When Governor Peter Munya talks about the importance of financially empowering all people in Meru County, he isn’t just fooling because he has already identified the way to do that. “The sacco,” he says, “is the way to go.” And he adds, “My government will put into the women, youth and the general trader saccos to uplift their standards of living.”
Last year, the Meru County government gave Sh67.5 million to women, youth and traders saccos and announced plans to put up a cooperative university in Meru.
Savings and Credit Cooperatives
Why is he so keen on savings and credit cooperatives? Because he wants to lower the cost of loans so that the youth, women and traders can borrow more and invest in income generating businesses. “Meru has over 20 commercial banks but their interest rates are too high. That is why we have come up with this initiative that will enable them borrow three times of the money they save, at a friendly interest rate,” he says.
Munya is working on an old tradition in Meru. Ever since the cooperative movement was introduced in the country, the people of Meru took to it like a bee to nectar. There are more than 54 saccos in Meru covering almost every sector of life. There are saccos for water provision, saccos farming, youth saccos, women saccos, farming saccos, traders saccos and even traditional medicine saccos.
Traditional Medicine Sacco
A traditional medicine sacco, Meru Herbs Rural Sacco had 46 employees and 500 members by the last count. In addition it had over 100 seasonal employees. By 2010, it gave loans zmounting to more than two million shilling. And its ambition for 2016 was to increase membership to 1000 and its capital to Shs 10 million.
According to Munya, saccos are the way to fight poverty and create jobs. “We will give most of my government’s funds to the Saccos, because we believe they are an effective tool to fight poverty,” Mr. Munya says.
In Meru most households depend directly or indirectly on Saccos for their financial needs. Sustainable Saccos therefore will not only assist the individuals but also spur the economic growth of the county.
The county Government has come up with an elaborate programme of promoting and developing Saccos in the county. The strategy is to establish three Saccos in every sub-county to empower youth and women. And they have enjoined the central government where the department of Cooperatives and that of Youth and Gender are helping in recruiting youth and women to join saccos.
Early co-operatives in the county were mainly agro-based operating especially in coffee and dairy. And they performed so very well that many of the founders of national cooperative institutions such as the Cooperative Bank of Kenya were from Meru.
Most famous buildings in Meru town were put up by the cooperatives. They include Meru African Coffee Co-operative Union(MACCU) House, Meru Central Dairy Co-operative Union and Meru Multi-purpose (maize mill) buildings.
And recently, Mwalimu building in Meru and Maua Methodist Sacco building to name a few were acquired by Saccos.
They have even extended their influence to Nairobi where they own large buildings such as Imenti and Nyambene houses.
Recently Deputy President William Ruto helped raise money for a youth sacco.