As Farm Credibly, we are focused on solving global problems but also problems that are widespread in the Caribbean. Agriculture is intertwined in the history of most Caribbean countries, and globally over 1 billion people are employed in agriculture, representing 1 in 3 of all workers (source: http://www.fao.org/3/i2490e/i2490e01b.pdf). This is a sizable market. After interviewing more than 120 different farmers, two common challenges are very pronounced for most farmers:
Access to markets and
Access to finance
Farm Credibly has decided to focus on access to finance using market research as our starting point. Key insights we gained from participating in and winning an IBM/NCB sponsored blockchain hackathon allowed us to start thinking about problems related to financial inclusion from the point of view of lenders and creditors.
It is difficult for banks to determine which farms are productive and can be more productive with access to capital.
Pepper farmers have difficulty accessing funds to produce scotch bonnet and west indian red peppers despite the unmet demand from agro-processors to produce pepper mash.
Through intensive research and stakeholder interviews, we have observed patterns that deserve further exploration. In Jamaica for example, it is much easier to qualify for a loan to import a vehicle from Japan than it is to expand one’s agricultural production. Why is this the case?
Daphne Ewing-Chow, Senior Contributor at Forbes posted a detailed article on how “less than 2% of Jamaica’s commercial lending portfolio is allocated to agriculture (Bank of Jamaica) with less than 10% of Jamaican farmers having access to credit. (Jamaica’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy, 2016-2020)”
“The traditional lending sector is still using methods of risk assessment that are decades old,” explains Zachary Harding, CEO of Hyperion Equity.
The current agricultural landscape provides an opportunity that has allowed Farm Credibly to open the possibility for new methods of assessing managing risk to create new financial tools for farmers in Jamaica.
There are several productive farmers in Jamaica who struggle to access finance to expand their farms despite having a strong track record with local agro-processors. We are launching and testing tools such as our mobile app for farmers to help provide the data needed to verify farmers’ creditworthiness.