I joined other co-operators to celebrate the 99th International Day of Co-operatives popularly known in Kenya as Ushirika Day. This is a special day where Kenyans join the rest of the world to reflect on the importance of the co-operative movement worldwide.
Uasin Gishu County is one of the very few counties in our country marking this day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We made a decision to mark this day with a few co-operators representing the rest owing to the importance we accord the co-operative movement.
This year’s theme “Rebuild Better Together “ comes at a time when the world economy with Kenya’s economy not an exception, has been ravaged by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many industries and institutions have closed down and millions of jobs lost.
As a result, many co-operatives have also closed down with a good number of those that survived loosing millions of members. Co-operatives therefore play a key role in rebuilding economies by building capital through accumulation of shares and deposits.
The Co-operative movement has impacted positively on the lives of the people of Uasin Gishu County. My administration through the Department of Co-operatives and Enterprise Development has achieved a lot in the areas of registration of new co-operative societies and revival of dormant ones.
This has enabled access to affordable credit by co-operatives through the Co-operative Enterprise Development Fund, capacity building to improve governance, promotion of value addition and governance and compliance through audit.
The SACCO sub-sector which covers the employee based and business sector of our economy has mobilized domestic savings to the tune of over Kshs. 4.5 billion from a membership of over 82,500.
The mobilization of savings by the business subsector is quite encouraging and I would like to impress upon the farmer-based co-operatives to follow suit.
With assistance from my administration the movement have made encouraging growth, the current number of registered co-operatives stands at 731 as at 30th June 2021, 276 having been registered since devolution.
We have had a structured continuous revival program that has resulted in 55 co-operatives revived since the advent of devolution. The active co-operative societies currently are 412.
The membership in these co-operatives has stabilized at slightly over 117,600 because the increase has been swallowed up by loss of membership occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.
In the year under review my government spent a substantial amount of funds for the improvement of governance through training of co-operative leaders, both management and supervisory committee members and also the general membership.
Emphasis was made in training of the supervisory committee because of the important role they play in the overall governance of co-op eratives. A total of 698 co-operative leaders were trained from 96 co-operative societies.
The department had planned several bench marking tours locally and abroad but due to the pandemic, we got to appreciate what we have within the county.
Several co-operatives including the unions made visits to other co-operative societies and processors and through these visits, Marathon and Borotet co-operative unions have crystalized their value addition ideas and construction will commence soon.
As I have said in the past, value addition is the way to go for our farm produce if our farmers are to reap from their hard labor. Our strategy is to do value addition for maize and milk, which are our main produce in the county.
I am happy that members of co-operatives from marketing co-operative societies in Moiben and Soy sub counties have mobilized shares to the tune of Kshs. 50 million towards the construction of a maize milling plant and my government has injected Kshs. 215 million.
Although this is not enough as the amount outstanding is still huge, it shows the desire and commitment by the co-operators to solve the perennial challenge of marketing maize that we have faced in our county for decades.
The project is supposed to be complete by now and I urge the new officials to fast track and complete it. The other two unions, Marathon Farmers Co-operative Union that covers Kapseret and Turbo and Borotet Farmers Co-operative Union that covers Ainabkoi and Kesses have been slow in mobilizing shares to do their projects.
In the year under review, my government allocated each of them stores for maize with Borotet Farmers Co-operative Society benefitting from a 15,000 bags capacity store while Marathon got a 30,000 capacity store. Each of the two stores was constructed fully with funds from the county coffers.
I urge them to move with speed in undertaking their projects with the county will inject a total of 100 million.
The overall objective of the value addition process is for members of co-operatives affiliated to these three unions to benefit from improved prices from finished products which will result in better incomes for them. The unions are also expected to source for affordable fertilizer and seeds.
My administration established the Co-operative Enterprise Development Fund in the year 2014 with a small amount of Kshs. 20 million. The Fund has since grown in leaps and bounds and has so far disbursed Kshs. 502,788,033 million to 175 co-operatives.
These funds have resulted in the financial turnaround in many co-operatives as members have received loans and others have started projects. I particularly want to recognize co-operatives that have invested in asset financing in the last financial year.
New progressive FCS and Olendu Elders Co-operative purchased brand new tractors, Kongasis Kina FCS and Tuiyotich FCS purchased pickups, while Tuiyoluk FCS purchased a milk tanker.
I also wish to recognize co-operatives that purchased assets from their own funds for example, Cheptiret Farmers Co-operative Society that purchased 11 tonnes truck. This shows growth and maturity in the sector.
In an effort to revamp the co-operative movement, the department has introduced co-operative re-engineering program covering 60 co-operatives.
We started with baseline survey and we expect to run several activities ranging from capacity building to enhancement of use of technology. Staff have already been trained and are ready to roll out the program.
I wish to point out that this department now has sufficient staff composed of co-operative officers, enterprise officers and auditors with some deployed to offer book-keeping services to upcoming co-operatives that are still not financially stable.
Let me emphasize again that co-operatives play a key role in the achievement of the Big 4 Agenda through mobilization of savings for investments.
However, savings alone is not enough but equally important is how these savings are invested to generate more wealth and income. There is need for the movement to be innovative and exploit opportunities coming through the expanding economy.
1) In the Housing Sector, I wish to recognize co-operatives that have ventured into this capital-intensive sector and succeeded in putting up buildings or purchasing land.
We have examples like Uasin Gishu Mwalimu Investment Co-operative who have two buildings both valued at Kshs.126 million and Kokwatai Investment Co-operative among others also with two buildings both valued at 57.4 million.
My advice to you is that careful consideration should be made before venturing into these projects to avoid loss of members’ funds as has been the case in some co-operatives.
2) In the area of Manufacturing, the County has identified the unions in spearheading value addition. However, we need to consider other options.
For instance, in cases where capacity or technology is limited, options of Co-operative Private Partnerships (CPP) can be negotiated.
This way our County through co-operatives will be able to participate in big manufacturing business and therefore create the jobs that we really need and importantly, putting a big part of our economy under the residents of Uasin Gishu.
3) Universal Health- Co-operatives must now put UHC as a key component of their services because health is wealth. We cannot talk about wealth creation without talking about health. Co-operatives must ensure all their members have NHIF cards to enable them access health services.
Our dream of being self regulated has been realized. The department prepared the County Co-operative Societies Bill to enable co-operatives to be regulated by a County Act.
This is after the challenges that were experienced while regulating the co-operatives using the national Act which does not recognize devolution.
This bill was presented to the County Assembly and has since been passed and gazetted and is now an Act of the County Assembly and implementation is set to start immediately.
I further urge you Co-operative leaders to embrace ICT mobile platform that will encourage and motivate the youth to participate in co-operative ventures.
We are also working on automation of all co-operative societies to ease flow of information for better decision making.
In conclusion, I wish to assure the co-operative movement of my Government’s commitment in providing an enabling environment for the sector, so that it continues playing its vital role in the economic development of our great County.
Thank you and God bless you all.