The Rural Finance Learning Centre offers online, easily accessible information products related to rural finance.
Smallholder farmers are often cut off from regional trade routes and markets, and struggle to access financial services that would safeguard them from fluctuations in income. In fact, most actors in an agricultural value chain – smallholders, cooperatives, extension agents and merchants – are not familiar with or aware of the financial products and services available to them. And while mobile money transfers and mobile banking may have simplified transactions along the value chains and across actors’ networks, the success of a deal often still depends on trust and knowledge.
To understand the intricate conditions of a loan product or choose the appropriate insurance scheme, actors in the value chain not familiar with the details behind the jargon will need independent sources of verified information, platforms where knowledge can be acquired and experiences shared with peers.
To answer these needs, the Rural Finance Learning Centre (RFLC) – an initiative from FAO, IFAD, GIZ, and the World Bank – offers on its online portal a wealth of easily digestible information products on all things rural finance. The centre helps organisations in developing countries to build their capacity to deliver improved financial services that meet the needs of rural households and businesses.
The RFLC offers assistance in a number of ways. One is the reference library of up-to-date materials relevant to rural finance. The library includes books, case studies, guidelines, training manuals, briefs and multimedia such as videos, CD-ROMs, software and links to websites. The material has been selected with an eye to extending knowledge about good practices and innovations, and enhancing people's understanding of key concepts. To find an item in the library you can use the simple or advanced search function, or you can browse through the topics under ‘Business support services’, ‘Financial services’ and ‘Policy advice’.
Another useful RFLC resource is its selection of training material, which has been adapted or designed by RFLC editors for self-study or for use by trainers. The material also contains details of various training courses and organisations that offer training relevant to rural finance and enterprise development.
‘Guides for trainers’ are intended to help people preparing to teach others in a classroom environment. ‘Self-study guides’ offer a mixture of theory, exercises and questions. If the internet connection allows it, the online videos are a great complement to the guides. The ‘Training tools’ section contains ideas for participative learning activities and creative ways to explain business ideas. The ‘Online lessons’ have been developed as a novel way to learn and explore certain issues in rural and microfinance. The lessons are simple enough that they do not require a facilitator and are intended for people who have no opportunity to attend training courses.
The centre also features a ‘News and events’ section with news items related to rural and agricultural finance, various announcements, details of forthcoming events, and links to discussion lists that relate to rural and microfinance.
People do not necessarily have to register as a member to use the centre’s facilities. It has a member area with services such as the monthly newsletter (which posts all the new resources that have been added to the website in the preceding month). The newsletter is available in English, Spanish and French. As a member, you are able to interact with the system, for example suggesting new resources to the editors and providing your own abstract, or suggesting that your organisation or website is added to the contact list. Contact information appears in the list of members, and you will be able to see securely who else has signed up as a member. You can add your CV to your details but you should not do this if you do not want it to be publicly available on the internet.
The editors of the Rural Finance Learning Centre maintain a Facebook page with regular updates, and they also share news and announcement via Twitter. One great way to contribute to the platform would be to submit a list of the best mobile apps used in ACP countries meant to facilitate mobile rural finance. A number of these apps or ecosystems are presented in this issue.
ICT4Ag conference session on ‘ICTs and mobile apps for access to financial services and insurance’http://goo.gl/tb6V8E
Agricultural finance at the Grameen Foundation http://goo.gl/20foNc
Agricultural Finance Support Facility http://agrifinfacility.org/
Mobile Money Standards at International Telecommunication Union (ITU)http://goo.gl/X7Sk5e