The Co-operative Bank of Kenya has so far enlisted 400,000 farmers on its online marketplace dubbed Co-op Bank Soko in a revolutionary initiative to directly link farmers to their clients.
Effectively, the farmers are able to fetch optimal returns from their produce through better prices without the inconveniences of middlemen.
“We on boarded 400,000 farmers on the digital platform ‘Co-op Bank Soko’, an online marketplace that enables farmers to receive a higher price for their produce, buy better quality inputs and get access to Co-op Bank’s financial services.” The bank disclosed through its latest annual report for the year ended December 2022.
The platform was unveiled in February 2021 in a partnership with MasterCard and Rabobank –a Dutch multinational banking and financial services provider.
In a bid to maximise gains, the platform brings together farmers across various value chains, input providers and buyers of produce.”
The lender says the platform is aimed at leveraging technology to promote the financial and economic inclusion of small-scale farmers while generating revenue for them.
The bank is offering loans to farmers registered through the platform where they’ll be able to redeem farm inputs from suppliers on boarded.
In March this year, Co-op Bank led an amalgamation of five firms dubbed ‘Potato Consortium’ seeking to boost yields and incomes for potato farmers in the country.
The programme targets potato farmers in the country to help them increase potato yields through the use of appropriate input packages.
This initiative is being piloted in four counties in the first half of 2023 notably in Nyandarua, Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nyeri.
Co-operative Bank Head of Agriculture Business Esther Kariuki said the initiative targets to reach over 30,000 farmers by 2026, improving yields by 50 per cent and reducing post-harvest losses by at least 50 per cent.
“The consortium of like-minded companies that play within the potato value chain, is addressing current barriers that potato farmers face, by enabling access to affordable and quality inputs, credit and sustainable markets.” The Bank noted.
Kariuki said key gaps will be addressed including agronomy, commercial and digital knowledge as well as access to finance and markets.
The initiative is backed by various global agricultural input giants and other entities including Agrico, Bayer East Africa, Simplifine Ltd and Yara East Africa.
“The bank will also provide affordable financing options for the farmers to ensure timely access to quality inputs, water, mechanisation and post-harvest solutions,” added the bank.