Too often, farmers in Kenya are left out of the financial products designed by banks, lending societies (SACCOS) or micro-finance institutions because they are deemed to be risky borrowers. Priscilla Kinyari is an Agri-finance Fellow whose goal is to make formal financing more accessible to smallholder farmers. Her current passion is providing them with the means to access irrigation infrastructure. She is working to build the technical capacity of financial sector actors to design farmer-friendly programmes and products. Learn more about her work in this profile interview.
Who is Priscilla, the food systems leader?
I am an industrious, passionate, and focused food systems leader who is working to transform rural communities through increasing food security, strengthening climate resilience and enhancing livelihoods. I am focused on engaging with stakeholders to realise financial inclusion for smallholder farmers in Kenya. My vision is for smallholder farmers to achieve financial security to enable better food production and increase incomes at the household level.
What is the one issue within the food system that you have spent the most amount of time trying to solve?
Inadequate access to affordable and formal lines of credit by smallholder farmers. There is a need to enhance the financial capacity of farmers by building the technical capacity of financial sector actors who provide farmer-centred financial products. This will enable them to design farmer support programmes and products including group lending, de-risking mechanisms, warehouse receipting systems, and crop insurance through formal and well-regulated channels. In the end, all these benefits should go back to the farmers.
Why is this issue important to an everyday person/ the end consumer in the food system?
When farmers are unable to access affordable credit, they are unable to meet the cost of production and cannot make good decisions to ensure there is an adequate and nutritious food supply. Consumers are therefore faced with food shortages, increases in food prices and less nutritious food
What does success look like?
A food system that works for farmers, where they have the financial support they need to develop climate resilience and produce nutritious foods as demanded by the market.
Who is one stakeholder in the food system that you would love to collaborate with to achieve the most impact in your work?
I would love to work with financial institutions that have a dedicated focus on enhancing the financial knowledge and capacity of smallholder farmers. These financial institutions could be commercial banks, lending societies (SACCOs), or microfinance institutions.
What exciting collaborations have you initiated or been a part of that have made you a more effective food systems leader?
I am currently part of an initiative to provide irrigation infrastructure to more farmers in Kenya. This project takes a cost-sharing approach to irrigation infrastructure development and it has brought in representatives from the Government of Kenya, development partners, commercial banks and farmers’ organisations to create a blended finance mechanism. It has enabled me to leverage lessons learnt on the cost-sharing approach in one region of Kenya to engage with stakeholders on the potential of upscaling to other regions in Kenya.
Looking back at your career, what is the one thing that you would change?
My career spans over 15 years of working as an engineer and project manager in various development programmes. I could have focused more on developing my leadership skills to become a better communicator and to know how to leverage the networks that I have created. This would have set me off with more confidence in leading change in the roles I have held previously.
In what ways has the African Food Fellowship helped to set you up for success as a food systems leader?
The African Food Fellowship has matured me into a more confident food system leader, equipping me with analytical and foresight skills to drive the change I would like to see in Kenya’s food system. I am now able to more effectively engage with stakeholders with a clear message towards supporting the growth of smallholder farmer production and development.
What would you say to young women out there who want to play an active role as leaders in the food system?
I would say that for any leadership journey, one has to be clear about the task at hand and why it is important, seek the right mentors to help set the direction and develop abilities/skills further so as to offer more quality. Lastly, be willing to relearn and unlearn.