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The Semi-Arid Region Commercialization Programme implemented by World Vision Kenya and Farm Concern International with support from World Vision Australia has enabled 1,899 farmers form saving schemes and save over USD 35,729. This has increased farmers income base enabling them to meet their needs and invest for future. They are also able to get loans from these schemes at a fair interest of 10% per annum enabling them meet short and long term domestic needs.
The Programme has continually pushed the savings agenda as a game changer in improving the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers. It seeks to enhance and sustain economic impact by facilitating access to existing and new profitable markets through commercialization, women empowerment and savings mobilization. The targets value chains are green grams, tomatoes and cowpeas in Kalawa and watermelons and onions values chains in Mwala.
The programme implemented in Mwala and Kalawa areas of the Eastern region of Kenya considers savings as one of the factors necessary for sustaining the economic impact of the smallholder farmers and enhancing their livelihood resilience.
The Semi- Arid Region Commercialization Programme agenda is rooted in Kenya’s long-term development blueprint, Vision 2030 launched in 2008 which aims to create a “globally competitive and prosperous country with a high quality of life by 2030.” Vision 2030 is designed to guide the country towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and beyond, transforming Kenya into “a newly industrialized, middle-income country.” (IFAD 2013).
However, evidence has shown that agriculture-led growth in Kenya is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth led by industry. The key to better performance in agriculture lies in boosting smallholder productivity and developing non-farm activities. This can be done by making financial services (including savings and loan schemes) widely available to rural communities to enable the growth of smallholder enterprises.
Saving is a practice that the smallholder farmer has over the years found difficult to inculcate into their lives due to low-incomes. It has however been identified as one of the factors that strengthen farmer organizations as well as the individual farmer. They provide affordable credits where commercial lenders like banks do not lend despite agriculture being the mainstay of the East African economies. Additionally, when agricultural enterprises qualify for loans, interest rates are too high for small-scale farmers.
However, through the dedicated efforts of FCI staff, farmers in this Programme have saved USD 35,729.11 cumulatively in the two regions. In Kalawa region 715 farmers have saved USD 17,072.82 while in Mwala, 1,184 farmers have saved USD 18,656.29. As a result, farmers no longer have to rely on micro-finance institutions and banks for loans and credit.
FCI has also worked hand in hand with Commercial Villages (CVs) to come up with loan schemes in both regions. In Kalawa, 239 loans worth Ksh 601,300 (USD 7,074) have already been disbursed to farmers at a fair interest of 10%. Out of these loans, the CVs in Kalawa have already made a cumulative interest of Kshs. 177,030.
As an added advantage of the saving scheme, Vision Fund and Equity Foundation have come on board to train farmers on loan management. This will lead to effective and professional management of loans and operations of the saving schemes.
FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.