Co-operative Bank of Kenya is making strides in promoting the financial and economic inclusion of small-scale farmers through its online marketplace, Co-op Bank Soko. The platform launched in February 2021 in partnership with MasterCard and Rabobank. Since then, it has onboarded 400,000 farmers, showcasing the bank’s strong connections in the agricultural sector. These connections provide farmers producing coffee, tea, milk, and other commodities with savings and credit co-operative societies.
The agricultural sector is crucial to Kenya’s economy. It contributes 21.2% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), employs over 40% of the population and 70% of rural residents. These residents mainly organize their economic activities through the co-operative movement. However, smallholder farmers experience barriers in acquiring goods and services for production, such as affordability issues, lack of access to credit, insurance services, and remunerative income.
Co-op Bank Soko aims to overcome these obstacles by generating revenue for small-scale farmers. The platform helps farmers receive higher prices for their produce, buy better quality inputs, and access Co-op Bank’s financial services. Co-op Bank leverages technology to promote financial and economic inclusion while assisting small-scale farmers in overcoming barriers in market linkages, produce prices, quality inputs, infrastructural and logistics, and financial services access.
Moreover, the bank is offering loans to farmers registered on the platform, enabling them to acquire farm inputs from suppliers onboarded. The bank’s target is to help one million farmers receive higher prices for their produce and better inputs. Co-op Bank’s efforts in promoting the agricultural sector’s growth extend beyond Co-op Bank Soko. The bank provides financing to potato farmers willing to grow the required variety of the tuber for major food outlets such as Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Co-op Bank is among the five companies that formed a Potato Consortium. This Consortium brings together firms with expertise in all aspects of the tuber. The initiative ensures the value chain, from seed quality to farmer financing, and guarantees that the food is of high quality. These efforts have undoubtedly had a positive impact on the Kenyan economy and the lives of small-scale farmers. Co-operative Bank of Kenya is making a significant contribution to the financial and economic inclusion of small-scale farmers.