Taita-Taveta gemstone dealers have launched a savings and cooperative society (Sacco) that will give out loans to small and medium-scale miners and dealers who cannot access credit facilities from commercial banks.
Taita-Taveta Gemstone Dealers’ Credit and Savings Cooperative Society is the first Sacco in the country that will exclusively advance capital to miners and dealers’ for prospecting and growth of their mining business.
During the Sacco’s elections on Thursday, over 130 members voted for officials with Mr. Benson Mwangi being voted the chairperson. Mr. Mwangi, who is also the chair for Voi Gemology Center, will be deputized by Mr. Onesmus Mwashighadi. Other officials elected during the elections include Mathias Matala as the secretary and Dorine Mugambi treasurer.
The elections were overseen by Voi Cooperative Development officer Mr. Nickson Mwadime who urged members to hold their officials to account. He added that the success of the Sacco would depend on the commitment of the officials and members.
“This is a giant step and you must all be committed to the goals of this Sacco,” said Mr. Mwadime.
During the meeting, the members approved the Sacco’s borrowing power to be pegged at Sh 150 million in its first year.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Mwangi said the Sacco was the first step in a journey that aims to establish a gemstone miners’ and dealers’ bank. He stated that although gemstone mining was an economic activity with vast returns, the sector remained neglected as commercial banks were reluctant to offer loans to miners citing the risks involved in prospecting of gemstones.
Mr. Mwangi said the Sacco would issue loans to miners and also guarantee the product authenticity to weed our crooks who swindled buyers their money. “Our mission is to support miners and dealers even as we help restore the glory of this sector,” he said.
He noted that potential investors were hesitant to sink their money in the industry due to unscrupulous miners who sold colored pieces of glasses to unsuspecting buyers as genuine gemstones.
He said the Sacco would ensure both the dealers and the buyers undertake clean business.
“The sacco will also help in confidence-building for buyers who will now have a platform where they can be heard,” he said.
Mr. Mwangi added that he was hopeful the gemstone center would start operating to allow dealers and miners sell their gemstones at the facility.
The Sacco is poised to accept membership from gemstone dealers and miners from other regions to boost its membership and increase the capital base.
County geologist Kennedy Omito said the government would support mining activities in a bid to uplift the lives of the miners. He added that the Sacco would be a platform for miners to strategize on how they can help in national development.
“The government is willing to come to your aid when you need it. Mining is a key economic activity that can transform your lives,” he said.
Mr. Gabriel Mcharo, the chair of Chawia Miners Community Based Organization (CBO) said all miners in the region should support the group stating that it was for their own good. He added that petty politics should be avoided to ensure the Sacco’s growth.
By Wagema Mwangi