Digital tool bridges supply-demand divide in agribusiness


For decades, smallholder farmers in Kenya have faced numerous challenges such as lack of markets, working capital, expensive farm inputs as well as financial tools to pay and get paid efficiently.
These problems have caused insecurities, inefficiencies, and wastage of resources and food, preventing farmers from running sustainable businesses.
To address the difficulties, growers are now embracing new tech solutions for better yields, earnings, among others.
One such tool is Farm Pass, a digital app that brings together people from both the supply and demand sides of agriculture under one marketplace.
The platform, which is a partnership between Ecobank and Mastercard, seeks to connect millions of farmers in Kenya as well as in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.
“When we empower people, we can power economies and support economic growth that is truly inclusive. Mastercard Farm Pass contributes to this by offering a digital platform that makes it easier for smallholder farmers to move from subsistence to commercial farming,” said Mastercard vice chairman and president, strategic growth Michael Froman.
“This, in turn, will stimulate agricultural growth, increase competitiveness, and improve food security in Africa. Through close collaborations with important partners like Ecobank, we can create even more impact, putting the digital economy to work for everyone, everywhere.”
On the app, farmers can also access quality farming products like fertiliser and review farming information such as weather forecasts and pest control advice as well as get paid and pay digitally.
MasterCard’s Farm Pass platform was piloted in Kenya in 2015. It has since expanded to Uganda, Tanzania and now India.
The new solution is crucial in attracting young people into farming that is According to Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, the average age of a farmer in the country is 60 years, which is slightly above the life expectancy of 65 years. On the other hand, younger people under the age of 25 account for about 60 percent of the African population.
To attract the above age group into agriculture, there is a need for tech investment in farms.
A survey done by the US-based Heifer International, titled The Future of Africa’s Agriculture: An Assessment of the Role of Youth and Technology last year indicated that the best way to engage youth in agriculture in Africa is through technological innovation (39 percent), government support for young farmers (32 percent) and inclusion/adoption of youth in agriculture policy (21 percent).
A Central Bank of Kenya study last year showed that banks turned away 28 per cent of small businesses while microfinance institutions declined 96 percent of their loan applications.
Crucially, the MasterCard platform will be a boon to farmers as it will provide data for banks to make credit decisions, giving more growers to access to loans they can use to grow and scale their businesses
About six in 10 Kenyan small businesses were denied financing by financial institutions in the last three years, a new report showed, coming at a time when a majority of them were struggling under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A report by Wylde International dubbed ‘SME Access to Financing’ shows that approximately 60 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were denied credits, exposing them to financial difficulties.
The report attributes the financing snub to lack of collateral as the major reason for declining the much-needed financing, followed by the startup state being associated with limited experience in running the business as well as low business turnover.
“With no consistent identification or credentials, onboarding and servicing people in the paper-only world of digitally excluded individuals is manual, inefficient and expensive.”: Farm Pass is part of Mastercard’s Community Pass digital platform, which connects people in the most remote and underserved communities to service providers, including banks, schools, healthcare providers, governments and international development organizations.
In Africa, Farm Pass has already helped roughly 659,000 smallholder farmers access better prices and credit, with several million more users anticipated to join by the end of 2022 through partnerships with farmers’ organizations and agricultural co-ops.

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