“Change is the only permanent thing. We see a lot happening, like climate change, and for us to solve the issues of the smallholder farmers — we can’t use the normal way to solve issues,” says Jacobeth Barno, who works for Accion Venture Lab portfolio company Pula. In Kenya, where Jacobeth works, the past decade of change has led to a booming digital economy with 91 percent of the population using mobile money.
But smallholder farmers haven’t always gotten to enjoy the fruits of the digital revolution, particularly when it comes to insurance. “Insurance has not been available to them,” says Jacobeth. “The reason is not that insurance companies don’t like them, but because the approach does not suit the smallholder farmers — it’s too expensive for them. I realized there is an opportunity to be able to reach these people with innovations to help improve their years and change their lives.”
Fintech innovation is crucial for Pula as it seeks to serve rural communities. “Technology has helped us reach most people. Through technology, we have been able to advise farmers on methods to use that can improve production and their farming. We use our phones for farmers to pay with and to do research,” says Pula employee Cleopas Busienei.
But technology is only part of the story for Pula’s business model. Team members regularly visit communities to talk and share advice with smallholder farmers. Data-driven insights inform farmers about when and how to plant their crops to produce higher yields. Jacobeth sums up the company’s vision with, “I see a great future for Pula because we put out clients first and deliver on what we promise. We always come up with solutions. I want to see Pula help those who are in a struggle to scale up due to low-income, and I want us to help them.”
With 1.5 billion smallholder farmers worldwide, who are largely uninsured, Pula has a massive opportunity to help people. With its formula of mixing cutting-edge insurtech products with a personal connection with clients, Pula is making strides in empowering a vital, yet underserved, segment of the population with knowledge and confidence.