STAKEHOLDERS in the agriculture sector have been urged to make more concerted effort to enable the sector grow further since it is instrumental in the national economic growth. The call was made here by a cross section of stakeholders who gathered to discuss opportunities and challenges in developing the sector to another level, now that most farmers in the country have access to financial services.
The meeting convened by the Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT) called a new focus on developing agriculture in the country, focusing on increased value addition. In this aspect, financial institutions such as banks were challenged on how to enable smallholder farmers to add value to their produce or enable them initiate small industries.
Speaking after the meeting, FSDT’s Head of Agriculture and Rural Finance, Mwombeki Baregu, observed that there is need for various partners to further consider contribution of the agriculture sector towards the industrial economy.
He said the discussion was based on opportunities to enable farmers benefit from the existing financial services to expand and improve their productivity. Mr Mwombeki added that there should be policies that help further promote the sector and empower industries that use local agricultural raw products.
“Such strategies are very important as the nation moves towards the upper middle-income economy” he said.
He cited increased access to finances by farmers as one of the successes of working together by different stakeholders to empower farmers through financial inclusion. FSDT’s Operations Director, Irene Mlola noted that the organization played an important role in linking farmers with financial institutions.
“It is a point where we saw the need to bring together various stakeholders to debate on how to link farmers in rural areas with financial institutions and operators,” she said.
She said the aim was to see how to look at the existing infrastructure to enable service providers reach farmers, a move that resulted in over one million coffee and cashew nut farmers opening bank accounts and getting financial transactions through banks.
National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) representative, Hipoliti Lello acknowledged that it is through such partnership that the fund has managed to reach over 6000 farmers in the country.
He said through collaboration with FDST, the fund provided insurance services, whereby they pay only 76,800/- per year for health services.
“The only challenge is that the traditional health insurance is new mostly in the informal sector” he said, adding that most farmers just seek insurance services only when they are sick. He noted that NHIF will soon introduce insurance premium financing, where members will be able to get paid for insurance services even when it is not a farming season.