Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya on Thursday directed the Tea Board of Kenya to immediately commence a programme to sensitize the boards on the ongoing tea reforms as well as their implementation.
Similarly, factories will also be expected to organize for in-depth training and capacity building programmes for their respective tea factories’ Boards on corporate governance and orienting the newly elected directors in taking over their roles in the companies.
Speaking during the smallholder tea factories chairs and vice chairs forum at a Nairobi hotel, Munya said that despite the recent challenges that have bedeviled the tea industry, there is light at the end of the tunnel because farmers have finally taken back their power and elected leaders of their choice.
“Previously, the greatest failure has been with the leadership, particularly that of the respective smallholder tea factory companies who had abdicated their responsibility and instead succumbed to machinations and interests of those they had employed to facilitate management of their investments, including processing, marketing and sale of teas on their behalf,” he said.
However, the CS said that the elections are just the first step in the journey towards redeeming the smallholder tea sub-sector asking the new leaders to make a difference going forward.
Farmers, Munya added, should from here henceforth expect to see positive results from the decisions that the newly elected leaders make without being influenced by external forces that do not have any interest in their welfare. “You are not leading private institutions as has been claimed by those who have hijacked farmers’ investments but institutions and investments that belongs to over 600,000 farmers and millions of other Kenyans who depend on the tea value chain for their livelihoods,” the CS said.
According to the CS, The Kenya Tea Development Agency’s (KTDA’s) Holdings Ltd, through its managing agency outfit, the Kenya Tea Development Agency Management Services Ltd, over the years transformed itself from being a managing agent employed by the factory companies into the principal – the owner of the factories limited companies.
“It is instructive that you have been elected on the platform of change and reforms for the tea industry. Whereas the previous leadership has been identified with acts of impunity, non-accountability and secrecy, your tenure should be marked by demonstrable fairness, accountability and transparency. Good corporate governance and servant leadership should be your fort,” Munya reiterated.
In order to facilitate smooth take-over as well as secure the assets belonging to the shareholders/farmers, Munya said that the ministry will be working with the Interior Ministry in the execution of the relevant steps and actions. “With immediate effect, security agencies will facilitate enforcement of the CR 12 registration of the newly elected boards and the enforcement process will entail former directors keeping off the tea factories premises after giving access to all properties of their respective tea factories.
Over the last few years, the tea industry in Kenya has witnessed a worrying decline in earnings, threatening the livelihoods of millions of Kenyans who are engaged in various segments of the tea value chain.
The industry supports over 6 million Kenyans who are engaged in the tea value chain directly and indirectly and is also one of the leading foreign exchange earners, generating over Sh130 billion annually in export earnings.
The smallholder sub-sector accounts for over 60 per cent of tea production and earnings. Over 600,000 smallholder farmers have consistently produced top quality tea and placed the country at the top of the pack as the leading supplier of tea to the global market.
By Wangari Ndirangu