About the event

With declining rates of Official Development Assistance (ODA), donor countries have employed innovative ways to attract more investment from the private sector to agriculture, notably through blended finance instruments. Session two of our ‘Backing the Middle’ series will host a discussion with donors to discuss where concessional capital is best utilized. Should development finance focus on investment funds, financial incentive models or technical assistance to move the needle in agri-SME finance? Is there a better way to use these funds for higher impact on the performance of small agricultural enterprises and the farmers they serve? What does the evidence from years of donor engagement in agricultural development tell us?


Songbae Lee, Agriculture Finance Team Lead, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Moderator

Songbae leads efforts at the USAID to mobilize private capital for agricultural finance. Most recently, he spent eight years at Calvert Impact Capital, a non-profit impact investing debt fund, where he was responsible for end-to-end deal origination, credit assessment, and ongoing portfolio monitoring. Previously, he worked for Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Banc of America Securities, and Mercy Corps in Kyrgyzstan. He holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.S. from the University of Vermont.

Iris Krebber, Head of Civil Stabilisation Group Operations, UK Food Security and Land, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)

Until mid-March 2024, Iris Krebber worked as the Head of Food Security, Agriculture and Land – Development Policy and Strategic Programmes, at the UK’s Foreign and Development Department. She has transitioned into a new role as the FCDO’s Head of Civil Stabilisation Group Operations, focusing more on crises requiring humanitarian response, conflict mitigation and stabilisation support. Prior to joining the UK Civil Service, Iris spent 10 years working for Welthungerhilfe as a Regional Director in the Greater Horn and worked in a number of capacities in various African countries on eradicating hunger and sustainable agriculture and rural development. Prior to that, Iris worked in the private sector.

Bernard Zaugg, Programme Officer, Economy and Education, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

As a member of SDC’s Competence Centre for the Engagement with the Private Sector, Bernard contributes to SDC’s efforts to mobilize private expertise and finance towards achieving the SDGs. He is engaged in exploring new ways for donors to shift from grant aid to investment of public funds to achieve increased development impact. Previously, Bernard spent 6 years at the SDC’s thematic section food systems. Prior to that, he worked and lived in Haiti for 29 years in the agriculture sector, starting as a volunteer supporting grassroots CSOs, co-founder of a still existing local NGO, local consultant, Country Programme Director for Helvetas and finally Head of the SDC programme in Haiti. Bernard holds a diploma of agricultural engineering from ETH Zürich.


Event Details:

Event dates: 28 March 2024

Location: Online

Organizer: SAFIN | Market Links | GDPRD



Quote: "Donors need to fund activities at the furthest mile, but private investors are rarely active there. How do we bridge that tension to attract more private capital to agriculture?" Songbae Lee, Agricultural Finance Lead, USAID

Summary article:

During this session, representatives of three major donors — Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America — explored different considerations that affect how they deliver financing agricultural enterprises and producers. Three key takeaways emerged from the discussion:

  1. The global political economy and agri-finance
  2. Attracting commercial capital to rural clients who need it the most
  3. Countering misalignment with coordination

Read more.


Session videos: