Smallholder Agricultural Finance

The Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance (CSAF) is an alliance of social lending institutions focused on creating a thriving, sustainable and transparent financial market to serve the financing needs of small and growing agricultural business in low- and middle- income countries worldwide. Together, CSAF members identify best practices and develop industry standards across three areas: market growth for agricultural businesses in the “missing middle,” responsible lending principles, and social and environmental impact for rural households, communities and ecosystems.

CSAF members’ activities are informed by a Theory of Change (developed in conjunction with The Initiative for Smallholder Finance and other stakeholders in smallholder agriculture). This theory of change is underpinned by several hypotheses that have been developed based on research pieces that can be found on the Smallholder Impact Literature Wiki – a living resource for practitioners and researchers to digest a growing body of information.

The lenders in CSAF worked together to identify 6 IRIS metrics, listed below, that collectively tell a concise story about the scale of the lenders’ impact. The council members track these shared metrics within their organizations and share them on an annual basis. Example CSAF impact reports can be found here. Since formally launching the council in 2014, CSAF members have used these results as a baseline against which to track the growth of their impact in future years, and potentially upon which to add additional metrics.

As with all IRIS metrics, it is important to state that interpretation of these metrics must also take into account other aspects of a company's context, and changes over time. Stand-alone numbers cannot by themselves indicate positive or negative performance, or necessarily be compared across companies or products. To this end, CSAF members complement these metrics with case studies and in-depth analysis to highlight the ways in which council members are succeeding and to identify the areas where improvement is needed.

Theory of Change

CSAF-Selected IRIS Metrics