Connecting farmers to timely information

Agriculture has been an important part of Mexico’s economy for centuries. The sector employs 12% of the labor force and contributes over 4% to Mexico’s GDP. Yet, smallholder farmers have lacked access to critical information on weather, pests, diseases, best practices, and market fluctuations.

Miller Center and Extensio

In 2016, Diana Popa recognized this problem and realized the solution could be found through mobile technology. She co-founded Extensio, together with Mexican company builder Connovo, to connect the most isolated farmers with real-time weather forecasts, best agriculture practices, and market information through its innovative digital platform via their mobile phones. In 2018, Extensio participated in Miller Center’s online accelerator program. “Miller Center’s work is catalytic for developing social entrepreneurship around the world, through its unique curriculum, mentor network, and all the mechanisms developed to help,” commented Diana.

A Perfect Alignment in Mission, Passion, and Values

During Extensio’s first four years of operation, they directly reached 19,000 farmers and helped increase their revenue by 12%, became a Certified B-Corporation, and were selected “Best for the World 2019.” But, when the pandemic hit in 2020, Extensio needed a strategic ally who wanted to utilize its technology and ensure its continuous impact in rural communities. This is when Extensio met Acceso, an NGO and social enterprise builder born from the Clinton Foundation and focused on creating lasting market connections for smallholder farmers. It was a perfect match of vision, values and purpose, and the acquisition was announced in October of 2020. Extensio has continued to receive “Best for the World” awards for years 2021 and 2022. In 2020, there was no award globally due to the pandemic.

I have witnessed Miller Center from the perspective of a social entrepreneur, alumni, mentor, and now member of its Social Enterprise Advisory Council. It is an honor for me personally, as for Extensio-Acceso, to contribute to Miller Center’s work and impact.

– Diana Popa

By combining forces, Extensio and Acceso can help more smallholder farmers boost productivity and increase income levels by providing training, agricultural inputs, affordable credit, and market access. “Our teams bring completely complementary skillsets while we work towards our mutual goal of eradicating rural poverty and consolidating agriculture as a prosperous and sustainable business for present and future generations,” explained Diana. Acceso built and currently operates social businesses in Colombia, El Salvador, and Haiti. They work along the entire value chain to ensure that smallholder farmer production reaches large domestic food companies — supermarkets, retailers, restaurants — as well as international markets. Together, the two organizations have expanded Extensio’s reach to over 34,000 in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Haiti. Extensio also secured a grant from USAID Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) in 2021 to expand its service to 1 million farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean and measure its impact on incomes and quality of life through a rigorous RCT. They are actively seeking agricultural organizations as partners for this scale up program.

Some figures are managed at LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) level: 130 million people live in rural areas in the region, 45% of which live in poverty. Family farming accounts for 81% of the region’s farming units. Source: UN ECLAC 2020