For the first time and in a more encouraging gesture, leaders and professionals in Kakamega County have started a vigorous campaign for the formation of Savings and credit co-operatives (Saccos) besides reviving those that had become dormant.
According to the County Woman Rep Elsie Muhanda Saccos have played a major role in improving the lives of many Kenyans as it encourages them to save money besides offering them a platform to get needed funds to finance their plans.
“There are several micro-financing societies in the country promoting a savings and investment culture. These Saccos provide their clients with valuable information that allows them to invest in the best markets with a promise of big returns and Kakamega residents must not been left behind in this front.
The County Woman Rep Elsie Muhanda was speaking when she relaunched the Kakamega County Women Maendeleo Sacco at Bukhungu Stadium, expected to increase the savings and loan limits for members.
She believes the society would provide a banking platform where members can save and borrow loans to start and run their businesses.
The Sacco was started in 1972 and was ideally meant to voice the concerns of women in Western Kenya but went under after and remained dormant for decades.
Now renewed and strengthened, has several branches including Lurambi Traders Sacco, Maendeleo ya Wanawake, Ikolomani Dairy and Umbrella Sacco among others.
Muhanda says the society also creates leadership opportunities for both members and non-members apart from just providing a base for saving and borrowing. “Through the society, we are committed to changing the belief that women were created for house chores and other domestic duties.”
She says the poverty index of the county would reduce by great measures if more women became self-employed and independent. She warned leaders against inducing politics and ethnic prejudice in the affairs of saccos saying doing so cripples the intended motive, desire and aspiration of members.
Christine Achieng’ used to roast maize in Kakamega town, “My loan limit has grown to KSh 900,000 after saving with the Sacco for six months only. Today I am a hospital sanitarian. I joined the society in June 2018 and has been saving since then. My loan has matured and I expect to get a total of KSh 900, 000 that I will use to build rental houses.I encourage other women to join societies and start saving so as to increase their loan limits.”
The society has a total of 12,000 registered members and Ksh 20 million in its bank account. Bodaboda operators have also embraced the initiative. Already about 300 of them have come together to save and share investment-related ideas.
In an interview with a Journalist, Sacco’s chairman Anthony Adika says the society has enabled them to voice their concerns with courage and maturity.
“Currently, we contribute Ksh 200 each per month to meet our goals which include members’ welfare and strengthening of the society. I encourage bodaboda operators not yet with us to join the society for the good of their business,” Adika.
The operators requested the county government to build for them parking sheds for customers along Kakamega road after they were directed to move to the main bus-park in town.
Meanwhile the County government has been encouraging them to form societies. For instance, it allocated Ksh 30 million this financial year for setting up of sugarcane farmers’ cooperative societies in an attempt to revive the industry.
According to the County Commissioner of Cooperatives Nathan Mkhweso, his office had started sensitising farmers to form Saccos to facilitate easy access to county equipment and services by the farmers.
He said the county had bought 15 tractors to be used by farmers but which they intend to release through cooperatives for accountability purposes.
Mkhweso says his department intends to equip farmers with new farming skills and technology by organising training and seminars within the societies.
He observed that the county was making good progress in terms of formation of societies. There are 280 active societies and I would encourage residents to form more because it is easier for them to raise their grievances as a cooperative than as an individual,” he said. Already, farmers from Shirugu Village in Malava, Kakamega North, have started plans to form a Sacco.
William Muchite, a professional in the cooperative field who is a resident of Malekha sub-location, together with a team of dedicated locals, is spearheading this agenda. The group held a members’ meeting at Shirugu Friends Church early in January 2019 where an interim office chaired by retired civil servant Absolom Shikanga was appointed.
The group already has a name for the Sacco and plans are at an advanced stage to get it registered. “It is through this initiative that we will come out of poverty and be counted among respected communities like the Kisii who have little shambas but heavily invest in cooperative societies,” Muchite said during the meeting attended by hundreds of enthusiastic residents.
Upon his appointment as interim chair, Shikanga encouraged locals to embrace the idea saying time had come for the people to make a great step into financial freedom and stability.
“This is the time. Time is ripe. Let look at the big picture and we shall all be happy at the end, and we shall earn praise among our generations to come,” he said. According to area administrator Simon Aswan, the idea of forming a cooperative was welcome adding that he fully supports it and promised more support from the government. “This is all for our own good.
The government is more than willing, more than ready to help grow such ideas fronted by the people, for themselves,” he said. Aswan was categorical that both the national and county government was ready to offer necessary support to the locals and urged them not to give up but, make use of their sons and daughters who have expertise and experience in the sector