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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 16 November 2014

OTHAYA COFFE E FARMERS HEADED FOR SPLIT ALONG POLITICAL FISSURES

Trouble is brewing at the giant Othaya Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society following a decision by members of Gatugi Factory to withdraw and hold separate elections in two weeks’ time.
Sources now say the planned elections which have been branded as unconstitutional intend to kick out the management committee. The fear is that Gatugi Factory is a major affiliate of the society and could easily influence other factories.
It is now feared that the co-operative could be headed for a major split. Word going round is that members have lost faith in the management, more so considering that they have failed to pay the farmers at the rates they had been promised.
To push forward their agenda, the farmers constituted a five member committee to take over the function of the factories. Members of the interim committee were drawn from Gatugi, Kamooini, Mahiga, Iriaini and Chinga factories.
Farmers claim their leaders never listen to their complaints and that last year, they had hoped to be paid Sh50 per kilo but this was not to be. But the management in a quick rejoinder claims that campaigns to oust them are politically motivated.
The battle for control of coffee milling and marketing has intensified in Nyeri as farmers push for more say over their produce. In Othaya, six of 18 coffee factories affiliated to the Othaya Farmers Co-operative Society have called for a split over alleged poor management and low pay by the society.
It has now emerged that the factories which are pushing for a split want to form their own co-operative society which will champion their interests. The said factories have been holding special general meetings and have already elected two members from each factory to spearhead the plan.
Sources say the factories which have planned to split have proposed to call themselves Karima Farmers Co-operative Society. Othaya Farmers Co-operative Society chairman Newton Nderitu said they will hold meetings with farmers in all 18 affiliated factories to iron out thorny issues affecting the farmers.
The management has however, accused Othaya MP Mary Wambui of being behind the planned crack. Wambui is known to have been pushing to have farmers control the marketing to counter Governor Nderitu Gachagua’s monopoly plot through his allies.
The current management of Othaya Cooperative is said to be sympathetic to Gachagua. Gachagua and Wambui are sworn political enemies. That Wambui hand is secret in the matter is well manifested with the appearance of one Julius Mitii in the formation of the new Sacco.
Mitii is a member of Kiruga Coffee Factory and happens to be the vice-chairman of Othaya Constituency Development Fund committee. Mitii is pushing for the formation of Karima Farmers Co-operative Society.
It is imperative to note that the 18 factories have been milling and doing their sells to foreign buyers since 2010. However, Othaya society, we have information, through its chairman Newton Nderitu,  has been planning to join the governor-led joint milling and marketing deal which has not gone down  well with a section of politicians.
Karima farmers earned Sh38 per kilo compared to Sh32 last year. Also set for split is Gatugi Factory which was paid Sh2.8 million compared to Sh9.6 million last year.