A Kericho Member of County Assembly (MCA) has drafted a Bill, which if successful could see the county become the first in Kenya’s tea growing areas to manage its produce on behalf of tea farmers through to have its own organisation.
In his motion, Seretut ward representative Livingstone Kipkoech proposed the creation of a body to be known as the Kericho Tea Development Board, which he says would manage and organise marketing on behalf of Kericho residents.
Approximately 27,307 acres of land owned by 66,054 smallholder farmers are under tea plantations in the county. The Bill seeks to mandate the County Executive Committee Member (CEC) for Agriculture to oversee the creation of the board.
Mr Kipkoech’s proposal comes at a time when the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which manages tea for farmers across the country, has come under heavy criticism over alleged unfairness in distribution of bonus payments, a charge it has repeatedly denied.
The proposal is likely to face stiff opposition from the KTDA, which until now has been the management agency for the 560,000 small holder tea farmers in the country.
Mr Kipkoech said the KTDA charges farmers exorbitantly for management services, noting that the county-based agency will provide an alternative.
“The management cost is high because tea growers have placed the management of their resources on contracted external services. These agencies (KTDA) charge exorbitantly and this eventually affects tea prices,” he said.
According to the MCA, tea growing is the major economic activity in Kericho, contributing directly and indirectly to the livelihoods of the more than 33 per cent of its 760,000 residents.
“This strategy, as an alternative, will ensure that small-holder tea growers of Kericho will be accorded the opportunity to manage their own affairs, establish appropriate policies and institutions, create corporate plans and enjoy maximum benefits from their investments,” he said.
Further, he urged the National Assembly to pass his motion because it will allow the county government to set up the necessary management structures in accordance with laid down market practices, protocols, integrity and ethical practices.
The structures, according to the motion, will be set up in line with the Kericho County Integrated Development Strategic Plans.
The Bill is currently in the committee stage and is being scrutinised by the Kericho County Assembly’s Agriculture Committee and is expected to be taken to be debated once it is approved.