Sunday, November 20, 2016

Access to finance enables farmers to enjoy new opportunities

By Bob Aston
She used to abhor planting seasons, as she had to contend with high input costs.  Difficulties in accessing affordable credit have always been a strain on her small farm. This season, she was fortunate to get a Kilimo Bora loan after Sokopepe linked her to a micro finance institution.
Mrs. Emery Kawira, a smallholder farmer from Kiirua area of Buuri Sub County in Meru County was among the financially excluded farmers until three months ago when Sokopepe convinced her to start saving through Times U Sacco Society Ltd. Initially, she was unable to receive credit facilities as financial institutions cited her lack of proper book keeping as a barrier to receiving credit when evaluating her viability for loan.
She says that the training organised by Sokopepe’s Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) has empowered and enabled her to utilize the Kshs 20,000 Kilimo Bora loan to improve her agribusiness.
“The beauty of FARMIS is that financial institutions can review our records over a period of time to determine whether we are capable of managing credit,” says Mrs. Kawira.
She has planted maize, beans and potatoes on her 2-acre farm and recorded all the expenses in her farm book to ensure accountability. She is planning to apply for a bigger loan to invest in her farm to increase her productivity and profitability.
Koongo Ka Nyumba Women Group members learning about FARMIS
On her part, Mrs. Mary Kirima has also used her Kshs. 20,000 Kilimo Bora loan to cultivate beans, maize and potatoes in her 3 acre farm. She almost quit farming last year after crop failure but Sokopepe’s Production Information Agents (PIAs) convinced her not to give up on farming.
 “I am able to track all my agribusiness enterprises and expenses incurred. This has ensured proper use of the Kilimo Bora loans,” said Mrs. Kirima.
After saving for some time, she was able to apply and receive a Kilimo Bora loan from Times U Sacco. She used the loan to buy farm inputs and to improve her farm.
The Sacco charges Kshs 600 as registration fee and a farmer can borrow up to three times the amount saved. Times U Sacco will also train the farmers on financial literacy. The Kilimo Bora loan attracts a 9 percent interest rate. The repayment is after four months when the farmers have harvested.
Mrs. Jedida Karamuta notes that this year she has not struggled to get money for farm inputs and other expenses, unlike previous years, as she was able to receive the Kilimo Bora loan. She received Kshs. 20,000, which she has invested in her farm. Sokopepe has trained her on record keeping. She has also increased the acreage under potatoes, beans and maize to 3 acres unlike before when she used to cultivate only on an acre.
She says that most financial institutions are usually reluctant to lend to farmers but this has changed after training on record keeping and financial literacy.
“FARMIS has enabled me to track my expenditure for each farm enterprise. I have used the loan prudently as I have kept good farm records,” says Mrs. Karamuta.
Mr. Josphat Musenze, Sales and Marketing Officer at Sokopepe  says that difficulty in accessing credit facilities has hindered the productivity of most smallholder farmers as they lack enough financing for purchasing farm inputs.
“We are leveraging on existing relationships within the value chains to ensure farmers access financial services sustainably while the financially excluded enjoy new possibilities,”  says Mr. Musenze.
He reiterates that financial inclusion will ensure that there are more banked farmers. This will enable smallholder farmers to make informed decisions on financial products and services.
Sokopepe has been linking Meru farmers with financial institutions. This has enabled most of the farmers to reach their potential, as they are able to deal with high costs of inputs. The social enterprise is also working with financial service providers to build financial literacy for smallholder farmers as well as their financial capabilities.
Financial inclusion is a powerful tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in promoting economic growth and ending poverty. Smallholder farmers need access to financial services to generate income from their agricultural enterprises, build assets, and manage risks.
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