connect with them to information that's going to help them solve some of those tough problems.”

Gaining lessons from Kenya Livestock Producers Association

While Arifu provides the platform for farmers to get information, it’s AgriFin’s partner Kenya Livestock Producers Association (KLPA) that provides the information itself.

KLPA has been training farmers for over 15 years. They also act as an advocacy group for small-scale farmers, engaging local and national governments on a variety of policy interventions in the agriculture space.

Having worked for years in this area, CEO of KLPA Patrick Kimani understands that the best way to make an impact is through partnerships. “The future of this country and in any other country is in food and water. Our populations need quality, affordable good food and water,” says Patrick. “So, for governments and partners and the private sector, everybody involved, I think our collective objective and responsibility is to make it happen.”

Finding new partners for greater growth

Since 2012, Mercy Corps’ AgriFin program has helped over 3.5 million farmers increase their harvests and incomes.

Mercy Corps is now working with NASA and other organizations to expand AgriFin. Working with NASA will bring satellite-to-soil data and earth modeling to inform hyper-local insights into weather, soil moisture, water availability, the best crops for each field and the right time to plant.

It’s AgriFin’s partnerships that power it and allow it to make meaningful impact in the lives of small-scale farmers.

“I always say that you can do anything, you just need to get started,” says Peris of Farm-Drive. “You just have to get started somewhere. But that getting started somewhere doesn't come without support from people. And that's what we got from Mercy Corps.”

By bringing in more organizations and expanding into other regions affected by climate change, Mercy Corps’ AgriFin can continue making an impact for small-scale farmers all around the world.