Workers pick Tea using a Tea Harvesting machine at a farm in Kericho. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Kericho and Bomet county assemblies will hold a joint session to pass legislation outlawing Mechanised Tea Harvesters (MTH).

Kericho Governor Erick Mutai in his address during the county assembly’s first sitting disclosed he had agreed with his Bomet counterpart Hillary Barchok and respective speakers for the two counties to hold a joint session to empower the county executives to prohibit the use of tea harvesting machines by multinational tea firms.

The governor said he had instructed Chaik Ward Rep Mathew Korir and the county’s legal team to draft a Bill to be discussed during the joint assembly scheduled to be held in a month.

“We are liaising with Bomet County Executive and legislative arm in the intent to hold a major sitting to exclusively debate Mechanised Tea Harvesters and pass legislation to outlaw them,” said Dr Mutai.

The governor’s new strategy against MTH comes in the wake of a stalemate between him and James Finlay Managing Director Simon Hutchinson and Corporate Affairs Manager Sammy Kirui he had called to discuss and resolve the issue.

“The tea firm’s senior officers came to my office and they didn’t seem to understand the devastation of the machines on the local economy. When we ask them to remove the machines, we are not doing it for political reasons,” said Mutai.

The governor added,” When you go to Nandi and Limuru where the multinational tea firms also operate, they have not deployed Mechanised Tea Harvesters there. Why do they think that they can get away with it in Kericho?” Mutai posed.

The governor blasted the previous county assembly for failing to pass legislation barring the mechanisation of tea harvesting.

“Help us to scale down the level of mechanisation. The first point of call is obviously through legislation and government policies in both levels of government,” he said.

At the national level, he said, he will engage no less than President William Ruto for a national policy and legislation to be enacted regulating mechanisation so that our residents also have a role to play in the matter.

The joint assembly session, added will also give the South Rift MCAs an opportunity to discuss and pass legislation to hike land rates for the 800,000 hectares of land leased by multinational tea farms for 99 years.

“It’s laughable that the multinational tea firms pay Sh264 per acre per year. We want the two assemblies to enable us to hike the amount to at least Sh5,000,” he said.

According to Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, hiking the land rates will enable Kericho County to raise its revenue collection from around Sh400 million to at least Sh1 billion.

“The amount of money will be channeled into improving the health sector, provide bursaries, and improving agriculture,” said Mutai.