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How MAEF support SMEs

Many small-to-medium-sized businesses along the agricultural value chain fall into the ‘missing middle’ of agricultural finance – they are too big to receive services from NGOs and microfinance institutions, but too small to qualify for commercial loans.

MAEF focuses on the first segment of this missing middle, which we call the ‘first-mile’ entrepreneurs. First-mile entrepreneurs provide vital services for smallholders:

Type of funding offered by MAEF

There are three types of funding available for SMEs, depending on their maturity:


Incubator Fund

Provides grants for innovative ideas at an earlier stage in the cycle, to help businesses refine a proposition and adapt any tested ideas for wider adoption. Successful best practices can also be scaled up.


Competitive Value Chain Fund

Provides two-to-three-year grants to projects that use a value chain approach to agricultural innovation, encouraging improved productivity, market access and agricultural commercialisation at smallholder level


Scale-up Fund

Provides three-to-four-year grants to expand successful technologies and best practices trialled under the Competitive Value Chain Fund.

Grants or loans provided by MAEF

The investment made may be repayable – there are three types:


Farmer-focused grants

Non-recoverable grants to deliver training and support directly to farmers to address issues of production, supply, aggregation, standards, storage and other market-accessing constraints.


Revolving fund

A recoverable grant (i.e. an interest-free loan or ‘advance’) for product procurement that must be repaid as soon as the sale is completed.


Bank loan guarantees

Connecting the business to a commercial bank or microfinance institution and serving as their guarantor in case of default. Typical investment allocation.

The eligibility criteria


At MAEF this is our eligibility criteria :

  • Based in rural areas, already embedded in several value chains with a typical customer base of several hundred smallholder farmers.
  • Work on a shoestring budget; do not own a vehicle; and have received no donor funding in the past.
  • Have high local knowledge, but no tangible assets that can be used as collateral.
  • Have higher income multiplier potential than other value chain actors and can raise their customer base from hundreds to thousands.
  • Typically need capital funding of $20,000 to $150,000 to put their business on a strong commercial footing.

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