Farmers call for direct markets as Waiguru hosts economic forum

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru (2nd right) speaks on June 21, 2022 when she hosted a forum on the bottom-up economic model at Kamiigua Polytechnic in Kutus.

Photo credit: George Munene | Nation Media Group

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru on Tuesday hosted a forum on the bottom-up economic model in which the county’s residents identified their priority areas of focus that they would like captured in Kenya Kwanza’s elections manifesto.

The forum, which was held at Kamiigua Polytechnic in Kutus, was presided over by the UDA running mate Rigathi Gachagua and brought together leaders and participants from various economic sectors in the county.

Those represented included rice, coffee, tea, tomato, macadamia and fish farmers as well as market traders, hawkers, boda boda operators, hospitality industry players and horticultural producers among others.

Farmers from various sectors said the national government should develop policies that will streamline the agricultural sector to ensure that the farmer becomes the major beneficiary of his or her produce. They complained that farmers do not reap from their toil due to lack of direct markets for their produce which has left them at the mercy of middlemen.

Reduce cost of production

They also want the incoming government to subsidise fertiliser and pesticides in order to reduce the cost of production for their crops and also put in place policies that will give them guaranteed minimum returns for their produce.

The issue of allowing the importation of cheap farm produce such as rice and tomatoes was also brought up as a factor stifling local agriculture. The farmers called for policies that will protect them against unfair bilateral trade practices.

Rice farmers from Mwea lamented about the high cost of production and demanded for the abolishment of the irrigation water fee charged by the Water Resources Management Authority (Warma), which they termed as exploitative.

UDA running mate Rigathi Gachagua

UDA running mate Rigathi Gachagua (right) speaks on June 21, 2022 during a bottom-up public forum held in Kirinyaga.

Photo credit: George Munene | Nation Media Group

New water charges

They opposed the proposed increment of water charges to 15,000 per acre. 

“Warma does not add any value to rice farmers and should be outlawed and the management of irrigation water left to the National Irrigation Board,” said Mr Ndung’u Ndegwa, a rice famer from the giant Mwea Irrigation Scheme said.

Mr Gachagua assured the residents that their views will be incorporated in the Kenya Kwanza manifesto, noting that the bottom-up economic model is about the empowerment of the economic players at the bottom so as to enable them contribute to the overall national economic development.

He said that all the views collected from the residents will be captured in a binding document to ensure that they are implemented accordingly. He assured them that with him at the top, their interests are well taken care of and that there is no chance of them being short-changed.

He also promised that the price of fertiliser will be brought down from the current Sh6,000 to Sh2,000 per bag by December 2022 if Deputy President William Ruto is elected the next president. 

Roads

Mr Gachagua also promised that the Kenya Kwanza government will resume the construction of all the stalled roads in the county immediately it assumes office.

He thanked the residents for turning out in large numbers to participate in the forum, adding that the bottom-up economic model is centred on putting more money in the pockets of the people at the bottom of the economy. 

He said that Dr Ruto’s government will set aside funds that will be loaned at an interest rate of 5 per cent per annum to save people from borrowing from exploitative lenders. 

On her part, Governor Waiguru said that her administration will continue supporting farmers through the county’s Wezesha Kirinyaga economic empowerment programme that has been funding farmers’ groups to undertake various profitable agricultural activities. She said that under the plan, farmers have been assisted to undertake poultry, tomato, avocado, dairy and macadamia farming as well as pig rearing, bee keeping and fish farming.

She said that her administration will be partnering with the UDA government when it takes over leadership in order to expand the Wezesha programme to accommodate every household in the county.

24-hour economy

She promised to enable a 24-hour economy in the county by partnering with the national government to construct modern markets and lighting up the urban areas and streets to improve on the county’s security and enable traders extend their operations into the night.

She also assured the Kenya Kwanza leaders that Kirinyaga County is solidly behind a Ruto presidency and that the county is ready to vote in UDA candidates in all the elective posts.

Other leaders present at the forum included MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Charles Kanyi (Jaguar) (Starehe), National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, UDA parliamentary and county assembly candidates and Governor Waiguru’s running mate David Githanda.

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