A win-win solution is possible between Del Monte, locals

Pineapple plantation at Del Monte farm in Muranga County. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The recent string of stories on alleged abuses by US fruit processing firm Del Monte is a symptom of the failure to treat historical injustices that touch on land.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian’s reports have revealed worrisome levels of violence inflicted by the company’s security personnel on the locals of Kandara in Murang’a.

These charges shed light on a distressing situation that demands quick attention and action.

Kandara neighbours the expansive Del Monte plantations. Those responsible should face the full wrath of the law but to end these acts of violence, we have to finally deal with the root causes - the land issue.

Del Monte occupies over 20,000 acres of land spread across Kiambu and Murang’a counties, with Murang’a accounting for the lion’s share of this land.

The 1970s acquisition of this massive land has raised questions about the conditions and tactics involved, which have generally been neglected in debates about the company’s operations.

During this time, residents of Kandara were subjected to forcible and brutal evictions from their houses to make way for Del Monte’s pineapple farms.

Those who survived these events have disturbing memories of being forcibly dispossessed and transported to what are today known as the Madharau, Machagini, Gatanga Makenji, and Nguthoro slums.

This sad chapter in history sheds light on the severe injustices that the local populations affected by Del Monte’s growth have suffered. The land in question is roughly 7,400 acres. This is what drove Kandara residents to seek justice from the avenues created by the Constitution in 2015.

Since then, there have been court cases but the National Land Commission (NLC) recommended that Del Monte land be resurveyed and any excess be given to Kandara residents and Muranga County in the ratio of 70 to 30 per cent respectively.

Addressing the historical injustices perpectuated by Del Monte’s land acquisitions will ensure locals have access to land.

Providing land ownership to locals will economically uplift them - ending tensions between them and the firm.

While Del Monte has been accused of injustices, the firm’s operations have created direct and indirect employment for over 20,000 people, making it a source of livelihood for families.

The best solution would be for Del Monte to agree to return any excess land as recommended by the NLC but what can be negotiated is the location of this land.

-The writer is a resident of Kandara


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