Online platform gives farmers visibility

Adesuma Ifedi

Heifer International senior vice-president Adesuma Ifedi and and Tara Nathan of Community Pass display the signed memorandum of understanding. 

Photo credit: Sammy Waweru | Nation Media Group

Access to finance and extension services are among the key challenges facing farmers in Africa. 

For young people willing to engage in agriculture, lack of land prevents them from getting credit services with financial institutions demanding title deeds as collateral. 

In 2021, Heifer International, an international non-profit making organisation, conducted research in west, south and east Africa, with 11 countries participating.

According to the study, some 59 per cent of young people involved lamented that lack of land ownership discouraged them from farming. 

Kenya was among the countries in the survey. The report further revealed that governments and other stakeholders need to focus on lack of funding, training, mentorship and access to agriculture technology. 

The factors accounted for 38, 34 and 11 per cent respectively. 

Africa is home to more than 200 million young people.

Actors in the food production value chain insist that leveraging on digital technology and innovation, will offer a reprieve. 

Experts say digitising agricultural activities it will provide access to financial support, marketing opportunities and extension services. 

It is for these reasons that Heifer International and Mastercard partnered to realise Kenyan farmers’ dreams and bridge the gap. 

Last week, the two organisations unveiled a digital platform known as Community Pass that aims at creating visibility of farmers. 

The platform makes it safer and easier for farmers to get paid more and faster for their produce.

Through the partnership, the organisations will focus on advancing digitisation and financial inclusion among smallholder farmers.

It is a chance to incorporate those not included in the digital divide and bring them opportunities and access to various services such as finances and marketing. 

This also enables service providers to expand their access and reach, reduce costs and realise new revenue opportunities.

Mastercard has been launching Community Pass across the world to leverage on digital technology, reaching out to the most marginalised areas.

“The majority around the world are largely in agriculture, mainly smallholder farmers. Since  they lack access to digital technology, they miss critical services,” said Tara Nathan, the executive vice-president and global head of Community Pass, during the launch of the programme in Nairobi. 

Unemployment crisis

The initiative is designed to address infrastructure challenges that arise in digitising rural communities, such as unreliable connectivity, low smartphone ownership and lack of consistent identification or credentials.

Operating with a network of more than three million farmers globally, Africa has hit the two million mark, with five countries benefiting, including Kenya.  

Tara told the Seeds of Gold that Mastercard has committed to reaching 30 million farmers by 2027. 

“Digital technology can be the means to connect the most invisible to critical services required,” she said, adding that the drive would enable the target sector – smallholder farmers – to have access to payment of their produce, credit, market and a whole raft of opportunities. 

“The idea is to digitise existing actors alongside bringing on board financial institutions to support farmers,” Tara said.

Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President for Africa Programmess, Heifer International said the use of digital technology and innovation makes farming interesting, thus attracting youths.

“We should make farming interesting by embracing digitisation and innovation. Mastercard Community Pass is one of the ideas,” Ifedi said.

“That way, we will tap young people to offer their vast knowledge and contribution in food production.”

She added that many young people are not seeing value in agriculture yet it remains the biggest employer across the continent.

“Africa has the largest challenge of unemployment, especially among youths. Population is growing fast and digitising agriculture alongside innovations will create jobs. We should watch this space, as agriculture turns into a future career,” she said.

Mastercard Community Pass is seen as an opportunity to have Kenyan farmers’ data aggregated in a way that will be of great help to them.

Rural communities who make the larger agriculture family will be offered foundational capabilities as well as essential services.


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