The Smallholder Lens: Financial Success, Struggle in Mozambique
The world’s 500 million smallholder families face unique financial challenges that are complicated and poorly understood. For greater insight into the financial lives, behaviors and needs of these families, CGAP launched the Financial Diaries of Smallholder Households project in mid-2014. Over the course of a year, 270 families in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Pakistan shared not only how they earn, spend and manage their money but also how they make financial decisions.
The Smallholder Diaries will produce a rich set of financial data. But behind the statistics are real people - farmers who also sell their labor and run side businesses to make ends meet. They struggle to support their families but aspire to a more secure future. For a personal glimpse into the lives of smallholder families, CGAP equipped a small group of Financial Diaries participants in Mozambique with cameras and asked them to photograph images from their daily lives that represent challenges and successes.
Photo Credit: Erin Scronce
The results revealed highly personal aspects of these individuals’ lives that cannot be captured through surveys or data collection. The pictures get at the nuances of how these farmers imagine success, and how they feel when they encounter setbacks.
The farmers did not take pictures of ATMs, debit cards, mobile phones, or even cash. Farmers like Marcio and Osvalda photographed their failed crops as a demonstration of challenges they face. Fatima photographed the rats that ate her stored food. And Musokome photographed his wife working alone in a field because he couldn’t hire any help while he was injured. The famers’ successes paint an equally striking picture. Marcio beamed about saving up to purchase a motorbike, which helps him get his crops to market. Pekere boasts about the plastic chairs he was able to purchase after taking on a few side jobs. “Success” for these farmers is not complicated – it’s achieving the basics and taking pride in being able to support themselves and their families.
The stories from these smallholders reinforce the idea that financial inclusion is not the ultimate goal; rather, financial inclusion is one enabling factor that can help poor people build a better life. It is up to us, as financial inclusion advocates, to help providers of financial services understand people’s needs and challenges in order to build services that customers need and will use. Although the photographers did not outwardly express the need or desire for better access to finance, it is evident how financial services can play a critical role in safeguarding against risks and enhancing success. For example, one can imagine how crop insurance, proper training, or even financing for better agricultural inputs – such as improved seeds or fertilizer – could help avoid some daily frustrations. Similarly, a targeted savings instrument that accrued interest could go a long way toward helping smallholder farmers set aside money for larger purchases.
Photo Credit: Erin Scronce
Through the Lens of a Smallholder provides a unique opportunity to understand the struggles and successes of smallholder farmers and their families, which are often more than financial. Gaining a better understanding of smallholder families’ goals and expectations provides a road map for how better access to financial services can improve their lives.