Agriculture is the backbone of our country’s economy. However, some of the challenges the sector is experiencing in emerging markets especially for smallholder farmers is the lack of access to financing, lack of basic inputs such as fertilizer, seeds, tools, training and the knowledge provided by agricultural extension services to increase their yields. Finding ways to improve the sector and its productivity is critical in ensuring food security.
Agricultural finance empowers farmers to increase their wealth and facilitates the development of food value chains. Financial institutions therefore play a critical role in accelerating the growth of the sector by providing the necessary training to farmers, tailor-made financial services and funding for long-term and green investments to support sustainable agriculture and agri-food value chains.
That is why Equity – through its ‘Africa Recovery and Resilience Plan’- has prioritized food and agriculture as a key pillar that will not only improve food security but will also provide raw materials for industries. In the plan, two things have been prioritized : productivity improvement in agriculture and reducing food losses.
As a response to the prolonged drought situation that the country and the region has experienced over the last few years, Equity has developed tailored solutions to assist farmers to invest in water harvesting, sinking of boreholes and establishment of climate smart irrigation systems. The bank has also set aside funds to support farmers to invest in climate smart agricultural activities such as establishment of feedlots for livestock, zero and low tillage farming among other solutions. Farmers can visit any of the bank’s branches to get more information on these solutions.
The bank is also supporting farmers, agrovets, agro-dealers to grow their business, by providing them access loans to acquire farm inputs such as certified seeds, farm machinery. These include : tractor combined harvesters, construct green houses, insurance solutions, water harvesting and clean energy solutions. The bank also has a training programme to equip farmers with knowledge and skills on how to run their farming business through financial literacy training and mentorship.
Today, Equity Group Foundation and Equity Bank under its agricultural programmes has impacted over 3.9 million farmers on productivity improvement and commercialization of agriculture . So far, 215,512 small and medium sized farmers have benefited from loans amounting to Kshs. 73.28 billion over a period of five years and connected to value chains. Most of this funding, has, among other things supported farmers to improve water access, install water efficient irrigation systems, acquire quality and high yielding seeds as well as drought resistance seeds among other farm inputs, as well as cold chains and warehouses, hydroponic farming, farm mechanization, value addition, transportation, agro-forestry, agri- waste management and improvement in farming practices in line with the changing weather patterns. These investments are aimed at making agriculture more resilient and adaptive to climate change.
In the ‘Africa Recovery and Resilience Plan’, Equity aims to grow the food and agriculture loan portfolio to 30% of the total loan book underpinning the Group’s commitment to contributing to food security. This growth will be achieved through capacity building of farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices and capacitating micro , small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and other value chain actors that populate agricultural value chains and ecosystems.
Financial institutions have the potential to provide the much needed capital for farmers to begin practising sustainable farming that would otherwise be unattainable for them. When financial institutions and farmers partner, they can discover new possibilities that lead to a better understanding of what can be done to increase long-term viability and profitability.