Editor's note: Scott Anderson contributed to this post.
This week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced "Small Farmers are the Answer", an interesting challenge that calls for creative ways to communicate the importance of smallholders in global development. The challenge calls submitting a piece (video, photo essay, a game, among others) that speaks to the potential of investments that provide small farmers with the tools and resources they need to thrive. Learn more here and think about your contribution before the deadline on May 31.
Interestingly, this week saw a few announcements of investments and upcoming events focused precisely on small farmers. Acumen Fund and Grameen Foundation announced a $1.75 million "quasi-equity" co-investment in Juhdi Kilimo Company Ltd. - a Kenyan microfinance firm providing loans to smallholder farmers for livestock and equipment. Acumen Fund and Grameen Foundation say the investment will help Juhudi Kilimo grow its portfolio and serve more farmers, hire new staff, and improve efficiency across its seven branches. Juhudi Kilimo has set its sights on ambitious expansion, with plans to grow its client base from 7,322 in March of 2010 to more 25,000 by the end of 2015 to impact nearly 125,000 rural Kenyans. (Full disclaimer: Acumen Fund is a NextBillion Associate Partner).
Also this week, TechnoServe brought a spotlight to the plight and the promise for small farmers in Africa and Haiti. TechnoServe is working with thousands of small coffee growers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, sharing best practices to improve crop yields and access markets. The numbers tell the story: 108,000 coffee farmers were assisted by the NGO and 4,740 tons of coffee produced in 2010. On average, farmers working with TechnoServe improved incomes on coffee sold by 37 percent. As a result of support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, TechnoServe's coffee initiatives will reach 180,000 East African farmers over four years. The full report can be read here. (Full disclaimer: TechnoServe is a NextBillion Associate Partner).
Lastly, a major conference in June will address the specific challenges of agricultural finance. Cracking the Nut has an impressive array of speakers and organizations, including multilateral organizations, investing firms like Root Capital, major financial institutions and development consulting firms. Click here to learn more about this conference coming up in June 20.
In case you missed it: NextBillion this week