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“Financing agricultural and food transformations. Practices, mechanisms, collective action, and public policies”

Revue internationale des études du développement n°254 (2024-1)


  • François DOLIGEZ (, agronomist and economist at Iram, professor in the DynPED Master’s, and member of UMR-Prodig

  • Mamadou GOÏTA (, socio-economist, Director of the Institute for Research and Promotion of Alternatives in Development (IRPAD, Mali), and expert with the IPES-Food Panel

  • Gifty NARH (, sociologist, Director of CORADE, Burkina Faso, and president of Inter-réseaux développement rural

  • Marc MEES (, ex-Secretary General of SOS Faim Belgique, Knowledge management specialist

This issue is a continuation of the series of thematic issues that the Revue Tiers Monde, now the Revue internationale des études du développement has regularly published for 25 years on the subject of financial inclusion (no. 145, 1996; no. 172, 2002; no. 197, 2009; no. 225, 2016). This issue calls for original papers based on field research that contribute to knowing how the transformation of agricultural and rural systems in emerging and developing countries is financed, and more specifically, how farmers are financed. It aims, in particular, at delving into the new practices in the field of agricultural and rural financing, which is often marginalized in development financing policies.

The transformation of agricultural and food systems, seen from the perspective of transitions, responds to a set of objectives that combine increased food production, a decent income for producers, the preservation of the environment and biodiversity, and climate change mitigation and adaptation, among others. Agri-food transitions aim both to support the evolution of agricultural practices towards agroecology and the sustainable transformation of production systems at the scale of territories and socio-ecosystems. By combining food and nutritional security objectives, transitions also aim to act on the organization of downstream sectors and markets (food agro-processing, local food systems, etc.) at the level of territorial food systems to reduce their environmental footprint (David-Benz et al., 2022). These transformations are part of a response to climate change both through the expected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and the contribution to the adaptation of activity systems through the reduction of their vulnerability and the preservation of resources (water, soil, and circular economy), or through the impact on biodiversity and agrosystems (pollution abatement, and protection and restoration of ecosystems).

While transitions may appear as a way of projecting long-term change, they also raise many questions in terms of temporalities and scales of action (Valegeas, 2020), but also of implementation both in territories and by the various social groups concerned. More specifically, this raises the question of financing these transitions and of the “deep transformation of finance” that they would assume (Couppey-Soubeyran et al., 2022). Within this framework of analysis, this issue will focus more particularly on the financing of pastoralists and farmers who wish to transform their practices, on the mechanisms that make it possible to link the financing offer with the objectives of agri-food transitions, and on the changes in agricultural and pastoralist practices produced by these mechanisms and the effects induced by these changes.

1. Financing farmers, collective actors, or sectors?

Many studies call for action on the issue of financing the agricultural and food transition in the Global South (Doligez et al., 2008; DeLonge et al., 2016; IPES-Food, 2020). Yet in a context still marked by financial liberalization, the bulk of public and private investment – apart from the generally ignored “first investors,” i.e. the farmers themselves (HLPE, 2013) – is oriented towards export agriculture, high value-added agri-food sectors, or agri-business parks. This imbalance is largely echoed, if not amplified, in the financial flows and governance of development aid (Inter-réseaux, 2019; CIDSE, 2020).

In general, agricultural and rural financing is characterized by two institutional forms: on the one hand, one that takes the financial sector and its intermediary institutions (banks, microfinance institutions, and insurance or guarantee funds) as the starting point to organize financial services and financial inclusion, and on the other hand, one that formalizes its funding by contracts, paired with the organization of the agricultural and food sectors or “value chains” (Lapenu, 2007). ). For the first institutional form, financial inclusion (in the sense of accessibility for all to basic financial services such as savings account, means of payment, and credit), which is grasped through the evolution of the financial sector and its market imperfections, has spread to rural areas, thanks to the digitization of means of payment with mobile phones (Ndiaye et al., 2022). Yet the direct financing of the activities of smallholder farmers and pastoralists is generally considered too costly and risky, thus remaining very limited. As for the second institutional form, “sector” finance allows for broader financing of the production cycle through contracts signed within agro-food value chains, whose upstream and downstream companies, cooperatives, and SMEs are themselves refinanced by the banking sector or “meso-finance.” The impact on agricultural financing then depends on the relationship between producer organizations and financial institutions (Wampfler et al., 2010) and on the balance in the contractual relationships between the actors in the sectors (Inter-réseaux, 2021).

2. New financing needs in order to shape new trajectories

Transitions give rise to new financing needs according to the geographic and economic contexts of the agricultural and food systems. This may involve, for example, investing in production in order to meet the economic challenges of food security and agro-export, but also financing the adaptation of activity systems to environmental challenges, which are amplified by climate change. The multiplication of objectives associated with transitions may appear as a sum of contradictory imperatives (Coste et al., 2021). In addition to the multiple objectives that farmers face, agricultural and rural contexts are significantly diverse, and it is increasingly difficult to understand their social and economic complexity (Olivier de Sardan, 2021). This situation sometimes leads to thinking about the organization of financing on the basis of an increasing segmentation of agricultural models, territories, and public policies that entails coexistence, often without complementarity or coherence (Gasselin et al., 2021), to the detriment of the actors and territories with the least resources. Often, the most vulnerable farming and pastoralist families do not have the economic and financial means necessary to invest in transitions (Cochet et al., 2021). At the level of rural territories, there is a high risk of accumulating disadvantages: subsistence agriculture and pastoralism left out due to the generalized global competition in the agri-food business; increased climate vulnerability and poorer biodiversity; precarious income and agricultural and rural employment; or even chronic malnutrition, as evidenced by many Sahelian regions.

3. Questioning the relationships between instruments, actors, and effects

For the cases studied, it is therefore a matter of questioning the methods used to target sustainable agricultural intensification practices (FAO, 2017) through funding, the profiles of the farmers and pastoralists who have access to it, as well as the territories concerned, paying particular attention to contextual effects (Storchi et al., 2020). It will then be a matter of delving into the financial mechanisms and their securing or incentivizing (guarantee funds, coupling with insurance, subsidized loans, co-financing of part of the investment, along with technical/economic advice and support services for producers) within sustainable systems that are likely to support agricultural and food transitions. Finally, the leverage effect produced on the financing and the impacts of the changes in practices within farms and territories should be considered.

The analysis may focus on all the mechanisms combining public and private financing, which can be found under different names and at different scales (mixed financing, shared cost financing, blending, public-private partnership, impact investing, or carbon credit), on the interplay between the actors involved, as well as on the effects and impacts that the mechanisms have. Some of them may also hinge on expected results, such as resilience to crises (food crises, for example) or adaptation to climate change. Financial mechanisms (credits and matching grants, conditional cash transfers, or payment for ecological services) may then promote changes in practices (agroecological transition) and may be implemented at the territorial level (food project), or open up new funding opportunities at the international level (Green Climate Fund), like “Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions” (NAMAs) in Costa Rica, which provide support for coffee agroforestry systems.1

In the case of sector finance, it is worth examining the mechanisms that make it possible to characterize agricultural practices, and their traceability, as well as the financial measures that incentivize them (price premiums or bonuses). These mechanisms may involve product certification or labeling, or the social and environmental responsibility of agricultural companies, for which greenwashing has drawn fierce criticism (Grain, 2022). In the case of local food systems (based on more direct links between producers and consumers,food box schemes), it may also be interesting to consider the segmentation of practices in territories, the interplay between actors, or the normative effects of standards giving rise to a label that is recognized by the market through a higher selling price, and as a result, better remuneration for producers.

Three lines of inquiry

The contributions may address these different aspects according to three lines of inquiry, depending on the scales of analysis and underlying research questions.

The financial practices of family farming “under constraints”

Based on field observation, beyond the metric of financial inclusion curves,2 it is possible to analyze the financing constraints at the level of farmers, agricultural managers, and rural households that condition their ability to be part of a “transition” dynamic. While the practices of farmers were the subject of numerous studies at the outset of financial liberalization (Adams & Fitchett, 1994; World Bank, 1989; Germidis et al., 1991; Stiglitz & Weiss, 1981; Von Pischke, 1991), academic research and publications are now scarce on the subject. However, at the scale of emerging and developing countries, there are many empirical studies and an abundant “grey literature” (institutional reports and expert studies) in support of this type of analysis.

How do farmers “manage” agricultural risk through investment in equipment (small irrigation, for example) and the diversification of crops (crop associations) or of activities (including non-agricultural ones)? How are they able to finance new sustainable agricultural practices (composting and agroforestry)? In the absence of institutional financing, how do other mechanisms contribute to these new practices – such as informal loans taken out with traders, but also with relatives or friends? How do certain practices, under the constraint of financing “day-to-day” needs, increase the vulnerability of rural households and reduce their capacity for resilience (sale at low prices, agricultural wage labor, or migration)? For other categories of farmers, how do financial institutions target innovations (solar-powered irrigation, for example) or economically profitable and ecologically sustainable agricultural activities (agroforestry)? Faced with a complex demand that is composed of multiple financing needs, how is the interconnection of diversified financial practices likely to meet these new needs and support transition trajectories in the long run?

Mechanisms aimed at improving the financing of sustainable agriculture

  • 3
  • 4 PAE, Invitation for bid for the study on financing mechanisms for the agro-ecological transition in (...)
  • 5 Public contract SSP-DGPE-2022-073.

Within the financial sector and its accompanying public mechanisms, there are many innovations aiming to support the financing of sustainable agriculture (Traoré et al., 2020). For example, the aforementioned study by IPES-Food (2020) mentions the existence of refinancing mechanisms at competitive rates aiming to support agricultural loans from private banks (Nigeria, Liberia, and Ghana) or the development of financial services to smallholder farmers in order to strengthen their self-financing (microcredit, savings in community management, digital finance, medium and long-term loans, etc.). As part of its strategy to decarbonize its economy, Costa Rica is experimenting with the aggregation of agroforestry practices at the level of smallholder farmers for their integration into climate finance. Various initiatives are attempting to identify these practices in order to support them. Thus, the Agroecology Fund3 identifies pilot experiments led by producer organizations and their partners to support them at an international scale. In West Africa, ECOWAS, which is in charge of agricultural policy, recently launched an inventory of financing mechanisms as part of its agroecology program.4 Even in France, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty wants to better understand “innovative financing tools for agriculture.”5 The question of knowing and better understanding these mechanisms and the associated financial tools, many of which come from new players that are little known to institutions (solidarity savings, crowdfunding, etc.), arises everywhere.

How are these different institutional mechanisms organized? What criteria do they use to characterize the practices that are to be funded? How do they adjust these criteria and organize the monitoring? What is their real scope in terms of financing sustainable agriculture? What lessons can be drawn from this in terms of agricultural and food transitions?

The levers of collective action and public policies

The leverage effect is understood here as the ability of collective action or public policies to expand funding for sustainable agriculture. Thus, the collective action of agricultural producers accompanying the organization of agro-ecological transition systems may receive appropriate financial support.6 This collective action may be part of a more balanced formalization by contracts with downstream companies that are looking for certified products (pre-financing of the agricultural cycle), or it may be based on partnerships between financial institutions and organizations (cooperatives, etc.) that aggregate producers’ demand. Sometimes, these financing mechanisms associate other actors within food systems, whether it be marketing focused on quality products that brings farmers and consumers together (for example, community-supported agriculture organizations, as in Benin7), or grouped supply for institutional catering, such as school meals8 or other institutional markets.

What is the scope of these mechanisms in terms of financial inclusion and the transformation of agricultural practices? What is the interplay between the actors that structure them? How can they become benchmarks for agricultural and food public policies?


All disciplines – management sciences, socio-economics, agricultural and rural economics, political economy, political science, and socio-anthropology of development – can be called upon to deal with the different dimensions of this theme in order to better document the existing practices and innovations at the three major scales proposed. This call for papers is aimed at contributions on specific case studies in different African, Latin American, and Asian contexts.

Submission details / Participation in Issue no. 254 (2024/4) of the RIED

The authors agree to read the editorial policy of the Revue internationale des études du développement and to comply with the code of ethics and the Guidelines for Authors.

The selection process will take place according to the dates specified in the publication calendar below.

Submitting the proposal:

The proposals in French, English, or Spanish must present the paper in 4,000 characters (with spaces), or approximately one page. The file (Word only) for the proposal must be entitled “AUTHOR’S SURNAME-Proposal-254,” and must include:

- a title (70 characters maximum, with the possibility of adding a subtitle);

- an abstract detailing the research question, the theoretical framework, the fieldwork, and the main results;

- some bibliographical references (not included in the character count);

- a second file entitled “AUTHOR’S SURNAME-254-info,” including the author’s first name and last name, their status, their institutional affiliation, and their email address.

The relevancy of the proposals with regard to this call for papers and their conformity to the journal guidelines will be verified by the journal editors and the editorial team and a preselection of the proposals will be made.

Submitting the paper:

The authors whose proposals have been selected will be invited to send a first draft of their article, which must absolutely follow the guidelines for Authors. The articles will then be submitted to a double blind peer review by two external reviewers who are experts on the topic.

The articles (45,000 characters with spaces, excluding the abstract and references) may be written in French, English, or Spanish. They must be original work. They may however have been presented at a conference (with proceedings), as long as they have been adapted to the format required by the Revue internationale des études du développement, but the author must not submit their paper to another journal simultaneously.

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The proposals must be submitted by February 14th 2023 to:;;;;

The authors preselected by the editors and the editorial committee will be notified by the editorial team the week of February 27th 2023.

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The evaluation process will take a few months; each – anonymous – article will be submitted to a double blind peer review by two external reviewers who are experts on the topic. Requesting a first version of the article does not constitute a commitment on the part of the journal to publish the aforementioned article, which must be approved by the editorial committee, following the different steps in the evaluation process; no. 254 is expected to be published in March 2024.



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CIDSE. (2020). Finance for Agroecology: More than Just a Dream? An Assessment of European and International Institutions’ Contributions to Food System Transformation. Policy Brief,

Cochet ,H., Ducourtieux, O. & Garambois, N. (Eds). (2019). Systèmes agraires et changement climatique au Sud, les chemins de l’adaptation. Éditions Quae.

Coste, J., Doligez, F., Egg J. & Perrin, G. (Eds.). (2021). La fabrique des politiques publiques en Afrique, agricultures, ruralités, alimentation. Karthala.

Couppey-Soubeyran, J. & Espagne, É. (2022). La transition écologique : vers un changement de paradigme monétaire et financier : Introduction. Revue économique, 73, 147-149.

David-Benz, H., Sirdez, N., Deshons, A., Orbell, C. & Herlant, P. (2022) Activer la transformation durable et inclusive de nos systèmes alimentaires, cadre conceptuel et méthode pour des diagnostics nationaux et territoriaux. FAO/Cirad/Union européenne.

DeLonge, M., Miles, A. & Carslisle, L. (2016) Investing in the transition to sustainable agriculture. Environmental Science & Policy, 55, 266-273.

Doligez F., Lemelle J.P., Lapenu C., Wampfler B., 2008, Financer les transitions agricoles et rurales. In Devèze, J.C. (dir.). Défis agricoles africains, AFD/Karthala, 313-330.

HLPE. (2013). Paysans et entrepreneurs : investir dans l’agriculture des petits exploitants pour la sécurité alimentaire. Rapport n° 6 du Groupe d’experts de haut niveau sur la sécurité alimentaire et la nutrition, Comité pour la Sécurité alimentaire mondiale.

FAO. (2017). Intensification de la production durable et développement des chaînes de valeurs en Afrique. Initiative régionale pour l’Afrique.

Gasselin, P., Lardon, S., Cerdan, C., Loudiyi, S. & Sautier, D. (Eds.). (2021). Coexistence et confrontation des modèles agricoles et alimentaires, un nouveau paradigme du développement territorial ?, Éditions Quae.

GRAIN. (2022, 10 mars). De l’accaparement des terres à l’accaparement des sols : le nouveau business de l’agriculture carbone.

Germidis, D., Kessler, D. & Meghir, R. (1991). Systèmes financiers et développement : quel rôle pour les secteurs financiers formels et informels ?, OCDE.

Inter-Réseaux Développement rural. (2021). Partenariats entre producteurs et entreprises agro-alimentaire. Grain de Sel, 81.

Inter-Réseaux Développement rural. (2019). Le rôle croissant du secteur privé dans les politiques agricoles et alimentaires en Afrique, contexte, enjeux et formes, Inter-Réseaux Développement rural/Issala/SOS Faim Belgique.

IPES-Food. (2020). Valeur(s) ajoutée(s) de l’agroécologie : déverrouiller le potentiel de transition en Afrique de l’Ouest.

Lapenu, C. (2007). Evolutions récentes dans l’offre et les stratégies de financement de l’agriculture, Comité CERISE.

Ndiaye, C.T., Rietsch, C. & Sarr, F. (Eds.). (2022). La microfinance contemporaine, les frontières de la microfinance. PURH.

Olivier de Sardan, J.P. (2021). La revanche des contextes. Des mésaventures de l’ingénierie sociale, en Afrique et au-delà, Karthala.

Stiglitz, J.E. & Weiss, A. (1981). Credit Rationing in Markets With Imperfect information. American Economic Review, 71(3), 393-410.

Storchi, S., Hernandez, E. & McGuiness, E. (2020). A research and learning agenda for the impact of financial inclusion. Focus Note, CGAP/World Bank.

Traoré, A., Bocoum, I. & Tamini, L. (2020). Services financiers : quelles perspectives pour le déploiement d’innovations agricoles en Afrique ?. Economie rurale, 371.

Valegeas, F. (2020). Transition écologique. Dictionnaire critique de l’Anthropocène, CNRS Éditions, 780-782.

Von Pischke, J.D. (1991). Finance at the frontier. Debt capacity and the role of credit in the private economy. World Bank.

Wampfler, B., Lapenu, C. & Doligez, F. (2010). Organisations professionnelles agricoles et institutions financiers rurales. Construire une nouvelle alliance au service de l’agriculture familiale. Les Cahiers de l’IRC-Supagro.

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2 See the World Bank’s Global Findex Database (


4 PAE, Invitation for bid for the study on financing mechanisms for the agro-ecological transition in West Africa (

5 Public contract SSP-DGPE-2022-073.

6 They are often accompanied by training and capacity-building programs in relation to the dissemination of agroecological practices or the acquisition of the knowledge necessary to their implementation by farmers and pastoralists.



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