Western cane farmer finds soft landing in sand harvesting

Residents harvest sand at Nabunulu village in Matungu; many have resorted to harvest sand to earn a living. (BENJAMIN SAKWA)
KAKAMEGA, KENYA: Matias Maroko, 68, from Nabunulu village, Matungu sub county abandoned cane farming and ventured into sand harvesting because of poor payment.

He had 18 acres of sugarcane but was forced to uproot all of it following the collapse of Mumias Sugar Company and poor payment.

“I left cane farming in 2009 because I was not getting any money and yet they were also deducting monthly levy. Mumias Sugar Company owes me Sh365, 000 and they have never paid till date,” he said.

He further noted that his children had to stop going to school for one year due to lack of fees.

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“I was forced to look for another option which would help me make some money. Since I have a farm which has good sand, I decided to start harvesting sand,” he explained.

He says sand harvesting has enabled him pay university fees for his children and create employment to 18 people.
“My fifth born is currently in university. This has been made a success following the money I get from sand harvesting,” he said.

However even in his new source of income he has to face common problem of extortion by the middlemen which is common in sand harvesting. Other challenges include low payment, longer time to get customers, especially during rainy seasons, and even infections due to lack of protective gear.

“Selling sand in Bungoma is better than in Kakamega where a lorry goes for Sh1500 while in Bungoma it is between Sh6000 to Sh9000. You also have to pay the sand harvester at least Sh3000 per lorry,” he says.

He notes that sand harvesting is not for the faint-hearted because it involves going deep and enduring the cold in order to get the finest sand that will not be rejected by buyers.

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He says many people are getting into the risky job because the leaders do not care about them.

“Leaders are busy minding about their own interests instead of talking to the locals and see how they can help them start businesses that will create employment to the jobless youth,” he said.

His son, Vincent Musundi said he earns a living through sand harvesting and not even any persuasion from government will not change his mind from the trade.

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Mumias SugarKakamega County