Employing more than a quarter of the global workforce, agriculture accounts for 4% of global GDP, totaling nearly $4.5 trillion. At the heart of this value chain are more than 608 million smallholder farmers who produce around a third of the world's food. Yet despite agricultural development being one of the most powerful tools for ending extreme poverty, farming no longer guarantees a sustainable livelihood. In fact, 65% of poor working adults make a living through agriculture.
To help tackle this problem, and as part of the company’s global effort to drive financial and digital inclusion, today at the Singapore FinTech Festival, Mastercard announced that it would expand its Farm Pass digital platform across the Asia Pacific region, building on its early success in India. The firm is on track to connect 30 million people globally, including 15 million in Asia Pacific, with its Community Pass services, of which Farm Pass is a part, over the next five years.
A one-stop solution that digitizes marketplaces, payments and work flows within the agriculture sector,
Farm Pass addresses both the hurdles hindering digitization of rural communities and the economic hardships faced by farmers in many parts of the world. The former includes high rates of digital illiteracy, and significant infrastructure challenges such as a lack of (or unreliable) internet access, low rates of smartphone ownership and, in many cases, no consistent form of identification or credentials. In addition, the agricultural value chain can be highly complex, manual, and cash-based, which can lead to inefficiencies, waste, and fraud.
Compounding these systemic issues, while farmers urgently need access to credit and a bigger pool of buyers to make farming commercially sustainable, banks in places like India and Africa can struggle to serve them or underwrite credit. This is primarily due to a lack of reliable data about their incomes and expenditures, which tend to be cash-based. For farmers, this can lead to higher operating costs, including exorbitantly high interest rates for borrowing from unofficial lenders.
“While technology has brought profound benefits to much of the world, digitally excluded people in remote communities, like most farmers, face unique challenges in breaking the cycle of poverty. Too often, smallholder farmers’ profits are at the mercy of forces outside their control, making them price takers rather than price makers,”said Ari Sarker, President, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.
“The beauty of Farm Pass is that it works by addressing farmers’ most pressing needs: to get digital, get paid and get capital, giving them greater leverage in the agricultural value chain. Importantly, Farm Pass isn’t an aid program or philanthropy—rather, it enables farmers to be properly compensated for their work by cutting out inefficiencies and middlemen, creating a commercially sustainable system for all involved.”
The Farm Pass operating model works by first establishing a digital identity for farmers. In turn, this allows their income, harvest data and transaction history to be digitized, enabling them to build a credit profile. By deploying a hybrid physical-digital model, ecosystem partners onboard farmers at scale and capture real-time insights, while farmers receive assistance from agents in-person, as well as digitally, contributing to effective enrolment and adoption of the program.
Most importantly, the Farm Pass ecosystem works both online and offline, enabled by internet agnostic technology and a network of agents who meet farmers in person and connect them to the platform on their behalf. This way, farmers do not need to own a smartphone, pay for data, or be digitally literate in order to participate in the program.
Once onboarded, farmers are connected digitally to a network of agricultural buyers, inputs dealers, and other agriculture players. Through the digital platform, farmers gain access to reliable markets where they can be paid fair prices, while buyers find sustainable sources of quality produce. By bringing together various agri-sector stakeholders in one agricultural marketplace, Farm Pass amplifies the net positive impact on farming communities.
Farm Pass Scaling Rapidly in India
Marking the latest milestone for the program - which now serves two million farmers globally - Mastercard also announced today a new collaboration with Bayer CropScience and Rabo Partnerships, a subsidiary of the Rabobank Group. Working together, the firms will introduce a program, unique in India, that combines Bayer’s digital advisory services for smallholder farmers with Mastercard’s Farm Pass digital platform. Rabo Partnerships will enable access to financial services on the platform via data-driven credit scoring, credit analytics and product development within partner financial institutions. Over five years, the program aims to benefit millions of smallholder farmers in India by enabling them to gain easier access to formal financial services.
Community Pass Drives Sustainable Economic Development
Farm Pass is just one of the services offered under Mastercard’s Community Pass portfolio, an interoperable digital platform that connects even the most remote communities, digitally, to service providers such as governments, NGOs, healthcare providers, schools, and the private sector. With a broad suite of easy-to-use digital technologies and toolssuch as a functional identity, shared wallet, digital acceptance device, and a safe, secure data platform that functions even in areas with intermittent or no internet connectivity, Community Pass seeks to increase access to critical services for those who are excluded today — in order to build a more inclusive and sustainable digital economy for all.
Re-disseminated by The Asian Banker