A row is simmering between investors and local residents over the fencing off of a water source in Taita-Taveta County.
Foreign investors who have acquired about 1,000 acres of land belonging to former Taveta MP Basil Criticos to implement a mega agricultural project say the water source is on private property.
“The investors have put up an electric fence around the vast farm. They have fenced off the only water source for Mata Ward residents,” said village elder Shapashina Modukenya.
According to the residents, the investors have denied them access to the water source.
Mr Modukenya and area youth leader Paul Parit claimed local residents were not consulted when the investor was putting up the electric fence.
“We have no problem with the investors implementing the project. Our major concern is fencing off the community water source that residents have been using for years. The county and national government should intervene and resolve the dispute,” said Mr Parit.
Senior directors of the Taveta Kisima Farm that are behind the project said the water source is on private property.
“We have constructed another water project for the residents outside the farm. Those complaining are misleading the residents,” said the farm’s Managing Director Arie Dempers.
He said the project was aimed at promoting agri-business through irrigation to improve food security.
“We will provide many employment opportunities to the local community, apart from providing water and entrepreneurial farming skills to transform the residents' lives as part of our corporate social responsibility,” said Mr Dempers.
Taveta Deputy County Commissioner Henry Wafula and County Assembly Deputy Speaker Chrispus Tondoo supported the project, saying it would improve socio-economic status of the local community.
“The acquired land has been lying idle for years. Now that the land will be put to proper use, we are supporting the mega project as it will also provide employment opportunities to transform the lives of the local community,” said Mr Tondoo, the Bomani Ward Rep.
Mr Wafula expressed the Government's commitment towards providing a conducive environment to investors.
“We fully support the project as it will generate income to the local community,” said the administrator.
Speaking to The Standard at the farm yesterday, Dempers said Taveta was the bread basket of Coast region but its potential had not been fully realised.
Dempers, an investor in agriculture in Namibia and South Africa, said he would follow the footsteps of Colonel Ewart Grogan, one of the successful White settlers in the colonial era.
Col Grogan, who built the Grogan castle after buying a sisal farm in the area in the early 50s, owned two-thirds of land in Taveta sub-county.
Other large private farms that provided employment to the community include the giant Teita Sisal Estate in Mwatate Sub-county, Voi Sisal Estates and Gicheha Farm in Taveta sub-county.