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Beyond cash

SmartMoney has grown from a small intervention targeting market inefficiencies between rural farmers and agriculture organisations to a community-wide rural payment and savings solution.

Where will I get cash? asks Mary Masika after learning about SmartMoney's mobile money service from a local registration agent. How will I buy things with money on my phone? Don't I need to first exchange it for cash? Mary, a farmer in Kasese, western Uganda, grows rice and coffee and sells it to local buying agents. Mary uses the money she earns to pay her childrens school fees and buy staples like salt, soap and sugar from local shopkeepers.

Mary understands that money is only useful if it is widely accepted for purchase and exchange by everyone in her community. This reality highlights an important challenge for impact-driven organisations: how to generate targeted, positive social change in complex, interconnected economic ecosystems. Is it possible, for example, to achieve this kind of change with a narrow group of beneficiaries such as smallholder farmers or are more holistic community-wide solutions required?