Grant for university to aid African smallholders

Date of release: Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dr Ana MarrA major research project to lift African smallholders out of poverty is being led by the University of Greenwich.

The three-year programme has been awarded £745,000 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

The Principal Investigator of the project is Dr Ana Marr, an international development economist from the university’s Natural Resources Institute and Business School.

Dr Marr is leading an international team of researchers and will work alongside impoverished smallholders in Kenya and Zambia and their local organisations, offering microfinance, insurance and agricultural supplies and services.

As a result of the African Development Bank’s support for the project, Dr Marr’s research with Kenyan and Zambian smallholders growing maize and other crops will also be used to support other low-income rural communities across the continent.

Her team will include development specialists from Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, and Egerton University, in Kenya.

Dr Marr says: “We are delighted that the importance of our work and that of all our local partners with some of the poorest people in Africa has been recognised.

“In Kenya, the Syngenta Foundation For Sustainable Agriculture offers smallholders combined packages of finance, insurance and agricultural supplies, such as seed and fertilisers. In Zambia, similar packages are available through the Zambia National Farmers Union.

“Our research will look at how these support packages can be improved or rebalanced to best meet the needs of the poorest smallholders to build their businesses.

“The ESRC-DFID funding gives us the opportunity to examine the finance and agricultural packages in depth and work with smallholders to optimise the support available to them.

“Furthermore, we will be able to evaluate the impacts of different adjustments to the support packages and research significant social issues – such as whether financial and services support is available equally to men and women within their rural communities.”

Dr Marr previously led a £200,000 microfinance research project on behalf of The Leverhulme Trust. Her team looked at ways to help people out of poverty and become financially sustainable with the ability to save safely, insure against risk and fund small businesses in Peru, India and Tanzania.

Story by Public Relations