The horticulture sub-sector is a shining jewel on Kenya’s crown as demonstrated by its exports that earned the country Sh72 billion between January and May this year.
This was an 11 per cent increase from the same period last year when the sub-sector raked in Sh65 billion.
The fact that the increase in value was recorded during a global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and despite a 12 per cent decline in volumes underscores the sub-sector’s resilience and potential.
Analysts argue that the sector offers policymakers at the county and national government the fastest route to pulling hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Kenyans from the grinding poverty brought about by subsistence farming.
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The good news is that some counties, including Laikipia, have seen the light and have taken baby steps in this direction.
The county clinched a Sh2 billion and Sh300 million partnership with KCB Bank and Co-operative Bank of Kenya on an interest-sharing and guarantee model that offers borrowers loans at 7.5 and 7.1 per cent, respectively.
It targets businesses and co-operatives with repayment periods of between 12 and 18 months.
The Co-operative Bank has also offered to match three times the amount the county government will deposit in the Enterprise Fund to ensure as many borrowers as possible benefit.
Besides, the bank will make available its full basket of services, including business training, workshops and consultancy services.
The hope is that the two banks will also be encouraged to venture out of their comfort zones and match exporters and farmers, by-passing the co-operatives where necessary, as many have proved to serve self-interests.
This is likely to persuade more cooperatives to get into the export markets where the pickings are better than selling the same produce locally. Perhaps, the national government will also get its field officers to grips with the rampant corruption that has eaten into the fabric of the co-operative movement countrywide so that it can play its rightful role of an intermediary between the farmer and the market.
This would prove particularly beneficial to farmers who produce for the local market, which is currently dominated by all manner of middle-men, including those who ran what can only be described as protectionist rackets.
The government’s tolerance of these barely disguised criminal gangs is what robs farmers their hard-earned cash as they usually get a pittance for their produce, whose valued doubles or even quadruples when it reaches the market.
Mbatau wa Ngai; [email protected]