15 Apr

New chairpersons and directors of zone five tea factories in Kirinyaga have assumed their responsibilities. There was no drama across the factories even though the atmosphere was uninviting. Their predecessors were nowhere to hand over, prompting the new officials to orientate themselves into their positions. Former directors had been accused of colluding with Kenya Tea Development Agency to frustrate implementation of sector reforms. They warned that farmers stood to lose—claims that were dismissed by their critics. The zone five factories are Ndima, Mununga, Kangaita, Kimunye and Thumaita. A spot check by the Star revealed that the new officials were eager to take charge of farmers' destiny, with or without the presence of their previous officeholders. At Ndima factory in Ndia, hawk-eyed police officers were on standby to avert chaos. They manned the gate and patrolled the compound. Despite tension that had engulfed the place, things went on smoothly. Led by chairman John Mithamo, the new leaders assured farmers of a major turnaround in the sector. They promised to use their positions to protect farmers from exploitation while exploring new markets for their produce. They also assured them of subsidised farm input to ensure increased yields. “Farmers have a right to dictate how their crop will be managed. We want to assure them that we will also see to it that they get subsidised farm input to double or triple tea harvest seasons,” Mithamo said. Vice chairman Muchiri Wachira emphasised the need to digitise all tea collection centres to ease calibration and weighing of leaves. At Kimunye in Gichugu, things were also in order as those elected took up the reins. One of the directors, Joseph Kinuthia, told the Star that much as they did not face any resistance, there was no warm welcome from the former team as they did not officially hand over the 'instruments of management'. “We were not shocked over the turn of events. First, they did not show up for Saturday’s election, so we were ready for anything, including their absence and failing to hand over the leadership baton.” At Kangaita factory, new officials made efforts to acquaint themselves with their roles. They said that even though it would take time to settle, they would not hesitate to respond to farmers’ concerns. Ezekiel Mugera, a director, said he would work with his colleagues to unshackle tea farmers from the yoke of poverty brought about by bad management. “Farmers, who are the owners of the crop, entrust leaders they elect with improving their welfare. However, many use their positions to collude with brokers to enrich themselves. “We promise to work with the government and to fully implement the tea reforms for the benefit of the farmer,” he said. The new directors assumed office in line with the Executive Order issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta early last month. The order sanctioned the Tea Board of Kenya to conduct smallholders' elections within 60 days. The officials defended Saturday’s elections, saying farmers had not been barred from choosing their leaders as the court order in place was directed to KTDA and barred it from managing and interfering with the elections. 

Source: The Star