Research & Analysis

Financial Diaries with Smallholder Families

How do small-scale agricultural producers manage their money, and what do their strategies tell us about their need for financial tools?

Globally there are approximately 500 million smallholder households - around 2 billion people - who rely on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods. These households, who make up a large portion of the world's poor living on less than $2 per day, typically cultivate less than five acres of land and lack access to basic financial services. Improving their lives is critical to making a dent in global poverty and advancing financial inclusion.

For CGAP's "Financial Diaries with Smallholder Households," researchers interviewed 270 total families in Mozambique, Pakistan, and Tanzania every two weeks for an entire calendar year, tracking their income, expenses, and agricultural production. The result was approximately 500,000 data points, combined with rich personal stories, about the challenges these families face - related to agriculture, finance, and other areas of life such as health and education.

The Smallholder Diaries provide a deep view of how smallholders are affected by the agricultural cycle and manage their money in response to its ebbs and flows, as well as point to ways that financial service providers might better meet smallholders’ needs. While the Smallholder Diaries methodology and sample size are not statistically representative of all smallholder families in a given country, the findings from the Smallholder Diaries have global implications for the smallholder household sector. 

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While there has been renewed appreciation for how reaching smallholder households could drive financial inclusion, little is known about this unique, yet massive client group.