RuralInvest: Fostering Access to Finance for Small-scale Entrepreneurs

About RuralInvest

RuralInvest is a free toolkit designed to support field technicians in their work with entrepreneurs by allowing the systematization and development of bankable, solid, and sustainable business proposals.

The toolkit comprises user-friendly software, an e-learning course, tailored face-to-face training, user manuals, and a worldwide community of users. Through a participatory and bottom-up approach, RuralInvest methodology brings together local communities, rural entrepreneurs, government field technicians, project staff, and financing institutions to identify, prepare, evaluate and finance small-and medium-size sustainable rural investment projects.

Elements of the toolkit

  • User-friendly software to develop business plans
  • An e-learning course to master the methodology
  • Tailored face-to-face trainings to develop national capacities
  • User manuals and training materials
  • Worldwide Community of users

FAO has rolled out the participatory, interactive toolkit in over 40 countries, trained more than 1.000 people, and more than 2.000 business plans have been developed.

RIV20: the RuralInvest software to develop business plans


 In the past 3 years with RuralInvest

Why target agriculture and rural businesses?

Small-scale rural businesses produce 80% of the world’s food supply and make up by far the most significant numbers of investors in on-farm capital. However, they still have many difficulties accessing funds from national or international funding institutions.

Furthermore, the particular nature of agriculture needs specific solutions.

For that reason, the objective is to develop a sound business plan through a participatory approach and software that specifically targets and is context-appropriate for small-scale agribusiness models (production, livestock, services, agro-processing).

For whom RuralInvest is designed?

Development partners:

RuralInvest will train field technicians to support rural entrepreneurs in developing their business plans, usually ranging from 2.000 to USD 500.000. Using RuralInvest in enterprise development and grant components provides project teams and field staff a systematic approach to develop high-quality business proposals that can be easily customized and integrated into project operations.

Benefits of applying RuralInvest in a development project:

  • The participatory approach and feedback loops ensure that the entrepreneurs drive the process and take ownership and responsibility for the projects.
  • The training is tailored for each context and develops national capacities, including national trainer pools that can support the RuralInvest users in the Project.
  • It is composed of a two-level analysis to pre-select the proposals before developing a detailed business plan.
  • It produces harmonized and visually appealing reports that make comparisons between business proposals much easier.
  • It is supported by free software that translates participatory data collection into professional-quality business plans while storing the data for monitoring and evaluation. It also provides synchronized off-line and online versions for easier usage and collaboration.
  • It is an excellent communication tool to link field technicians, entrepreneurs, and bank officials. The consistent entrepreneur involvement in the process can support data verification and accuracy in financial decision-making.
  • FAO RuralInvest core team is constantly developing new training materials, tutorials, organizing events and webinars for the community


If you are a field technician, extension agent, international development staff, member of a university or a training centre, a business plan development consultant, or financial specialist, you can benefit from RuralInvest. You can take our free e-learning courses and get certification badges. Not only will you learn how to master the methodology but also access a community of users from all over the world.

Benefits of learning RuralInvest as an individual:

  • You get an official badge certification of the FAO e-Learning Academy
  • You learn a methodology and get access to a tool that you can take to support entrepreneurs in building their business plans.
  • You can access a network of professionals from all over the world to exchange knowledge and receive technical support, new materials, and information on training.
  • Open new opportunities as a RuralInvest expert and even become a RuralInvest trainer in your country.

National Institutions:

Developing capacities at national institutions like universities, extension services, entrepreneurship hubs, or any financial institution is critical to assure long-term success in supporting small-scale entrepreneurs. These institutions strengthen the empowerment of RuralInvest at the country level by training professionals capable of using the toolkit to support entrepreneurs. Organizations that decide to partner with RuralInvest will have complete support from the RuralInvest team.

Benefits of partnering with RuralInvest as an institution:

  • Access to RuralInvest technical support from FAO
  • Part of a network of professionals and institutions to exchange knowledge and best practices
  • Access to the RuralInvest software: a user-friendly and free software that supports all types of small and medium-scale rural businesses and translates participatory data collection into professional-quality business plans. It also provides synchronized off-line and online versions for easier usage and collaboration.
  • Access to the RuralInvest methodology for trainings, free materials, and tips from trainers of a worldwide community.