Disillusioned farmers in Koriema area and its environs in Baringo South constituency of Baringo County who had abandoned the Aloe Vera crop in 2004 due to poor management and lack of market can now breathe a sigh of relief after the County government signed a Prior Informed Consent (PIC) with a Chinese firm.
The signing of the PIC on commercialization of the Aloe Vera crop in the county allows the investor, Zonken Company Limited, to purchase the aloe sap from the farmers as well as promote the growing of the crop in areas with suitable climatic conditions like Tiaty, Baringo North, Mogotio and Kerio Valley region.
Area Governor Stanley Kiptis thanked the Chinese investor, a local subsidiary based in Kenya, for accepting to invest in the county assuring them of maximum support from his administration.
He is optimistic that with the coming in of the investor, farmers in Koriema, Kimalel, Sabor and other parts of Marigat Sub County who had abandoned the enterprise will start planting the crop once again.
The farmers who enthusiastically embraced Aloe farming in 2004 especially around Koriema and its surroundings become disenchanted shortly after the construction of a factory in the area failed to take off and turned to be a white elephant.
The investor then, according to a memorandum of understanding signed between the main partners KEFRI and KWS, was to promote growing of the crop, undertake marketing and purchase the Aloe sap from the farmers.
“We have about 7000 square kilometres of land in Baringo South and Baringo North available for growing of Aloe Vera and I encourage our farmers to go back to the farm once more. The enterprise will go a long way in changing livelihoods of our people,” he said.
The Governor, along with his deputy Jacob Chepkwony, promised the company that they will be allocated land to set up a factory to facilitate processing of the product.
Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren who witnessed the signing of the MOU described the occasion as a new beginning in a long trajectory of looking for a potential investor that was willing to revive the stalled project. He added that he will ensure the project succeeds.
He regretted that the collapse of the factory that was planned to be the biggest in East and Central Africa and seen as a gate way out of perennial poverty completely discouraged the local community.
He urged the main signatories to the agreement, KWS, KEFRI, KFS, county government and the farmers’ cooperative society Kokisa, to work tirelessly towards success of the project to create wealth and unemployment for local youth.
“I urge the partners and the investor to mount an aggressive public sensitization to bring back the minds of the farmers who had lost hope. The county government need to step up capacity building of the locals so that they change their mindset towards the crop and embrace its cultivation knowing that things have changed for the good,” he emphasized.
He noted that once the project takes off, it will greatly transform the area that for decades has solely depended on livestock keeping which he noted has encountered a lot of challenges like cattle rustling and drought.
The deputy governor in his address said the county branded as county of diversity was well endowed with enormous natural resources like the Aloe Vera, sandalwood, rare enzyme species found in Lake Bogoria and diatomite deposits in parts of Tiaty.
Mr. Chepkwony said that the county government is committed to support the commercialization of the available resources in a structured manner in order to benefit the community.
“I urge Zonken Company to nurture the venture to its completion to allow the benefits reach the communities within areas of operation,” he implored.
KEFRI Regional Director Dr. David Langat in his brief assured the county government and the investor that the research institution will provide the necessary technical support in terms of training and capacity building to guarantee sustainability of the project.
During the signing ceremony, the Zonken company limited handed over 800 pieces of KN 95 face masks for distribution to health workers in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
Aloe Vera is a medicinal succulent plant growing in arid and semi-arid regions and is used in the treatment of various ailments.
By Joshua Kibet