Kenya: Kisii farmers long wait for Nyangweta forest sugar factory
The surroundings are calm and serene and the leaves produce a sort of cool music as they sway in the winds.
The sight of green, tall, straight but slender trees with little vegetation at their base is also satisfying.
It is often said that time spent among the trees is never time wasted and being in Nyangweta Forest in southern Mugirango, Kisii County is just that.
Nyangweta covers 104 hectares, nearly half of the county’s total forest cover, which amounts to around 228.4 hectares.
It is the largest of the eight designated government forests in the region.
Nyangweta is one of the very few forest lands that remain intact in Kisii and Nyamira counties.
The forest was planted with commercial pine, eucalyptus and cypress in the early 1990s.
Farmers who are suffering
During Nation.Africa’s visit on Tuesday, a few women were in the forest collecting firewood while the men grazed cattle.
Four years ago, the Kisii County government announced plans to use part of the forest for the South Mugirango sugar factory.
In May of last year, County Land Registrar Steve Mokaya confirmed he had issued title deed for 120 acres.
The document came two years after the Senate Committee on Land, Environment and Natural Resources agreed that the land be ceded to build the plant.
“South Mugirango Nyataro 2358 is subdivided into two parts – 4006, which is 18.53 hectares, and 4007 which measures 45.41 hectares. The titles were issued on June 9, 2020,” Mokaya said.
But even with the approvals, the plant has yet to start and farmers are asking the county government to speed up its plans.
Borabu Chitago’s MCA Andrew Kimonge said locals have been eagerly awaiting the plant, saying the region’s sugar cane producers have been suffering for too long.
Cane for sugar production in Kisii is widely cultivated in the South Mugirango constituency and locals are hopeful that the proposed sugar mill will materialize and help turn around the region’s economy.
Although the area is also known for the production of soapstone, fortunes are dwindling in this area, forcing residents to explore other sources of income.
“We are waiting for the candy. We have continued to protect Nyangweta Forest for years and will continue to do so. As a community, we donated part of the forest for the mill and that’s all we want to grow economically, ”said Mr. Kimonge.
Area MP Silvanus Osoro pushed the county government to speed up construction of the factory, which he said will revamp the local economy.
Farmers said on Sunday that delays in setting up the plant had caused them massive losses as their mature cane was going to be wasted on their farms.
Kisii Sugar Cane Producers Cooperative Society President Joshua Onguti said many farmers in the area have decided to branch out into growing corn, beans, tea and coffee in the hope better yields in the cultivation of sugar cane.
“Most of the farmers in Kisii County regret that they adopted the cultivation of sugarcane, because it takes 18 months to mature and now we have farmers with 24-month cane. They haven’t. still got a return on their investment due to the lack of a plant ready for cultivation, ”Mr. Onguti said.
Zablon Martin, the coordinator of the Outgrowers Cooperative Society, called on the county government to speed up the establishment of the factory to help farmers in Kisii, who believe factories in neighboring Narok, Migori and Homa Bay counties do not ‘have no time for them.
“The people of the South Mugirango constituency are eagerly awaiting the establishment of the proposed sugar factory in our area, as it will not only provide a ready market for our sugar cane harvest, but will also create employment opportunities for them. inhabitants, thus improving their economic status, ”he added. said Mr. Martin.
Application for approval
But Kisii governor James Ongwae said construction work would begin once final approvals are granted by the sugar directorate.
“I am happy to report that we are in the final approval application process for the South Mugirango plant. We already have officers from the sugar branch in the county for a fact-finding mission,” said Mr. Ongwae.
At a public participation meeting organized by the Senate Land, Environment and Natural Resources Committee three years ago, Mr. Ongwae and Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri explained how the county plans to compensate excision of 120 acres of Nyangweta forest to build the factory.
An Indian investor, Kanoria Group, has registered the Kisii Renewable and Sugar Factory Company Ltd, which will operate the sugar complex.
In 2016, the county government hosted an investment summit and presented trade and investment opportunities.
It was during the summit that Kanoria Group expressed its interest in the sugar industry and related products.
Subsequent negotiations resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the deconcentrated unit and the company.