Deputy President William Ruto has promised to increase funding for loans to the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) from Sh5 billion to Sh20 billion, reduce interest rates and remove the need for collateral if he wins in August.
The DP, who was leading the Kenya Kwanza Kajiado County economic forum, said he will reduce the interest rate to 5 per cent from the current 18 per cent.
“We want farmers to access a reasonable amount of money that can improve their livelihood,” he said.
He added that farmers should not be asked for collateral when taking out an AFC loan, and the only requirement should be that one is registered under a cooperative society. Dr Ruto reaffirmed his commitment to empower Kajiado farmers economically to boost their livelihoods.
The DP was accompanied by other Kenya Kwanza luminaries including his running mate Rigathi Gachagua, Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) and Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, among other political leaders.
During the session, persistent drought, livestock diseases, low milk prices, lack of market for beadwork, land conflicts and cross border business emerged as the key challenges.
The DP said that to mitigate adverse drought effects, his government will invest in drilling for water, hay harvesting and a lucrative livestock off-take program.
In what appeared to be hitting at the revamped Kenya Meat Commission, now run by the Kenya Defence Forces, Mr Gachagua asked the farmers to detail how the facility was beneficial to them.
In a Kenya Kwanza government, Mr Gachagua said, the institution’s leadership will include a local director to ensure proper representation.
He added that AFC and Kenya Wildlife Services will also have a director representing the interests of the Maa community.
“Having a director in the three key agencies will facilitate harmonious working relationships to ensure farmers who lose livestock to marauding wildlife are compensated,” Mr Gachagua said.
DP Ruto said his government will focus on modern livestock farming by introducing more productive meat and milk breeds of cattle as well as value addition of animal products including milk, bones and hides and skins.
“Kenya slaughters up to three million cattle per year. The hides and skins from these cattle can cut the cost of shoe imports by up to 50 per cent ... Having high quality breeds will also ensure meat and milk yields increase five-fold and eventually boost the farming sector,” DP Ruto said.
“Kenya Kwanza will reduce cost of production and inputs to empower small-scale businesses. We will also come up with policies of standardising business with our neighbouring countries. Equality will ensure that both countries have equal opportunities to freely do business,” he added.
To empower women, the DP said he is already in touch with the Polish government to supply 22 milk coolants to the county and provide a beads market. He said the government’s Ushanga project has not achieved tangible milestones in empowering residents.
Mr Mudavadi also questioned the level of involvement of locals in KMC, saying the management is intimidating.
“How is your relationship with KMC? When the government introduced export duty on hides and skins, were you as farmers involved? ’’ he asked.
Later in Taita-Taveta, Dr Ruto avoided talk of land at the Coast, days after acknowledging he owns 2,500 acres in the county.
Instead, the DP dwelt on “deep state” in reference to state operatives out to stop his quest for the presidency in the August 9 polls.
Taita-Taveta women representative Lydia Haika was the only leader who defended the DP on his land, saying he decided to be transparent about the land.
“There is nothing like a deep state or system. All that is hot air. I cannot and I will never be rigged,” said DP Ruto, adding that the coming election was his to lose.
Additional reporting by Anthony Kitimo and Lucy Mkanyika