By: Sara Gustafson
In the wake of the 2008 food price crisis, many policymakers and development practitioners shifted their focus toward enhancing the capacity and resilience of domestic food value chains. In West Africa, this new focus centered on rice. Since rice constitutes a leading staple food source in the region, it was hoped that increased investment in this area would increase domestic rice production and reduce reliance on imports, thus improving food security.
In Africa south of the Sahara, lack of access to financial services and products poses a serious challenge for agricultural growth and productivity. Many smallholder farmers are cash-poor; it is common for farmers in the region to sell their crops immediately after harvest in order to meet their immediate cash needs rather than waiting for prices to go up and thus increasing their profits. This lack of available capital, coupled with the difficulty smallholders often face in accessing credit, limits their ability to invest in their farms and in other incoming generating activities.