A roadside political announcement made during the 2017 campaigns has come to haunt hundreds of farmers within the vast Bura Irrigation Scheme in Tana River County after they received letters from the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) demanding payment of a Sh67.5 million debt.
The money had apparently been written off in a declaration by the Jubilee administration during the 2017 General Election campaigns.
Carrying letters which they had received from AFC Bank, farmers Wednesday held protests in Bura town asking the government to come clean on the issue as they have no money to repay the loan.
According to the letters, individual farmers are required to pay their loans with the interest accrued over the past two-and-a-half years.
“We do not understand why we are being asked to pay the loan despite the fact that Deputy President William Ruto directed the AFC to cancel the debt during the 2017 General Election campaigns. The issue is really frustrating us and we do not know where to start,” said Milka Samuel, one of the farmers.
Another farmer, Mr Macharo Mudi, said before receiving the loans, they were shocked to find out that more than 2,500 farmers had been listed with the credit reference bureau (CRB) hence lowering their credit rate.
“We are shocked by the AFC move. We have spoken with the manager in charge of the bank regarding the loan and to our surprise, there was no any written commitment by the government to pay the loan. It was just a roadside announcement,” said Mr Mudi.
He added, “We cannot now borrow from any financial institution until we are cleared by the CRB due to loan default records at the AFC Bank.”
Abdi Guracho, a farmer from Merti, said they are languishing in poverty as they cannot afford to pay for costs of farming.
He said many farmers have debts and that the National Irrigation Board is leasing the farms at Sh3,000 and charging water services at Sh5,000 per acre per season which locals cannot afford.
“We have no funds for farming, only outsiders are doing farming within the Bura Irrigation Scheme,’’ he said.
Mr Abdulkadir Mohammed, another farmer, said they now cannot afford to pay for costs of farming due to pending loans.
“National Irrigation Board leases land to farmers at Sh3,000 per 1.5acre farm and we have to pay Sh5,000 for water per season. The costs are currently high to many farmers resulting to many abandoning farming since we have no funds to cater for such costs,” said Mr Mohammed.
In the letters seen by the Daily Nation and signed by AFC Bank Bura Branch Manager Jackson Haro, the farmers have been asked to pay between Sh24,300 to more than 70,000 depending on the loan that one took, failure to which their assets will be sold.
Hirimani MCA Ismail Kodobo said the money was part of Sh125 million loan given by the AFC to Kenya Seed Board to supply seeds to farmers within Bura Irrigation scheme but they managed to pay only Sh40 million after the harvest.
“During Hussein Dado’s regime as governor of Tana River, he reportedly paid Sh12.5 million meaning Sh67.5 million is yet to be paid which now the AFC is demanding,” said Mr Kodobo.
During 2017 campaigns, DP Ruto visited the area twice and announced that the government had written off the loan.