Inside Waiguru’s plan to turn Kirinyaga into Japan

Japan remains one of the most industrialised Countries in the world, with a variety of Industries producing different products. Governor Anne Waiguru’s big ambitions can easily tell you what she intends for her County! Kirinyaga county plans to set up tomato processing and rice wine factories.

Governor Waiguru on Tuesday said the county struck a deal with private investors and sought help of international development partners.

Her administration has aligned its blueprint with the national government’s Big Four agenda — manufacturing, healthcare, affordable housing and food security. In line with these efforts, the county seeks to end subsistence farming and adopt industrial agriculture to spur growth.

Harvester in a rice paddy in Mwea, Kirinyaga /FILE

“We have also secured financial support from UKAID to set up a factory that converts rice waste, which is rice husk, into wood substitute by-products such as chipboard used in making furniture, learning materials for ECDE centres and building materials,” she said.

Waiguru spoke during the Sixth Annual Devolution Conference at Kirinyaga University.

The factories will provide livelihoods and improve the county’s economy. They will also support forest conservation, as residents will have alternatives to timber.

Kirinyaga is the leading producer of rice and tomatoes in the country. It produces 54,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year. Waiguru said most of them go to waste for lack of storage and processing facilities. The annual harvests will, therefore, sustain the factories and contribute to food security.

The county has also launched the Wezesha Kirinyaga Programme to empower women and the youth so they can engage in dairy, coffee and horticulture.

The county has taken advantage of the high demand for eggs to produce more and bridge the national shortfall.

“Through the Wezesha Kirinyaga poultry programme, we intend to produce a million eggs a month in the next seven months to curb the [countrywide] deficit,” Waiguru said.

“We are told we import 10 million eggs every month from Uganda.”

The county has prioritised expanding local markets to give farmers more opportunities to sell their produce. Traders will also earn more.

“In our first year, we built five markets and by June this year, we’ll have additional three markets completed,” the governor said. “Therefore, in less than three years, we’ll have eight new markets completed across Kirinyaga,” Waiguru said.

The Kirinyaga Investment Authority board will continue engaging investors. The county wants its manufacturing sector to contribute 20 per cent of the national GDP by 2022.

The administration says health will also be critical towards the achievement of its development goals. Waiguru said they have studied the real cost of health at the household level. The county benchmarked in Makueni and Kitui counties. Reducing disease burden will ensure a healthy workforce.

The county chief said the Sh6,000 NHIF premiums per household annually were beyond the financial reach of most residents. They established that Sh1,500 per household per year is enough to provide basic healthcare.

The county will be rolling out a health insurance cover that allows every household to access affordable primary healthcare services.

In terms of housing, Kerugoya–Kutus was one of the 10 municipalities selected by the sustainable urban economic development programme targeted by the UKAID for grants.

Its upgrade will create sustainable urban infrastructure that will support the growth of the urban population and achieve affordable housing.

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