Three highlights from the SAFIN Annual Plenary Meeting 2021

From 05 to 07 October 2021, the SAFIN Network hosted its fifth Annual Plenary Meeting fully virtually. Over the three-day event, more than 140 participants representing institutions from across the globe convened to share experiences and lessons for the present and future of agri-SME finance. Here are three key highlights from discussions at the event.

Photo: IFAD/ Fahad Kaizer

Channelling more green finance towards agri-SMEs through innovative partnerships

Making green finance accessible to the agriculture sector is challenging, particularly when it comes to agri-SMEs who already struggle to access mainstream financing. In a half-day workshop that took place as part of the Plenary 2021, co-organized with CGIAR, partners and experts from the green finance, science and sustainable investment communities explored different ways for providers and enablers of finance to effectively collaborate to channel green finance to agri-SMEs and, through them, to small farmers.

In focus at the workshop were two examples of innovative partnerships that aim to do just that. Felicity Spors of Gold Standard and Dorothée Herr of the International Union for Conservation of Nature explained how their institutions plan to link local financial intermediaries to big players in the green finance space through the Sub-National Climate Finance Initiative.

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Godefroy Grosjean of CGIAR and Mauricio Benitez of responsAbility described how their two institutions are bridging the gap between scientists and investors, using the example of the first science-based impact investment fund targeting food systems transformation at scale. After these insightful panel discussions, participants reflected on how institutions in the sector can align around three key ingredients of successful partnerships in this domain, namely shared definitions of green finance, common metrics and reporting mechanisms, and common approaches to defining the bankability of potential green investees.

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Co-designing new and emerging industry initiatives

For over three years, SAFIN partners have used the Plenary as an opportunity to seek inputs for recent or upcoming initiatives that they are leading, and to sow seeds for further discussion around specific themes. This year, in four parallel break-out sessions, the Network came together to exchange ideas about: new developments among Development Finance Institutions working in agriculture in Africa; the key features of investment vehicles targeting farmers’ organizations; the role of value-chain alliances for agri-SME investment in the Caribbean; and how to strengthen gender equality impact in the portfolios of agri-SME impact investors.

Towards a smarter future for agri-SME finance

SAFIN partners dedicated an afternoon of the Plenary 2021 to a collective reflection about the present and future of agri-SME finance informed by foresight techniques, facilitated by the School of International Futures. The activity stimulated participants to examine the current and future values that are over and under-represented in agri-SME finance, as a first step to imagining alternative possible futures for the sector and for SAFIN’s work in the coming months. Empowerment of agri-SMEs, gender equality and equity, a risk-taking culture, and a spirit of humility, learning and collaboration emerged among the key under-represented values in the sector that should inspire the agri-SME finance community to do more to contribute to a desirable future for food systems, rural economies, and societies.