There is a general consensus that access to rural finance is crucial for farm and non-farm growth in rural areas of developing countries where demand for financial services outstrips supply. In the past several decades, many rural finance policies and innovative approaches have been developed, replicated and shared in many countries of Asia and the Pacific region to improve access to and sustainability of rural financial services in order to have greater impact on the rural poor. However, despite some success in increasing outreach and impact of rural finance delivery as well as achieving viability of rural financial institutions (RFIs), many challenges still persist: high fixed and transaction costs, issues in combining financial and non-financial products, stringent lending requirements, seasonality and high exposure to risks inherent in agriculture.
In recent years, the rural poor have faced additional challenges due to the rising prices of food and fuel, and the effects of global financial crisis. In addition, many countries are experiencing increased incidence and intensity of natural disasters resulting from climate change. The rural finance system, including rural microfinance, has not been able to fully deal with the problem of financial access, which is now more pronouncedly compounded by the problems brought by the emerging challenges with an adverse effect on the income and resilience of the rural poor in most countries of the region.
The project seeks to enhance the access of the rural poor ‐ particularly smallholder farm households and agriculture‐related rural entrepreneurs, including women and rural youth ‐ to sustainable financial services through policy dialogues, replication of best practices, capacity building of different stakeholders and knowledge sharing in rural finance.
It aims to: