By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

OAK BROOK, IL, July 6 - Opportunity International, a global non-profit microfinance organization, will receive a $2.5 million grant from the John Deere Foundation to expand access to financial services for farmers and other entrepreneurs in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda, through its “Banking on Africa” initiative.

With the grant from the John Deere Foundation, the primary philanthropic arm of Deere & Company, Opportunity will also be able to fund 500,000 new agricultural loans, including 95,000 to small independent farmers. This funding will also support 1.4 million new interest bearing savings accounts, allowing farmers to plan through the financial cycles of different growing seasons - 950,000 of those savings accounts will be opened in extremely rural areas - where farmers typically have no access to financial services.  


To provide continued support to small farmers and businesses, plans are in place to hire 200 new loan officers who specialize in agriculture in the next three years. With access to financial services from Opportunity International, farmers can build their agricultural businesses, support their families, and by extension their local economies.

“One of the John Deere Foundation’s goals is to help eliminate hunger through initiatives that help manual farmers move from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture, resulting in enhanced security for the farmers, increased and sustainable food supplies and measurable economic growth in developing nations,” said John Bustle, vice president, John Deere Foundation. In 2008, John Deere Foundation granted Opportunity $1.2 million.

“We are impressed with the progress that Opportunity International has made in increasing access to financial services for African farmers, food processors and retailers. Likewise, we are excited and optimistic about Opportunity’s ongoing efforts to create a sustainable framework for enhanced food security through increased food production, food availability at local markets and family income to purchase food.”

Opportunity International combines the best of traditional microfinance with a rigorous understanding of the unique factors associated with smallholder agriculture in Africa, in an innovative agricultural finance model that has the potential to transform Africa’s smallholder farmers from subsistence growers to cash crop producers.

“Opportunity International is creating a financial services model that is designed to increase the farmer’s chance for success while mitigating his or her personal risk, and is one that goes far beyond just providing agricultural credit,” said John Magnay, Opportunity International’s senior agricultural advisor. “In addition to providing access to savings accounts and loans, we are working with extension services and output markets, with objectives to improve crop productivity, increase incomes and directly impact the food supply within local communities for enhanced food security.”
“Demand for savings in rural areas is driven by the need for access to funds during seasonal agricultural cycles to support the household until the next harvest. Studies have shown that rural farmers desire more formal savings opportunities. As such, we estimate that 80 to 85 percent of our rural clients will access savings and insurance services,” continued Magnay.

 “Our relationship with the John Deere Foundation is integral to the successful expansion of our saving-based microfinance services across sub-Saharan Africa, and we are grateful for its continued investment in our organization,” said Bill Morgenstern, Opportunity International CEO.

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