Farmers group in plans to lease land to miners

Base titanium mining activities, Kwale County. [File, Standard]

The Muka Mukuu farmers’ cooperative society domiciled in Machakos County has adopted a proposal to lease out 750 acres of its reserve land in Ol Donyo Sabuk to mining companies.

The move is expected to turn around the cooperative society’s financial fortunes.

At least 2,600 members unanimously endorsed the proposal mooted by the management committee. They rubber-stamped the competitive sourcing of stone-mining companies which will sign contracts for machine-cut construction stones.

The members met at the society’s Macmillan Castle headquarters in Matungulu sub-county at the weekend. They directed the management committee to sign a binding deal with the successful mining companies to compel them to employ locals.

Chairman Dominic Nthwao said the discovery of huge deposits of high-quality construction stones will open a new chapter for profitability.

“This is a great opportunity for our members to start earning considerably higher dividends,” Mr Nthwao said. The society was founded in the early 1960s as a coffee plantation. It was reputed as one of the country’s leading single producers of coffee.

However, its fortunes tumbled over mismanagement by the previous management committees as well as the decline of the coffee value in the international market which hurt the country’s overall coffee production and export.

But the chairman noted that the new development will offer a lifeline to both the cooperative society and the members, exuding confidence that many more jobs will be created.

“We look at the entire value chain of the massive quarrying activities and see a huge benefit in terms of new direct and indirect jobs. We urge our members to support this move because it will be a game-changer,” Mr Nthwao said.

Addressing the press after the meeting, the chairman said the management committee will soon embark on the process of procuring bids for the interested mining companies.

“We will ensure total compliance with the law as we work extra hard to meet the members’ expectations. The management committee is contemplating starting with initial 300 acres and later exploring the other 450 acres,” he said.

Mr Nthwao said the committee is in talks with the National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

“We are talking with Nema to ensure every activity runs in compliance with environmental conservation laws,” he said.

To ensure speedy implementation of the plan, members proposed that several mining firms be contracted simultaneously. “Members have suggested that we contract many firms so that any single contractor will not exceed 50 acres of extraction portion,” he said.

The society’s new income stream is expected to compliment the only remaining but highly strained source of income of Sh9.7 million per annum, derived from leading fruit juice processor, Delmonte, which has leased some 9,750 acres from the society.

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