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Author: Anna Kanze - Grassroots Capital Management

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has the potential to be the “breadbasket of the world”, with a significant portion of the world’s fresh water and arable farmland. Small farmers represent over 80% of the total holdings and provide between 30 -40% of the region’s agricultural GDP. However, rural areas continue to be afflicted by high ratios of poverty, which far exceed the regions’ average. Additionally, smallholders are especially vulnerable to climate change, which increases their food insecurity and widens the gender divide, given that women are often already restricted from owning land or accessing resources despite making up a significant part of agricultural labour. In LAC, 39 million people are undernourished and severe food insecurity is on the rise, worsened by climate extremes. The Prospero Microfinanzas Fund, co-managed by Grassroots Capital Management PBC (Grassroots) and BIM, tackled these issues in six of its nine portfolio companies with mostly rural and agriculture-focused clients in LAC. As the fund is winding down in 2019, Grassroots reflects on four key lessons as we launch a new initiative to address food security, climate resiliency and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in LAC.

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Author: e-MFP

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, wrote Arthur C. Clarke. Put aside cynicism about the perils of our technology-obsessed culture, focus on how communication and convenience have been changed in recent years, and then – try to imagine how transformational the current technological revolution must be for the financially excluded in low-income countries. The ability to predict the weather; contact vendors or customers; send, save, receive or borrow money affordably and immediately; find new markets – this is magical in all but name. It’s happening so fast, too. The mobile phone and Internet are both barely twenty years old. The internet-connected smartphone – a tool of almost limitless utility – is half that age. What technology has done for the lives of richer consumers in the developed world may be nothing to what it can do for the financially excluded. These were the messages at a joint e-MFP/FIF UK Offsite Session held at Allen & Overy in London on 23rd May. The event was entitled 'Financial Inclusion through Technology' – the theme of the European Microfinance Award 2018 – and served to summarise the process and takeaways of that Award (including via a launch of the new report, 'Digital Pathways in Financial Inclusion') and bring together a panel of experts to debate the biggest issues in the financial inclusion and technology sector.