While geographical factors play a role, we believe that the primary driver of the difference in priorities cited by interviewees in Kenya and Ghana stems from a farmer’s stage in farming rather than his/her location. Even though the differing profiles of farmers interviewed in Kenya and Ghana led them to measure success differently, we anticipate that measures of success would converge to some degree across the two countries if the farmer stage were similar.
Farmers interviewed in Ghana had a stronger commercial focus—typically dedicating at least a portion of their farm to cash crop production—and prioritized increasing their production and income as demonstrated in the graphic below. Once that was achieved, impact looked like investing in their homes (moving from a rental or shared situation to their own property) and farms, as well as in their children’s advanced and/or private education. Eventually, they could consider diversifying their income sources through other kinds of farming.
Understanding the priorities of farmers is important not just for the design of financial solutions but also for the measurement of impact.
By understanding where a particular customer is along the curve of household needs or outcome priorities, finance providers or researchers can design more effective evaluations of impact. First, this baseline will better enable providers to understand what success looks like from the client’s perspective and to assess the degree to which they are helping a client achieve these goals. Second, this knowledge can improve the accuracy of impact assessment efforts. If research measures an outcome that the household is not prioritizing – for example cash profits for a household prioritizing food security – it may be less likely to find a statistically significant result, and could understate the impact of an intervention.
Education is important for my children as they will grow to have the innovative thinking that will allow them to emerge as better farmers and business people than I currently am
This human-centered approach is a participatory evaluation methodology, which can make research designs more relevant.
In participatory evaluation, a broader set of stakeholders actively participates in developing and implementing the evaluation. This means that RAF funders, providers and clients all play a part in a process that incorporates opinions of the farmer/client in both evaluation design and execution. Our study did not comprise a full evaluation, but our team spent two weeks immersed in rural Kenya and Ghana so that farmers could influence the framing of the study by providing a nuanced view of their priorities and how financial solutions assist them in achieving these objectives.
We identified a diversified sample of target interviewees based on characteristics such as gender, age, experience with financial solutions, type of crop farmed, etc. Then we conducted a lengthy on-farm interview, learning about the farmer’s family, daily activities, experiences with financial products, and hopes and aspirations.
“I plant several varieties of maize and continue to advise my fellow farmers on what the best seeds are to use in their farms. I have also organized a number of farm visits to my farm for other farmers to come and learn.”
The degree of comfort cultivated by being embedded in the farmers’ setting allowed for greater depth and honesty in sharing experiences.
Being comfortable, farmers shared a wide array of insights into their lives and circumstances. Capturing multiple dimensions of the farmer lent additional nuance to how we think about measuring impact. For instance, while many impact studies prioritize income measurement, it was clear that for the farmers interviewed in Kenya, paying school fees was much more important—and this could be done through bartering. Focusing on standard income measures would likely miss a high-priority outcome: an increased ability to cover school fees. Another key benefit of this process was the sense of reward that farmers felt in contributing to the solution generation process.
“My future ambition is to start a business. I am however worried about taking a cash loan without a clear business plan”