Friday 27 January 2023

Nottingham academics win grant to improve financial education of coffee farmers

The project will evaluate an innovative digital financial education programme targeted at underserved rural communities in the Rwenzori region of Uganda. It will also inform farmers of climate change and possible mitigations they could consider

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NOTTINGHAM, UK – The University of Nottingham has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering to investigate the most effective practices for improving the financial literacy of coffee farmers in Uganda. Experts from the university’s Inclusive Financial Technology (INFINITY) Research Centre are collaborating with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), Rural Inclusion, and Agri Evolve.

The project will evaluate an innovative digital financial education programme targeted at underserved rural communities in the Rwenzori region of Uganda. It will also inform farmers of climate change and possible mitigations they could consider.

Agri Evolve, a family business working with a network of over 15,000 smallholder coffee farmers in the Rwenzori region, will deliver a financial education programme to 360 farmers, who will be equally split into three control groups, each with a different learning method.

One group will use the Ostrii platform delivered by a local agent, another will use the Ostrii platform through self/group learning, and the final group will use a traditional manual with similar content.

The Ostrii platform is an offline mobile app designed for use by rural agents to deliver financial knowledge in the form of animated stories in local languages. Ostrii was developed by Rural Inclusion, a UK-based social enterprise driving economic development in rural communities across Africa and Latin America.

Once the programme has been delivered, researchers at the University of Nottingham and field staff at Agri Evolve will track the performance of each control group, analysing behavioural change and the uptake and usage of formal financial products.

The project comes under one of INFINITY’s key research themes: inclusive financial services focusing on how society can increase financial inclusion and use the power of financial technology for good.

Professor Meryem Duygun, project lead, co-director of the Inclusive Financial Technology (INFINITY) Research Centre at the University of Nottingham, said: “This project is strongly connected with the research we are undertaking at INFINITY. Our work in Africa will further our understanding of how financial inclusion and technology can be used for the benefit of society through promoting sustainable economic growth and quality education, strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters, and building knowledge and capacity to meet climate change.

Professor Duygun continued: “I am thrilled that our network and partnerships with UNCDF and two fascinating social enterprises, Rural Inclusion and Agri Evolve, have led to a strong bid that successfully secured funding from such a prestigious funder.”

Jack Farren, Co-Founder and CEO of Rural Inclusion, added: “We are excited to launch this project to investigate the impact of our Ostrii platform for coffee farmers in Uganda who lack access to smartphones and the internet. We believe that our approach to education in focusing on the use of animation in local languages is not only relevant for local communities, but also standardised, engaging and accessible for those with low literacy levels.”

The Nottingham experts believe that the success of this project will lead to more large-scale research of this kind in other African countries, thus providing a scalable solution to educate smallholder farmers in vulnerable communities on financial and climate risk management.

The project is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s ‘Frontiers Seed Funding’ from the ‘Frontiers Programme’.

The project team comprises academics and professionals: Professor Meryem Duygun and Dr Tian Han (University of Nottingham), Stephen Waiswa (UNCDF), Jack Farren and Joseph Lukwago (Rural Inclusion) and Beth Rowland and Agnes Kerora (Agri Evolve).

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