What are the best practices when it comes to access to finance for smallholder farmers? What are the most innovative ways to connect actors along value chains and create lasting market linkages between the agricultural and finance sectors?

These are some of the questions that Connexus Corporation, a small, women-owned international development consulting firm based in Alexandria, Vir., tackles every day. Tapping into its diverse consultant and knowledge base, Connexus delivers services that facilitate finance, investment, and enterprise and agricultural market development to a wide range of clients.

Connexus’ recent USAID-funded projects in Rwanda are working to improve opportunities related to agriculture and agribusiness within the private sector and for youth. Using a market-led value-chain approach, which connects smallholder farmers with processors, distributors and other value-chain actors, Connexus builds strong linkages and reduces risks in order to facilitate access to finance. By building the value chain based on what the market requires, Connexus improves access to finance for farmers who most need it. This strategy also benefits young entrepreneurs, who have the strategy and vision for successful agribusinesses and development, but often lack initial capital.

This approach also has been applied to improve the institutional capacity of financial institutions (FIs) to more effectively engage in agricultural finance. As part of the USAID Financing Ghanaian Agriculture Project, Connexus adapted its well-respected agricultural value-chain finance training to the Ghanaian context and has conducted more advanced training modules on credit risk assessment, portfolio management, new product development, cash flow-based lending, insurance, gender and financial inclusion and management information systems.

Connexus also coaches and guides FIs through the process of assessing and pursuing real, tangible investment opportunities. All trainings and technical assistance are demand-driven and Connexus builds capacity of local trainers to ensure sustainability for ongoing training and coaching after the project’s end. This approach has contributed to project success in facilitating more than $136 million of new finance and investment to more than 3,000 agribusinesses in Ghana.

By combining its expertise on finance and agribusiness development with its experience in capacity building and institutional knowledge, Connexus is leading the way in applying best practices and innovations to international development in a variety of contexts.