038 A concrete example of multi-stakeholder platform for investment towards SDG2: the SAFIN network

The Smallholder and Agri-SME Finance and Investment Network brings diverse actors together to boost inclusive agri-finance ecosystems


  • UAA
  • ITC
  • FAO
  • AFA


At a time of growing recognition of the need to boost investment in food systems and in rural transformation, access to finance remains a key challenge confronting those who are most often the main investors in, and the social and economic backbone of these systems - namely small and medium enterprises and small family farmers. The Smallholder and Agri-SME Finance and Investment Network (SAFIN) is an initiative launched at IFAD in 2017 to gather different actors operating across the agri-finance ecosystem, aiming to accelerate the pace of progress in access to finance for investment by these enterprises. Bringing together almost 45 institutions, from bilateral to multilateral development finance and United Nation agencies to farmers' organizations, from foundations to specialized civil society organizations, from agriculture and rural credit associations to private sector platforms, SAFIN represents a concrete example of a multi-stakeholder "partnership" to promote investment towards SDG2. The event will present the initiative through the perspective of different communities in the network, drawing upon the main ongoing workstreams of the SAFIN agenda, related to country level alignment of investments, innovative business models for technical assistance, and mobilizing new sources of finance for institutions serving smallholders and agri-SMEs, including through "blended finance" approaches.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Valentina Savastano, Vice Chair of the CFS (Chair/Moderator)
  • Bettina Prato, Senior Coordinator, SAFIN/IFAD
  • David Hegwood, Chief, Global Engagement and Strategy, Bureau of Food Security, United States Agency for International Development
  • Michael Clark, Senior Coordinator, Governance and Policy, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • Gloria Roman, Manager, Prorural Programme, Junta Agroempresarial Dominicana
  • Jose Romeo Ebron, Cooperative Development Program Manager, Asian Farmers Association
  • Edward Katende, CEO, Uganda Agribusiness Alliance

Main themes/issues discussed

As the side event was an introduction of the SAFIN network to CFS participants, the main themes discussed were the rationale, vision, history, structure, and areas of work of the network. These were seen from the distinct perspectives of some of the different actors involved in the network – namely bilateral cooperation agencies, the United Nations system, private sector platforms, and farmers' organizations.

Summary of key points

The Smallholder and Agri-SME Finance and Investment Network is an initiative spearheaded by IFAD, initially with the Government of Italy and then with a growing number of actors (now around 45 partners). Its rationale is the need to accelerate progress towards inclusive and effective ecosystems around access to finance for investment by smallholders and agri-SMEs, in order to achieve the SDGs. Network partners align around a shared vision and five areas of collaborative work, supported by a governance structure with a Steering Committee representing their diversity – with particular representation of partner farmers' organizations. These areas of collaborative work include, among others, country-level alignment around a shared diagnostic of key opportunities and needs to finance agri-SME development (through the SAFIN "investment prospectuses"), knowledge sharing on technical assistance to smallholders and agri-SMEs, and research and policy engagement on blended finance in agriculture.

All panelists were partners in the network, and each gave a distinct perspective on what they are doing in this context and why they are engaging. USAID situated their engagement in an effort to promote enterprise driven development in agriculture and food systems, which requires new tools to identify investment needs and opportunities and to support country-led processes around these. The UAA spoke about the Uganda pilot implementation of the SAFIN investment prospectus, underlying local ownership of the process and its strategic importance at a critical transformation point for agriculture and for agricultural finance in the country. He also underlined the role of the network in linking local and global processes and debates, allowing the former to be "domesticated" and adapted to local realities and empowering local actors to tap into the expertise and resources that exist throughout the network. A similar testimony was offered by the JAD with reference to the Dominican Republic, which also gave a compelling example of the power of multi-stakeholder platforms at the country level. The Asian Farmers' Association underlined the value that the network brings to the agenda of strengthening farmers' associations and the development of cooperative enterprises with new and stronger channels to access finance for investment, particularly in the ASEAN region. FAO situated its engagement in SAFIN in the context of the effort to strengthen the capacity of the UN system to catalyze change among the universe of actors whose actions all need to be aligned to the sustainable development agenda. He underlined the transformative potential of the kind of dynamics that the diverse nature of SAFIN is engendering both in pilot countries and globally, and the commitment of FAO to this initiative going forward.

Key take away messages

Transforming the institutional ecosystem in which smallholder farmers and agri-SMEs access to finance for their investments is one important precondition for achieving SDG2. Given the diversity of the ecosystem and its fragmentation, a multi-stakeholder "platform" such as SAFIN, which uses a network approach to build bridges and to encourage shared learning but also aligned action on the ground, can play an important catalytic role.

CFS Side Event 38 - A Concrete example of multi-stakeholder platform for investment towards SDG2: the SAFIN network