Nairobi, Kenya, March 1, 2021 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) and The Co-operative University of Kenya (CUK) have signed a grant agreement to finance the development of a digital platform to support agricultural cooperatives sector in the country.
Signed on 24th November 2020, the agreement stipulates a three-year grant, amounting to USD 815,000. It will, through the Kenya Rural Transformation Digital Platform project, improve how agricultural cooperatives, also referred to as Rural Transformation Centers (RTC), access agricultural farm inputs, financing, production information, markets for their produce as well as information on rainfall and other related critical farm-level information.
The project will integrate smallholder farmers and other stakeholders along the agriculture value chain by developing a digital platform (RTC Digital Platform) that will connect farmers with the private sector and public services. The overall goal of the project is to increase productivity, profitability, and sustainability of agricultural cooperatives and hence the entire agriculture/food and trade value chains. These efforts contribute to the Kenya Government’s Big four Agenda.
The project is supported under the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA) program, which is largely financed by the governments of Japan and Austria. Speaking from the Bank’s headquarters, the Director of Agriculture Finance and Rural Development, Atsuko Toda, described the RTC Digital Platform as a game-changer to smallholder farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural value chain.
The Director asked the project implementation team to adhere to financial management and disbursement procedures prudently to avoid grant disbursement challenges and focus on creating an overall impact on the project. She further advised the team to take note of lessons learned from other projects through a market demand analysis, which will document technological solutions already in place in the agricultural value chain.
The grant will be managed by The Co-operative University of Kenya’s project implementation unit led by Prof. Isaac Nyamongo, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor responsible for Co-operative Development, Research, and Innovation. Prof. Nyamongo will work closely with Duncan Mwesige, the Chief Agricultural Economist at the Bank’s East Africa Regional office in Nairobi.
In his remarks, the CUK Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kamau Ngamau, lauded the Bank and project implementation team for what he described as the most innovative initiative for “connecting smallholder farmers to the entire value chain”. He underscored the role played by CUK in research, innovation, and community development, as well as skills development in the Cooperative sector, where the RTC Digital platform project is aligned. He emphasized the importance of agricultural cooperatives and smallholder farmers in socio-economic development, noting that partnerships between academia and industry were key drivers of transformation.
The Bank further urged the project implementation unit to take gender issues into account when rolling out the program. According to Mr. Bernard Chitunga at the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program, “This project digs deeper into inclusive growth, where youth and women are part of the impacted population.” Also present during the launch was Yuji Shigefuji, First Secretary, Economic Affairs and Economic Cooperation of the Embassy of Japan in Kenya, and officials from the National Treasury.
Duncan MWESIGE, Chief Agricultural Economist, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.