Financial Services and Smallholder Farming Glossary

Agent: Within Grameen Foundation’s solution set, the term “agent” refers to a Grameen Community Agent, contracted locals who facilitate either financial transactions or farm plan development services.

Because Grameen Foundation works with a wide number of local partners, the term Grameen Community Agent is a shorthand way to describe the vital role played by trained, technology-enabled agents who help overcome geographic, technology, knowledge and trust barriers standing between the poor and the resources and information they need to pave their way out of poverty.

Agricultural water management: Planned development, distribution and use of water resources by predetermined agriculture-related objectives.

Aggregator: Regarding Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), an aggregator is someone who aggregates customer requests for connections or services—so that the MNO sees one connection (from the aggregator). Regarding customers, an aggregator is a party who connects the customer to multiple MNOs or payment networks and aggregates those payment networks into one connection for the customer.

Agro-ecological zones: Zones defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) based on the average annual length or growing period for crops, which depends mainly on precipitation and temperature. They are: humid (> 270 days); moist sub-humid (180–269 days); dry sub-humid (120–179 days); semi-arid (60–119 days); and arid (0–59 days).

Algorithm: A set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

Arable land: Is any land capable of being plowed and used to grow crops.

Artificial Intelligence: Emerged in the 1950s. The theory and development of computer systems to be able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence.

Big Data*: Open, harmonized, interoperable, and integrated datasets from multiple domains aimed to accelerate agricultural research and data use in service of development goal.

Blockchain: A secure distributed database shared by all parties in a distributed network where transaction data can be recorded.

Business Intelligence: Using data generated by service users to make decisions about product/service design.

Commercial farmers: Farmers that produce agricultural products intended for the market to be delivered, sold or stored at commercial structures and/or sold to end consumers (feedlots, poultry farms, dairies, etc.), fellow farmers and direct exports. They generally use high levels of inputs.

Cropping system: The cropping patterns used on a farm and their interaction with farm resources, other farm enterprises, and available technologies that determine their cultivation. The cropping system is a subsystem of a farming system.

Cropland: Cropland is defined as a land cover type by the Global Agro-Ecological Zones (GAEZs) and is used in this report to represent cultivated land. Cultivated land is defined as the sum of arable land and land under permanent crops.

Community Agent: Also, Grameen Community Agent. Grameen Foundation term used to describe the local agent contracted to facilitate either financial transactions or farm plan development services. Because Grameen Foundation works with a wide number of local partners, the term Grameen Community Agent is a shorthand way to describe the vital role played by trained, technology-enabled agents who help overcome geographic, technology, knowledge and trust barriers standing between the poor and the resources and information they need to pave their way out of poverty.

Data-driven Agriculture: Thoughtful use of data to inform farmer decisions and actions. It means having the right data, at the right time, to make better decisions that improve long-term profitability.

Deep Learning: A technique for implementing machine learning.

Digital Farming: Also known as Farm Development Plans (FDPs). The Grameen Foundation Digital Farming tool/service provides smallholder farmers with timely training and tailored advice on sustainable agriculture practices and the most reasonable farm investments for their situation. Digital FDPs provide a mobile-based decision-making tool for farmers to weigh their options and manage costs. With the incorporation of satellite imagery, Grameen Foundation Community Agents in the field and farmers are better to assess environmental conditions, such as soil health, water availability, and plant condition. The service also incorporates early warning SMS services to help farmers protect their crops from severe weather and pest infestation crises.

Digital Financial Services (DFS): DFS uses information and communication technology and agent networks to connect customers with financial services. DFS lower the cost and increase the security of sending, paying, saving and receiving money, providing important benefits to poor populations who are otherwise excluded from formal financial systems. DFS can use a variety of digital tools such as mobile phones, point-of-sale devices, ATM or debit cards, etc. Banks, microfinance institutions, mobile network operators, and other providers offer DFS.

Drought: A phenomenon that exists where precipitation has been significantly below normal recorded levels, causing serious hydrological imbalances that adversely affect land resource production systems.

Dry spell: Short period of water stress during critical crop growth stages and which can occur with high frequency but with minor impacts compared with droughts.

Emerging smallholders: Smallholder farmers with a higher level of technical knowledge and better receptivity to improved technology than traditional smallholders. They tend to specialize in specific crops, relying on irrigation and other types of water control and tend to market their production surplus.

E-money: Short for “electronic money,” is stored value held in the accounts of users, agents, and the provider of the mobile money service. Typically, the total value of e-money is mirrored in (a) bank account(s), such that even if the provider of the mobile money service were to fail, users could recover 100% of the value stored in their accounts. That said, bank deposits can earn interest, while e-money cannot.

Farmer Ecosystem: An interconnected and coordinated network of support services, information, suppliers, buyers, and actors that meet the needs of farming households.

Farm Development Plans (FDP): The FDP tool/service is a mobile-based decision-making tool that combines farmer and farm profiles, agronomic and economic data to produce farm investment plans. FDPs allow farmers to weigh their options and manage their costs and returns on investments. Grameen Foundation Community Agents in the field use this tool to provides smallholder farmers with timely training and tailored advice on sustainable agriculture practices and the most reasonable farm investments for their situation. With extensive field data and the incorporation of geo-data, community agents and farmers are also able to better assess environmental conditions such as soil health and water use among others.

Farmer Profile: Data collected on a farmer and his or her farm that is used by a service provider or multiple service providers to design and direct products or services.

Financial inclusion: Financial inclusion means that households and businesses, regardless of income level, have access to and can effectively use the appropriate financial services they need to improve their lives. According to World Bank Research, an estimated two million working-age adults globally—more than half of the world’s total adult population—do not have an account at a formal financial institution.

Farming system: A population of individual farm systems that have broadly similar resource bases, enterprise patterns, household livelihoods and constraints, and for which similar development strategies and interventions would be appropriate. Depending on the scale of analysis, a farming system can encompass a few dozen or many millions of households.

Financial literacy: Financial literacy is defined as the ability to understand and execute matters of personal finance, including basic numeracy and literacy, budgeting, investing, and risk diversification. Financial literacy includes a combination of awareness, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to make sound decisions and achieve financial wellbeing. Globally, financial literacy levels range from 13 percent to 71 percent, and women’s financial literacy often lags that of men.

Formal Financial Services: Financial services offered by regulated institutions. Banks, remittance service providers, microfinance institutions and Mobile Network Operators can be licensed to offer formal financial services.

Grameen Community Agent: Grameen Foundation term used to describe the local agent contracted to facilitate either financial transactions or farm plan development services. Because Grameen Foundation works with a wide number of local partners, the term Grameen Community Agent is a shorthand way to describe the vital role played by trained, technology-enabled agents who help overcome geographic, technology, knowledge and trust barriers standing between the poor and the resources and information they need to pave their way out of poverty.

Household: All the persons, kin and non-kin, who live in the same dwelling and share income, expenses and daily subsistence tasks.

Informal Financial Services: Services offered by unregulated entities, such as individual money lenders, and informal savings groups.

Internet of Things: The interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data; e.g., in soil, farm tools and waterways.

Interoperability: The ability of users of different digital financial services to transact directly with each other. Limited interoperability is a major barrier to the use of digital financial services in remote rural areas.

Infrastructure: Facilities, structures, and associated equipment and services that facilitate the flows of goods and services between individuals, enterprises, and governments. It includes public utilities; public works; transport; and research and development facilities.

Impact Investing: Impact investing is a strategy that works to leverage the power of capital to create positive change. Investments are made in companies, organizations, and funds to generate measurable social and environmental impacts alongside a financial return. Impact investments are most commonly made through the familiar investment structure of closed-end private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) funds.

Investment: Outlays made by individuals, enterprises, and governments to add to their capital. From the viewpoint of individual economic agents, buying property rights for existing capital is also an investment. However, from the viewpoint of an economy as a whole, only the creation of new capital is counted as an investment.

Irrigation: Irrigation refers to water artificially applied to the soil and confined in time and space for crop production. They are different types of irrigation systems depending on the level of control, institutional setting, farm size, etc. The equipment may be for permanent or supplementary irrigation.

Land Surface Temperature: The temperature of the land itself rather than the ambient air above it (as is used in most typical temperature recording).

Land tenure: The relationship, whether legally or customarily defined, between people, as individuals or groups, concerning land and associated natural resources (water, trees, minerals, wildlife, etc.).

Liquidity: The ability of an agent to meet customers’ demands to purchase (cash in) or sell (cash out) e-money. The key metric used to measure the liquidity of an agent is the sum of their e-money and cash balances (also known as their float balance).

Livelihood: A livelihood comprises people, their capabilities and their means of living, including food, income, and assets. Tangible assets are resources and stores, and intangible assets are claims and access. A livelihood is environmentally sustainable where it maintains or enhances the local and global assets on which livelihoods depend and has net beneficial effects on other livelihoods. A livelihood is socially sustainable where it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and provide for future generations.

Livelihood assets (capitals): A key component in the sustainable livelihoods approach, they are the assets on which livelihoods are built. They can be divided into five core categories (or types of capital): human capital, natural capital, financial capital, social capital, and physical capital.

Machine Learning: An algorithm that is trained, given input data, and then run on new data to predict the output. As the system processes more data, it learns from its mistakes. Emerged in the 1980s.An approach for achieving artificial intelligence and is used in predictive, prescriptive, and cognitive analytics.

Malnutrition: Failure to achieve nutrient requirements, which can impair physical and/ or mental health. It may result from consuming too little food, or a shortage of or imbalance in key nutrients (e.g. micronutrient deficiencies, or excess consumption of refined sugar and fat).

Microfinance: Microfinance is a type of banking service. The goal of microfinance is to ultimately allow impoverished people to become self-sufficient. Provided to unemployed or low-income individuals or groups who otherwise would have no other access to financial services. While institutions participating in the area of microfinance most often provide lending—microloans can range from as small as $100 to as large as $25,000—many banks offer additional services such as checking and savings accounts as well as micro-insurance products, and some even provide financial and business education.

MIS (Management Information System): A general term for any system that is used to manage and make decisions within a company, in this case specifically microfinance institutions.

Mobile banking: A service provided by a bank that allows its customers access to their bank account to conduct a range of financial transactions using a mobile device such as a mobile phone or tablet, and using software provided by the financial institution for the purpose.

Mobile Money: Traditionally understood to be an electronic wallet service, available in many countries, that lets users store, send and receive money using their mobile phone. Safe, easy electronic payments make Mobile Money a popular alternative to bank accounts. It can be used on both smartphones and basic feature phones. In Grameen Foundation’s lexicon, Mobile Money is our way of quickly communicating the ability to manage financial service needs through a mobile phone. This includes the ability to store, send and receive money; however, Grameen Foundation also uses it as a shorthand term to describe the ability to digitally access other financial services that create an ecosystem of support, such as insurance and microlending.

Mobile Network Operators: A mobile network operator (MNO) is a telecommunications service provider organization that provides wireless voice and data communication for its subscribed mobile users. Mobile network operators are independent communication service providers that own the complete telecom infrastructure for hosting and managing mobile communications between the subscribed mobile users with users in the same and external wireless and wired telecom networks. MNOs can be authorized to offer mobile money services.

Mobile Wallet: An account that is primarily accessed using a mobile phone.

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index: A measure of plant health derived from satellite imagery.

Precision Agriculture: Also called voice SMS, is a pre-recorded message sent to mobile phones. An integrated crop management system that attempts to match the kind and amount of inputs with the actual crop needs for small areas within a farm field. Precision agriculture uses one or more of the following sources of data: soils, crops, nutrients, pests, moisture, or yield, for optimum profitability, sustainability, and protection of the environment. Also referred to as satellite farming.

Rainfed agriculture: Agricultural practice relying exclusively on rainfall as its source of water.

Resilience: The ability of a system (people or ecosystem) to recover quickly from a shock.

Rural population: Rural people usually live in a farmstead or in groups of houses containing less than 10,000 persons, separated by farmland, pasture, trees or scrubland. Most rural people spend the majority of their working time on farms.

Short Message Service: Known as SMS, written messages with limited character length sent to phones.

Smallholder farmers: The definition of smallholders differs between countries and between agro-ecological zones. In favorable areas of SSA with high population densities, they often cultivate less than 1 ha of land, whereas they may cultivate 10 ha or more in semi-arid areas or manage 10 head of livestock. Often, no sharp distinction between smallholders and other larger farms is necessary.

Social enterprises: Companies that are both financially sustainable and bring about positive social and/or environmental impact. Impact investments often support social enterprises.

Soil moisture management (in situ): Process of preventing runoff and inducing water infiltration in the soil, and then minimizing evaporation to the extent feasible in the cropping area.

Subsistence farming: A form of agriculture where almost all production is consumed by the household, often characterized by low-input use, generally provided by the farm.

Supplementary irrigation: The process of providing additional water to stabilize or increase yields under site conditions where a crop can normally be grown under direct rainfall, the additional water being insufficient to produce a crop.

Traditional smallholders: Smallholder farmers based on traditional subsistence agriculture. Farming is generally rainfed, and production is mainly based on staple crops with low yields. Their main target is self-consumption.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs): A collection of 17 global goals developed in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly for the year 2030. The SDGs are “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.” SDGs are recognized across institutions and geographic regions, making them a popular framework for benchmarking impact.

Unbanked: People, usually the very poor, who do not have a bank account or a transaction account at a formal financial institution.

Vulnerability: The characteristics of a person, group or an ecosystem that influences their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a hazard.

Water harvesting: The process of collecting and concentrating rainfall as runoff from a catchment area to be used in a smaller area, either for agriculture or other purposes.

Definitions are drawn from GSMA, i2i, CIAT/CGIAR,, FAO Statistics Division, University of Missouri, USDA, Grameen, and others.

* Big data has multiple definitions.

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