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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Murang’a farmers oppose move by county to take over tea management


A move by the Murang’a county government to take over management of tea has met stiff opposition from farmers.
Farmers in Ngere, Njunu and Makomboki factories have threatened to uproot their crop if the Mwangi Wa Iria county government goes ahead with its plans.
The growers who were taking part in the election of directors vowed that they will not allow the county government to replace Kenya Tea Development Agency.
This follows a decision by the county assembly’s trade committee to form the Murang’a Tea Board and Tea Corporation as it prepares to pass a law to take over the services being undertaken by KTDA.
The move which is spearheaded by MCAs Mwangi Kirigwi of Kinyona ward who is also the trade committee chairman and Muhoro Wa Njeri  of Kariara ward has sparked bitter protests from farmers and leaders in the tea sector who have vowed to use all means at their disposal to oppose it.
Kirigwi, a former KTDA board member was accused of having a bone to pick with his former employer after he was removed from office while Muhoro was said to be fighting a political opponent in the tea sector.
Farmers threatened to hold demonstrations to oppose the county government’s intentions which they said could spell doom to the tea sector if implemented.
Ngere factory chairman  Johnson Kinyua said the county decision could see the collapse of the sector in Murang’a which produces 20pc of tea in the country.
“The county government has no capacity to handle the operations currently being carried out by KTDA and we think its intentions are suspect,” the official said.
Ngere factory director Henry Karuma who was re-elected from Ndakaini zone accused Agriculture cabinet secretary Felix Koskei of being behind the move to devolve tea to the counties.
He said the low prices of tea in the international market were mitigated by high production and thanked Uhuru Kenyatta for introducing a subsidy for fertilizer.
Ngere factory produced 31 million kilogrammes of tea last year compared to 18 million in 2013; he said and added that this year they target 35 million kilos.
At Makomboki Factory in Kigumo constituency farmers objected to the proposed construction of Sh23.5 billion underground water tunnel by Athi Water Services Board to tap water from three rivers and drain it into Ndaka-ini Dam to increase the volume and double water supply to Nairobi.
They claimed that the construction will destroy water tables leading to low tea production in their farms and called on the county leadership to have the project stopped.
The project is meant to harness the waters of Irati, Gikigie and Maragua rivers to increase production to the city by 140,000 cubic metres by 2017.
Njuguna Gathara, an environmentalist, said the tunnel which will be three metres wide and is planned to be constructed a kilometre from the borders of the Aberdares forest will also affect environment.
He told a farmers’ meeting that a report by National Environment Management Authority on the project funded by World Bank had failed to address various issues.
Environmentalists are concerned over the dangers posed to the region if the project is implemented and called for its deferral.