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Tea farmers urged to increase production of green leaf

Tea Farmers in Kakamega have been urged to increase production of tea leaves from the current 3 million kilos to at least 5 million per year.

The Director of Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) representing Zone 12 Alung’ana Khasiani said the company will work with the Kakamega County government to help farmers increase production in readiness for a tea factory.

He said a tea factory can only be sustained by at least 5million kilos of tea leaves per year yet farmers in Kakamega are way below the threshold.

Tea in Kakamega is grown in Shinyalu, Ikolomani, Khwisero and Nyayo Tea Zone.

Speaking in Kakamega Khasiani urged tea farmers to avoid selling their tea leaves to brokers and instead supply to Mudete Tea factory as they wait for their own factory.

He noted that supplying to brokers denies them the returns they need hence not profiting from the sector.

“When you supply to us, we are able to take records and know how many Kilos of tea leaves you are producing in order to advise on what can be done to increase production and help you benefit from your farming practices,” he added.

He also urged the county government to adopt standards of constructing a tea factory from KTDA including drawings as they have expertise having dealt in the tea sector for a very long period of time.

He promised that the company will support the county government during the process as they seek to have a tea factory emphasizing that their dream of a factory would only be realized with increased production.

This comes as Network for Research and Governance(NRG), a Civil Society Organization(CSO) in Kakamega, pursues the county government over delays in construction of the factory despite yearly allocation of funds.

Construction of the factory was kick-started by Former Governor Wycliffe Oparanya during his tenure after promising residents through his manifesto that he was going to establish a tea factory.

He promised to establish one project per sub county with Shinyalu benefiting from a tea factory, for Malava, for instance, the former governor promised to put up a Milk factory whose establishment is ongoing.

NRG’s Director Paul Odongo said the CSO has taken up the matter, questioning why it has taken long to construct the factory yet the county government was still allocating funds to the project every financial year.

“We are supporting community members in terms of capacity building, we have made sure that they can take action against the duty bearers and we urge the county government to ensure that the factory is completed,” he noted.

NRG is pursuing the matter as some tea Farmers through their Co-operative Society give the county government an ultimatum of five years to complete the factory or they do it by themselves.

According to the farmers, only a fence and three toilets are on the site where the factory was to be built and nothing is ongoing 10 years after a groundbreaking ceremony for its construction was held.

The Farmers now claim that the project has become a campaign tool for most politicians asking the current Governor Fernandes Barasa to be realistic and construct the factory.

“If the county government is not willing, we ask for the title deed of the land so that we can move on as farmers to construct the factory by ourselves,” one of the farmers said.

They said they will seek loans from the banks and raise additional funds from their co-operative societies to ensure the factory is constructed if the county government fails to do so in the next five years.

By Moses Wekesa

 

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