Miraa farmers in the miraa growing zones in Meru are divided over the formation of Mwenge Miraa Sacco.
While Agriculture Cabinet Secretary termed those opposed to disbursing government funds through the Sacco as enemies of development, a section of others insist they do not want to access the funds through it.
“I do not why funds allocated by the national government have to be given to Mwenge Sacco. I do not know who is behind the Sacco because its formation is shrouded in mystery,” said Martin Mithika, a Laare farmer.
But to ensure the SACCO has a presence and despite the disgruntled voices, Munya launched construction of Mwenge Sacco offices, at miraa zones of Muringene and Laare with another one coming up at Mutuati.
The CS said farmers and traders could borrow from an Sh122 million fund being disbursed through the Mwenge Miraa Sacco.
“We are giving them money for distribution in (miraa growing) wards. Farmers, boda boda operators, and traders can now borrow, at a friendly 3% interest. You can borrow to grow your business or even pay school fees and pay from your miraa proceeds,” the CS said.
Munya said the plan of the ministry is to open more offices in each of the miraa growing sub-counties.
“We said we start with two offices then open others in all wards in order to reach more people,” he said. He said the strategy is to have miraa farmers, traders, and other groups join the Mwenge Sacco and transform it into a major financial institution that will benefit the community.
“We want to grow it into a big financial institution. Even Equity Bank started as a society but it is now a big bank that has spread in Kenya. This (Mwenge) Sacco will grow. We have members in Tana River, Mombasa and Wajir. Miraa people are everywhere,” he said, urging residents to register as members.
At the time of going to press, Stanley Mungatia, the Chairman of the Sacco, said the Sh122m was in their accounts and urged more residents to register as members to get loans.
The 25 miraa growing wards in Meru County were allocated Sh5 million each disbursement of the Sh180 million government capitalized credit scheme even as a lobby group filed an application to cite the Munya for contempt of court.
Munya symbolically issued dummy cheques totaling Sh122 million to Mwenge Miraa Sacco saying it will, in turn, disburse the loans to registered members, at an interest of three percent per annum.
Farmers and traders lobbied for the credit scheme to cushion them against export bans in lucrative markets in the past decade which had made some of them lease out their farms for long periods.
Munya warned against politicizing miraa issues.
“The money we are giving will attract only three percent interest. Those who want to fight it in courts can go ahead,” said Munya.
The Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) had filed an application in court seeking to have him and officials in Agriculture Ministry and the Commodities Fund, citing contempt of court over the disbursement.
Nyamita, represented by Kobia Michubu had accused the minister of excluding them from the process, and for disbursing the kitty through Mwenge Sacco against court orders from a 2017 ruling that required that the lobby group and other miraa stakeholders involve the Meru County government.
Nyamita sought to have Munya, the Managing Trustee of the Commodities Fund Nancy Chelangat Cheruiyot and the PS-Ministry of Agriculture, Prof Hamadi Boga as accounting officer, committed to jail or fined for disobeying the orders it was granted on Nov 9, 2017, by the high court in Meru.
Justice Alfred Mabeya then ruled that Nyamita and the Meru county government must be involved in the implementation of the Miraa Taskforce Report.
But Nyamita claimed in court papers that Ministry of Agriculture officials had pronounced their desire to disburse public money through Mwenge Miraa Sacco which they describe as a single-sourced entity. Munya, however, at a series of meetings in the miraa region termed those opposed to disbursement of the money through Mwenge Sacco as ‘enemies of development.’
He asked residents to register with the SACCO in order to access the credit facility, saying the government was working to resolve the Somali government’s ban on miraa through diplomacy.