In lower-middle-income countries like India, smallholder farmers often lack access to credit from formal financial institutions. Dvara Trust is working with the Government of Odisha to expand access to credit for landless, tenant and women farmers. As part of this, Dvara is analyzing whether it can issue loans based on predictions of farmers’ expected revenues, estimated from georeferenced smartphone pictures that help verify land area, varieties under cultivation, and crop health. Such picture-based credit (PBC) could help reduce the costs associated with monitoring agricultural loans and expand access to credit, especially for women farmers who typically lack land records and credit bureau scores. At the same time, it could disempower women given their limited mobility and smartphone access relative to men. Building on an existing study, the research team will survey and conduct focus groups with women to understand the constraints women face to access PBC, and whether or not PBC can empower them through increased access to credit. They will also randomly assign half of the villages to receive additional gender-focused access interventions to understand whether providing access to smartphones, additional training, and/or gender sensitization can enhance women’s access and benefits. Results forthcoming.
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