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Financial Co-operatives/SACCOs in Kenya access credit to plant trees and support environmental conservation

By Linda Karimi

The Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives (KUSCCO) partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an environmental conservation organization, to implement a project to increase tree planting and sustainable wood supply in Kenya, through smallholder forestry initiatives. Dubbed ‘KUZA MITI’ which is Swahili for ‘grow trees’, the project is aimed at commercializing tree planting in Kenya through the co-operative movement and also support environmental conservation. Through this project, financial co-operatives, popularly known as Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOs) can access certified tree seedlings from the Tree Biotechnology Program Trust (TBPT), for planting within their communities, and thus contribute to achieving 10% forest cover in the country. In so doing, financial co-operatives are taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts in line with Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

KUSCCO also launched an agri-business product for small scale farmers in SACCOs to provide credit to farmers, to purchase irrigation equipment, farm inputs and also insure their crops against adverse weather conditions. The project is being implemented in collaboration with SNV Kenya and aims at creating financial access to agricultural SACCOs for optimum crop production using green energy technologies. KUSCCO also commissioned a borehole for Kanoto Horticultural Farmers’ Co-operative in rural Kenya for a crop irrigation system through an agricultural lending product developed in collaboration with the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). The irrigation system, consisting of a borehole and solar pump, will allow the 90 members of the Kanoto Horticultural Farmers’ Cooperative to produce French beans for commercial sale.

 

Through KUSCCO’s Central Finance Fund department, three agronomists were employed to enable farmers access advisory services including tree selection, growing, maintenance, survival, soil type among others. They also have progressive support―from planting, agroforestry best practices, preventive care, maturity and harvesting. One acre piece of land, can accommodate 850 trees which helps farmers in income generation, environmental conservation, as well as forest cover contribution.

 

So far, the project has been implemented in the Mt. Kenya region, specifically in Nyandarua County; Kinangop and Olkalou. It has also been implemented in Kiambu County; Lari and Kiambaa.  In Aberdare SACCO, tree planting took place in February 2020 and 8,150 certified tree seedlings were planted. The preferred tree types are grevillea, cypress, pine, casuarina, eucalyptus, and indigenous trees, which mature faster in 3-5 years. The demand for timber in Kenya is high and it is mainly used for furniture, electricity poles, building and construction, fencing posts, biomass energy and printing paper.

 

To qualify for a loan, a SACCO submits their loan application to KUSCCO, attaches all required documents and estimates the loan size. To access a loan from the SACCO, farmers provide proof of undisputable access by lease and/or ownership of land available for tree planting. Thereafter, farmers are trained by KUSCCO agronomists in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy Fund. The farmers are trained in groups of between 30-40 people, and advanced loans by their SACCOs, which they use to purchase certified tree seedlings from the Tree Biotechnology Program Trust (TBPT). The loan is repayable in 12 months, at a 5% loan interest rate on reducing balance basis.

 

Co-operators in Nairobi also plant trees annually as part of the activities leading up to the International Co-operatives Day. For the last five years, 1,000 trees have been planted annually and in 2019, 300 co-operators from 120 co-operatives planted trees.

 

Currently, KUSCCO is partnering with WOCCU to implement a USAID funded project dubbed Technology and Innovation for Financial Inclusion (TIFI) whose aim is to support SACCOs to in-turn finance Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in different sectors including Environmental Conservation and Climate Mitigation initiatives.

Among others, the partnership is specifically geared to support KUSCCO CFF SME loan portfolio for SACCOs to access funds for SMEs, develop an SME finance tool for SACCOs to increase financing for SME activities, conduct research on the SME market for SACCOs, enhance linkages for SME business development services, and build a stronger SACCO movement for socio-economic and environmental development.

 

ISO 9001

KUSCCO QUALITY POLICY

We commit to consistently promote SACCOs through advocacy and provision of quality technical and financial products that exceed the members’ expectations.
We shall comply with the statutory requirements and actively pursue continuous improvement of the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System (QMS) processes, capabilities and effectiveness.
In pursuit of our commitment we shall ensure that the quality policy and objectives that have been established and communicated to the Union employees shall be reviewed annually in accordance with the stipulated framework and quality standards.”