NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 30 – The government has pledged to revive co-operative movements that buy and distribute agricultural produce to enhance food security in the country.
President Mwai Kibaki on Friday pointed out that cooperative societies such as the defunct Kenya Farmers Association have a key role in ensuring access to affordable food for all, and price stability at a time when the country is grappling with a food shortage.
“I therefore urge the Ministry of Co-operatives and Kenyans in general to work towards the revival of bulking and retailing co-operatives so that members may access farm supplies on time and at affordable prices,” he appealed.
The Head of State observed that these produce-buying societies were very instrumental in ensuring the availability of food in the country in the 1970s and 1980s, but the numbers had since declined, while some had become dormant.
Speaking during celebrations to mark 100 years since the cooperative movement was started in Kenya, the President relayed that this was what informed his administration’s decision to restore the societies in the dairy, coffee and cotton sub-sectors.
The government has since 2003 reinstated 734 co-operative societies, which are now rendering services to members, while creating employment opportunities for Kenyans. The organisations include the New Kenya Co-operatives Creameries, which have been turned around into a profit-making firm. During the function, the company’s management presented a Sh30 million cheque to the President as dividend for 2008.
It is estimated that the co-operatives sector, which has 12,000 registered co-operative societies and a membership of seven million people, employs over 300,000 Kenyans directly and many more indirectly.
At the same time, President Kibaki also urged new and existing societies to venture into agro-processing and value addition of food products, particularly cereals.
“Since co-operatives are not profit centred, their participation in cereals milling or producing and packaging maize flour would lower costs for consumers, make food more affordable and create employment,” he said.
He also called on the youth to join the movement, which would enable them to earn a sustainable income.
“With a positive attitude to life and hard work, our youth, particularly those without formal employment can prosper through co-operatives,” he encouraged, while pointing out that the government, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports was working towards promoting youth co-operative societies.
He also vowed to address the challenges facing the sector by creating an appropriate regulatory framework, to promote the growth of the sector.
The SACCO Bill, which will soon be tabled in Parliament he added, was a step towards this direction.
“A law specific to SACCOs is necessary so as to enact provisions on issues of financial propriety, good governance, adoption and maintenance of prudential standards and disclosures as well as facilitate the creation of a deposit protection fund to safeguard the interests of members,” he emphasised.