Approximately Sh31.5 million in grants will be released to help farmers with ideas but no funding, yet 70 per cent will return to the donors due to low absorption rate, a trend that has become common. But in a bid to get as more farmers as possible to apply for funding, a model dubbed Mkulima Empowerment Foundation has been set up and now boasts of having assisted over 587 farmers across dairy, horticulture and value addition.
The Foundation’s chairman Mr. Joseph Mungai who quit his job at a hotel in Dubai to assist farmers says he was moved into the business by farmers struggle in access to finance. “I have been brought up in a farming family. I am a farmer myself. I know how hard it is to get access to finances. It is only recently that financial institutions showed any interest in financing farmers. And even now it is still a herculean task, what with collaterals, bank statements and business plans,” said Mungai.
The foundation which has a huge network of donors and development partners, tracks the grant issuing periods announced by the donors. They then go through the requirements and come up with a standard proposal which suits the specification and then send the proposals to any members who might be interested who then customize it to their businesses. “We look for farmers who have brilliant ideas but have no source of funding. They say my people perish because of lack of information. We have seen so much of the donor money returned to the donors because no one farmer knows about it. It is really sad,” Mungai added.
To qualify to be connected to the funders, a farmer or farmer group must join Mkulima Empowerment Foundation at a cost of Sh50 or Sh100 respectively. The registration is simple. A farmer only needs a phone where they pay the membership from. Farmers are supposed to pay to the till number 997088, pay goods and services option from their Safaricom line. Once the money is received , the farmer’s name is entered into a database and they receive regular updates on funding opportunities. “This is money that has no repayment. It is a grant not a loan. However the donors are very strict about the viability of your business and about a farmer sticking to what they commit to do. They do regular and random checks and should they find you haven’t lived up to what you set out to do, you have to return every single coin. But we are very strict on our members and explain to them about all these requirements,” Mungai said.
Notable farmer funders that the foundation has worked with include The European Union, World Bank among others.
Among the most successful projects that have been funded include Inoi Farmers Processing Plant in Kirinyaga which received Sh6.7 million and which is set for official commissioning at the end of July. The cooling plant has removed age old milk woes in Kirinyaga county which saw dairy farming collapse. Exploitation by milk vendors and poor market gave farmers peanuts. With the cooling plants farmers can supply as much milk as they can and earn two times more than they were earning from the vendors.
The model which targets to move round the country comes at a time when farmer financing especially among women farmers has been identified as one of the major bottlenecks to food production in the country.
According to the Alliance for Agrarian Revolution in Africa, AGRA, lack of access to credit is farmers’ second biggest headache to crop production after pests, with less than 10 per cent of farmers in Kenya having access to formal credit. Women, AGRA, says fair far worse than men in this aspect.
Interested farmers can reach Mkulima Farmer Empowerment on