Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu hit the ground running after her inauguration on August 21, rolling out health, water and wealth creation programmes.
Having inherited a government whose development priorities were different from her five-point manifesto, Mrs Ngilu embarked on radical changes to the county’s plans.
In her first 100 days in office, she pursued trade treaties with lucrative foreign markets for farm produce from Kitui and started an overhaul of the county’s health sector.
In a partnership with Kenya Red Cross, the governor collected 400 tonnes of green gram seeds worth Sh108 million, which were distributed to more than 200,000 households in the county last month.
Each low-income household got a 2kg packet of free seeds, which could yield at least 200kg for export in January. “If each kg of seeds yields a minimum of 100 kg produce, this will give our county a total of 40,000 tonnes of green grams (40 million kg), Mrs Ngilu said, adding that if the harvest was sold at a conservative price of Sh100 per kg, the county could earn an estimated Sh4 billion in one season.
The seeds subsidy is in addition to what farmers will buy from shops.
Kenya Red Cross secretary-general Abbas Gullet said they had set aside Sh500 million to facilitate export of green grams — commonly known as ndengu — from local farmers.
He said demand for Kenyan green grams in Asian countries like India, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan was very high.
The programme, dubbed “Ndengu revolution”, has seen the county government engage more partners like Kephis, South Eastern Kenya University and First American Bank for research and financial support.
Mrs Ngilu wants the county assembly to enact strict legislation to protect farmers from exploitative brokers.
“Devolution was not just about putting up concrete structures but about developing people’s capacities to unshackle them from poverty,” she said.
During campaigns, Mrs Ngilu also promised to exploit her international networks to make Kitui a model county in the provision of quality and affordable healthcare.
In her first week in office, she secured donor support to recruit 60 nurses from Jhpiego, an international non-profit health organisation affiliated to United States’ Johns Hopkins University.
During the nurses’ strike, the American donor provided four mobile clinics and gave Kitui county funds to renovate dilapidated health facilities.
This month, 35 specialised medical staff – 27 doctors and eight pharmacists – were seconded from the Ministry of Health to ease a staff shortage, while the US government donated medical equipment worth Sh99 million.