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Kenya moves to expand agri-financing to the youth 

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Steve Kibei bends and holds a leaf of a tomato plant on his half-acre farm in Kitengela, a suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

Kibei grows the tomatoes under the drip irrigation system and has been doing it for the last two years as he seeks to earn a living from the soil.

“This is my office, this is my job,” Kibei, a sociology graduate, said on Monday. “I turned to farming after failing to get a job in my area of study but I do not regret because I am earning some money,” he added.

Kibei wishes to expand his business and grow other crops, specifically onions for more income, but lack of capital is his main challenge.

“I lease the half-acre at 100 U.S. dollars a year. My plan is to lease two acres, but this needs money that I do not have. Besides, I will also need funds for the drip irrigation system, labour and quality seeds. I tried getting a loan from a commercial bank and failed,” said Kibei desperately.

But as Kibei, and thousands of other youths in the East African country who have taken up farming grapple with financing, the challenge may soon be a thing of the past as the government moves to revamp agri-financing.

Franklin Bett, the chairman of Agricultural Financing Corporation (AFC), the nation’s agri-bank, which has been moribund for years, assured farmers in a meeting in Nairobi that the institution is being revamped.

“In the next few months farmers in particular the youth would be able to walk into any branch of AFC with their agribusiness proposals and come out with a loan without any hurdles,” he said.

Bett noted that the aim is to revive agri-financing and make the institution the preferred agribusiness financier in the East African nation.

“For many years, AFC was a reliable farmers’ bank offering only loans to thousands of people to boost their agribusinesses as it is happening in other countries like China and India. But what killed the institution was political interference where farmers waited for their loans to be waived during elections,” he noted.

He observed that AFC would be expanded in the coming months so that it has an office in every county to serve more people.

“Our target is particularly the youth because many have no capital to get into farming but have great ideas that would boost food security. We want them facilitated because if they have loans, then they would produce food and the country would be secure,” he said.

Ann Onyango, the agriculture secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, noted that it is through financing the youth that Kenya would shift farming from the old to the young.

“Our records at the ministry show that 60 percent of farmers are over 50 years and are ageing faster. We need to bring on board more young people and this can be done by financing them,” said Onyango.

She observed that 80 percent of food production in the East African nation is done by small holder farmers, the majority of whom lack capital to grow their businesses.

“Farmers need to be motivated through measures like affordable loans so that they can produce more food,” she said. “As a government, we are also rooting for private-public partnerships to boost agriculture production,” she added.

Kibei, and many other young farmers welcomed the move but said they were cautious since similar promises have been made before.

“I keep 200 chickens and my plan has been to expand to at least 1,000 birds. If the government keeps its promise, then there is hope for young farmers,” said Joseph Kimeu, a farmer in Kakamega, western Kenya.



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