When Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui took office in 2017, revamping of the agriculture sector was one of his flagship projects.
In his manifesto, Governor Kinyanjui promised to revive the lucrative sector.
Two years after he took office, the county chief, who is in an ambitious plan to reinvigorate the sector, is now banking on cooperative societies to put more profits in farmers’ pockets.
Over the past few months, Mr Kinyanjui’s administration has been working to revitalise cooperatives and encouraging farmers to form new ones in bid to help them tap into market opportunities and boost their income.
According to the county government, cooperative societies are the best way to protect farmers from exploitation by middlemen and attract government funding.
“Most farmers in crop and dairy farming are not tapping maximum market potential because they are not members of cooperatives. My administration and the national government is keen to help farmers organised in cooperatives,” said Governor Kinyanjui in an interview with the Nation.
He added, “We are in talks with the national government and development partners to help farmers avoid post-harvest losses through establishment of, for instance, cold rooms for produce like potatoes and carrots and value addition factories.
Those targeted by the Nakuru government include dairy farmers, whom the county wants to help tap into value addition for their milk so that they can compete effectively in the market.
Other products targeted are coffee, potatoes and avocados among other crops.
The county government seeks to help farmers create market linkages to tap into the insatiable international market.
It is also seeking to revive pyrethrum farming and inject new life into the collapsed, yet lucrative sector.
The county government plans to distribute seedlings worth Sh45 million to farmers in the 2019/2020 financial year.
Nakuru, regarded as a key food basket in the Rift Valley region, is an agriculturally rich county and a leading producer of potatoes, carrots, milk, vegetables and pyrethrum among other crops.
Molo, Kuresoi South and North, Subukia, Njoro and Bahati are among the county’s main agricultural producers.
Governor Kinyanjui has now challenged farmers to move from subsistence farming and penetrate the high-value export market, besides joining cooperatives to help access services and market their produce.
“My administration has initiated plans to ensure Nakuru exports her crops to East African countries like Uganda and also international markets including Europe. I urge farmers to seek ways of optimising there production,” stated Mr Kinyanjui.
Currently, there are at least 500 cooperatives and saccos in the county.
County executives for Trade and Agriculture have been holding sensitisation forums across Nakuru to encourage farmers to join cooperatives.
The county is also developing a legislation that will support saccos and cooperative movements.
According to Trade CEC Raymond Komen, the County Cooperatives Revolving Bill is awaiting approval by the assembly and once passed it will give an affordable source of credit for cooperative and saccos development within Nakuru.
Some of the cooperative societies the county is targeting include Olenguruone Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society, Suka Farmers Cooperatives Society in Subukia among others.
Agriculture CEC Immaculate Maina, while addressing French bean farmers in Subukia recently, reiterated the importance of linking with ward and sub-county agriculture officers and to work collectively to improve their product and service quality and reduce risks.
Dr Maina further urged the farmers to join cooperatives.
She also encouraged farmers to register at their respective sub-county offices so as to benefit from subsidised farm inputs.
“Registered farmers have access to cheaper fertilizer and seedlings provided by the national and county governments,” she said.
Nakuru Cooperative Commissioner Naftali Omari in an interview with the Nation also said the county government is keen on promoting cooperative societies in the region.