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Kenyan Farmers Turn to Crypto as Community Inclusion Cryptocurrency Grows

Sarafu users holding a voucher of 50 sarafu

The popularity of community inclusion cryptocurrencies in Kenya keeps growing, with rural farmers adopting the digital financial technology. According to a report, some rural farmers in Kenya now accept to be paid in cryptocurrency and use it to buy agricultural supplies or meet basic needs.

According to a VOA’s report¹, one of the reasons this alternative monetary system has become popular is that it allows users to preserve their savings in fiat currency.

For instance, the report quotes Emmanuel Kahindi², a 26-year-old farmer from Kenya’s Kilifi county, northeast of Mombasa, explaining how using this novel currency system helps him. Emmanuel said:

Sarafu helped me a lot, he said, especially because it makes me save my money, my Kenyan currency.

VOA reports that Emmanuel is using Sarafu to purchase his farming supplies like seeds and fertilizer.

The community inclusion cryptocurrency³, like Sarafu⁴ are like paper notes circulating alongside the national currency, the Kenyan shilling, and used to exchange for goods or services among users of the currency. So far, anyone with a Kenyan mobile phone line can enrol to become a user. Sarafu users earn coins by selling a product or service to another user.

Community Currencies commonly consist of non-interest-bearing physical vouchers or digital tokens which are issued and honoured by members of a network and can only be spent on goods and services provided by other members in the network. The principal goal of the Community Currencies is to keep capital circulating within the local community.

Studies have shown that communities who try community currency programs are able to keep more money circulating in the local economy, whereas money spent at traditional shops is much more likely to leave the area altogether. Community currencies, if run with strong leadership, can also instill a sense of community pride that further aids in supporting small business efforts.⁵

In Kisauni region⁶, near Mombasa, the main coastal town in Kenya, over 6, 500 people trade with Sarafu, an initiative that is also supported by the Kenya Red Cross, the largest humanitarian organization in Kenya.

The Sarafu Network is among the first community currency programs in the world to use liquid community currencies (LCC). Between 2010 and 2018, community currencies were issued in the form of paper vouchers unique to each community. In August 2018, the community currency network migrated from physical vouchers to LCCs on the blockchain⁸. With no internet access needed, this block chain technology will reach millions of users by SMS/USSD creating a decentralized financial system.⁹

Takeaways

  1. As a socio-economic development tool Community Currency offers an innovative way to improve living standards ​
  2. Even in the poorest communities people have goods and services to offer each other — yet lack the money to trade with. By opening up the door to credit creation, communities get higher value from their goods using CC as a medium of exchange among them.

Credit:

  1. Cryptocurrency Booming Among Kenyan Farmers (VOA-July 2021)
  2. Sarafu Cryptocurrency Use Among Farmers in Kenya (VOA-June2021)
  3. Community Inclusion Currency- Animated (Youtube video-June 2020)
  4. Community Inclusion Currencies in Kenya: Sarafu Network by Grassroots Economics
  5. A Complementary Currency: Carlisle, PA
  6. The Kenya Red Cross Launches a Token-Driven Basic Income System after the Success of the Sarafu Blockchain Community Currency
  7. https://www.wealthandsociety.com/updates-and-articles/grassroots-economics-ruddick-and-dama-community-currencies
  8. Sarafu Credit’s Ruddick and Dama: Community currencies create a stable medium of exchange tied to local developments during covid
  9. UN Announcement of Liquid Community Currencies (November 2018)

Editor’s note

Sankore 2.0 is an Africa-focused community integrating the NEAR blockchain with projects and solutions conceived and built by local developers in Kenya. As noted in the content of this blog, Sankore 2.0 seeks to promote the development of Web3 products in Nairobi — for Kenya and for Africa as a whole

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