A section of over 2000 farmers in Mbooni, Makueni county have started uprooting their coffee trees to plant alternative crops due to poor pay, and embezzlement of funds that has pitted Kikima farmers co-operative society.
The farmers complain that the payments per kilogram have been going down for the last two years where by last year they were only paid sh. 26 (early crops) and sh. 19 (late crops).
“Two years ago 1kg was sold between sh. 60 and sh. 70 but the payment has been going down. We want to know exactly the amount the co-operative has been selling per kilogram because we have never been told in annual general meetings,” said Peter Mutua, Nzaini factory field officer and a farmer.
In Mbooni there are six coffee factories that do coffee processing and the co-operative society having a collective action of marketing their produce. However, currently, these factories are rotting away.
Those who have abandoned the farming have moved to macademia, and plating of trees for timber production.
According to Mr. Mutua, the co-operative has an overdue loan of sh. 28 million with title deeds of all the factories having been taken where they are at the verge of losing their factories to auctions. They said that they didn’t see value for the money that is due to be paid by farmers.
“There is a huge debt that was left by other past committees of the co-operative. Majority of these farmers have moved to farming other crops and poultry farming,” said Mutua
At Nzaini factory, we found that employees at the factory had strike. They complained that they had not been paid their salaries for coffee processing with even farmers having declared that they will not supply the factories unless the co-operative’s management is removed.
“We have not been paid for the past one year and we have been waiting. Farmers have coffee in their farms but they have vowed they will not supply here. We have our own needs and children to take care of, we have been on several occasions told to submit our details for payment but that has not been effected,” said Ruth Mukonza, a casual employee at Nzaini factory who doubles as a farmer.
one farmer decried ever decreasing production of coffee in his coffee farm something that he attributes to lack of capital, low or sometimes no pay,
“Last year I had 2,500 kilograms but this year I had a low produce of about 800 Kgs. This difference can be attributed to these perennial problems that we have been facing,” said Pius Nzioka, a farmer and a Musoa coffee factory field chairperson
The farmers sought answers on to why they are not considered when waivers are given or other fortunes to coffee farmers.
In March 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a new fund for lending support to coffee farmers for their operations. This was a sh. 3Billion revolving fund that became operational July last year.
“We are requesting the president to intervene since we are not part of the money allocated for coffee farming revival,” said Nzioka
As part of resolving the cry, Mbooni MCA Alexander Mulemba has requested for statements through Makueni county assembly from the department of trade and co-operatives.
Mulemba questions on mismanagement of society funds, operations of secret accounts by the society, unnecessary borrowing of monies without consultations, an open purchase and selling prices of coffee, selling of coffee to unknown millers, and why some committee members were still in office while their period ended last year.
The county assembly found responses from the concerned department as unsatisfying and the assembly speaker Douglas Mbilu directed that the County assembly public Accounts committee investigate the matter.
“I direct that the committee on PAC to esquire into the subject matter of Kikima coffee factory management of the accounts and any other matter raised and report back to this house within 14-days,” the county assembly speaker directed
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