|A sugarcane plantation [Photo:Standard]|
By Sebastian Maloba- Busia County
The alleged war that has been ignited by Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) by licensing 3 different companies to build milling plants in the same region may not be a cup of sugar for the suffering cane growers in the region.
The 3 licensed companies were West Kenya Sugar Company, Cherry Sugar Investment Ltd.(to operate through its subsidiary; Mundika Sugar Company Ltd); and Africa Polysack Ltd.
The effect of the licensing has been felt by farmers who have for many years toiled for a failed dream hatched by the collapsed Busia Sugar Company (BSC).
Following the fall of cotton industry farmers embraced the idea with joy believing that it would save them from poverty. They all rushed into signing contracts they hardly had time to read and understand as the very idea of making big money through cane growing excited them than anything else.
Indeed, after the first cutting, lifestyles of cane growers suddenly changed forcing those who had been reluctant quickly rush into contract signing. Grass thatched huts were replaced with iron sheet roofed semi permanent houses, and the peasants who had confined themselves to drinking local illicit brew started frequenting bars, all the time flashing money, courtesy of the cane. Others decided to marry more wives and indeed life looked well.
This however did not last as was expected; cane started staying on their farms for a long period without being harvested. Transport cost ate deeper into their earnings as the dream of putting up a factory,at Nasewa,in Nambale failed threatening the livelihoods of many cane growers.
Instead of celebrating, suffering stepped in and the big dreams evaporated with the failure to put up the factory.
Busia Out-growers Company (BOCO), which had been formed to look into the welfare of cane growers, was of no big assistance. Desperate farmers started looking for alternative ways of earning something to keep on going as they had children in school and other needs to take care of.
This paved way for exploitative cane leasers who were prepared to make a big kill. Paying peanuts and make huge profits from desperate farmers.
Indeed hope turned into despair a sense of helplessness set in till Mumias Sugar Company (MSC) stepped in and started contracting the desperate farmers. Still, the huge transportation costs made a mockery of their efforts to transform their lives through cane farming.