Although a quarter of Kenya’s population are farmers, few of them have ventured into increasing their farm output with the help of loans. For many of them, loans are risky and if unpaid, their only source of livelihood is in danger of being lost to aggressive lenders.
It is no wonder that, sceptical about farm loans, Samuel Kariuki has been struggling to increase his cabbage farm’s output over the last thirty years until his recent discovery of F3 Life, a micro finance company offering “green loans”.
F3 Life offers loans of as little as $20 to as much as $180, as well as free monthly training on how to increase one’s farming business. The program, designed by conservationist Mark Ellis-Jones, offers incentives of lower interest rates and bigger loans to farmers who apply soil and land conservation practices.
Thus, planting trees, grass strips along slope land, and other anti-erosion measures extends the life of the soil by 1000 years where it would have had a duration of only 20. With the world having lost one third of its farmland in half a century, areas such as Mr. Kariuki’s farmland are no exception and this is bound to affect Kenya’s ability to feed its growing population.
Ngigi Obadiah, an agronomist with F3 Life, says that they anticipate an increase of loans from the current 52 to 350 within a year. In two year’s time they anticipate 10,000 loans and in the next five years, up to half a million.
The fame of Mr. Kariuki’s cabbages is widespread across his town, and with it, the green loan program. He plans to increase his profits by transporting his own produce, since up to now he has been selling them to other retailers. He hopes to gain the full profits of his produce by buying a truck in the near future and in the meantime, he has introduced potatoes to his ever-growing farm produce.