Mt Kenya region yet to see fruits of poll pledges to boost economy

At the time, Ruto said the forums would form the basis of a social contract between him and the Mt Kenya region people, and "would end the culture of political deceit, conmanship and the politics of tribal grouping."

"We have come to sit with you so that can we agree on priorities. We want the priorities written in charters so that we have an agreement between the Kenya Kwanza government and Nyeri residents," he said.

Following the launch of the Nyeri County economic plan, similar gatherings took place in the Mt Kenya region, culminating in a comprehensive 70-page economic charter for the area.

In this regional charter, the Kenya Kwanza administration planned to allocate Sh4 billion to each of the 10 counties: Kiambu, Murang'a, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Nakuru, Embu, Meru, and Tharaka Nithi.

This Sh40 billion was intended for special projects in each county to enhance value addition and promote industrial development. The counties were also expected to contribute additional funds for these initiatives.

Former Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, who led the Mlima House team responsible for implementing the economic charters in the region, stated that the national government would allocate funds for major infrastructure projects based on the guidelines of the charter.

"The Nyeri economic blueprint formed the basis of the Kenya Kwanza administration, and we later used it as a template for other counties. It entailed the plan on value addition, the establishment of aggregation centres, and improvement of farm gate price of our agricultural produce," he said.

Mr Mwaura said that the Mt Kenya economic charter, which the President ratified at the Catholic University on August 5, proposed the establishment of a common manufacturing industry in counties sharing the same agricultural produce such as coffee, miraa, tea and potatoes.

"Although most of the promises have not been initiated, the President has shown commitment by allocating Sh100 billion for industrial parks in the region and that rounds up to Sh4 billion in every county," Mwaura told The Standard on the phone.

He added that several challenges, including depleted finances and a lack of coordination among the governors, were impeding the execution of the social contracts. These contracts are intended to serve as benchmarks for evaluating the performance of the Kenya Kwanza administration in 2027.

"Most of the citizens' priority list contains devolved functions, and governors need to align them with their manifestos and the County Integrated Development Plans," he said.

However, Ruto is of the opinion that during his first year in office, he has successfully addressed issues such as the implementation of the Competency-Based Curriculum, the hiring of 56,000 teachers, the initiation of Technical and Vocational Education and Training scholarships and funding, and the injection of Sh90 billion into universities that were on the brink of shutting down.

President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua meet Field Marshall Muthoni, the wife of General Stanley Mathenge, at Sagana State Lodge, Nyeri. [PCS]

"We have increased university funding from Sh14 billion to Sh20 billion, where Sh630 billion has been set aside for the education sector. Mt Kenya region just like other regions is a beneficiary of this move," the President said.

Ruto also points to agricultural initiatives, including the subsidisation of farming inputs for Sh12 billion. According to the President, the government has successfully registered five million farmers, and nearly two million of them have already received fertiliser.

This effort has helped fill the gap of 10 million bags, while reducing fertiliser costs to Sh2,500. This reduction in cost has been the reason behind the bumper harvest.

He also said that under his leadership, he managed to stabilize the economy by reducing fiscal debts from Sh1.2 trillion to Sh700 billion.

The President said that for the first time, the government has fully disbursed all county allocations, whereas in the previous administration, there were outstanding arrears of Sh30 billion for the counties.

During the election campaign, Ruto pledged to complete stalled infrastructure projects, including the Mau Mau Road, which he claimed had been delayed due to the 'costly handshake' between Uhuru and Raila.

However, just two months after his election, the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) halted the construction of the 54km road, which was intended to connect Nyeri and Nyandarua counties.

While cancelling the project, KeNHA claimed they did not get environmental impact assessment (EIA) approvals from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

"The EIA approvals would have granted KeNHA possession of the site for the 33km stretch from Kiandogoro Gate to Mutubio Gate, which is under Aberdare National Park and Aberdare Forest," the agency explained.

According to the KWS, the planned road project would have led to the destruction of the natural forest within the Aberdare ecosystem.

The Kenya Kwanza government had also committed to establishing guaranteed minimum returns for the region's agricultural products. However, a year after assuming power, the earnings from coffee and macadamia have declined.

In an unforeseen turn of events, macadamia nuts are now being sold in markets for as little as Sh20 per kilogram, a significant drop from the previous range of Sh150 to Sh200, as processors have stopped buying the produce due to lack of markets in Europe and America.

Many farmers in the Mt Kenya region have threatened to uproot their macadamia trees if the government does not come up with measures to address this issue.

"I have brought up my family through macadamia farming, but we have never experienced such a situation. If no measures are put in place to save the industry, our children will be reading from history that there was once macadamia farming in Kenya," John Maina, a farmer, said.