The 5th annual Lake Region Economic Bloc Summit kicked off yesterday in Siaya County with delegates from member counties converging at the Siaya KMTC Grounds to deliberate on issues geared towards fast tracking the implementation process of the association as lake region.
The deliberations starting with the Council of Leaders meeting with the Governors were largely dominated by talks on how the bloc can be used to revamp the region’s economic potential with key highlights being; the sugar sector reforms, revitalization of the cotton industry with top agenda being the revival of KICOMI, improved fish production and climate change as well as youth empowerment among others.
Kisumu Governor Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o while addressing the leaders was very categorical on what needs to be done to re-awaken the sugar sector which is, the implementation of the sugar sector reforms as recommended by the Sugar Sector Review Committee earlier set up by the President and him being a member.
The committee that was co-chaired by Kakamega Governor and LREB Chair Wycliffe Oparanya made several proposals to the government on how the sugar industry can succeed including ensuring that farmers become the key persons, putting into place fair farm gate prices for farmers produce and easy access to market.
This has been a challenge overtime resulting from unfair competition from the sugar barons that have flooded the market with cheap imports. Other radical recommendations included the return of Zoning, return of the Sugar Board and the Sugar Development Levy that will help in building requisite infrastructure for the industry and provision of necessary inputs.
The Governor also challenged the bloc to come together and constitute a technical team that will develop a good cotton policy to be implemented across the counties that will ensure a rapid response mechanism to deal with any challenges such as invasion by pests. He made it clear that the revival of KICOMI should be accompanied by a one stop system that brings all services together as a means of job creation for the bloc’s citizenry.
Other key concerns raised by other leaders included the development of a regional climate change policy, creation of factories for value addition for farmers produce like fruits and vegetables, and a change of attitude by members towards technical training.
Members were urged to encourage the youth to take up technical training to equip them with the necessary skills needed for the growing economies. The message was that the region has potential and the bloc should do all it can to empower members on their areas of specialty.
The talks continue today with the Governor’s Summit being a key area of focus and a media engagement forum.