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Hope at last: Notorious Ainmoi changaa brewers turn to farming

By Nikko Tanui | September 25th 2020 at 12:39:58 GMT +0300

Bagao residents prepare the soil and the plastic bags for planting tea seedlings. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

A group of women from Bagao village in Ainamoi, Kericho county have now ditched illicit brew business for Tea farming.

The women, once notorious Changaa brewers say they opted to join area chiefs, police, the church and other anti- alcohol abuse crusaders after it dawned on them that apart from destroying lives, the illicit brew business had no benefits.

Mrs Jennifer Lellei, a former brewer said she could brew and sell 40 litres of changaa daily earning Sh6000 but gave the police Sh4000 in bribes.

"Corruptible police officers would come around and take Sh4, 000 leaving me with a little cash to plough back into the business," she said.

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The move has seen Bagao village once branded “Tusker" village due to brewing and consumption of illicit drinks transforms into an agriculture zone.

Through Bagao Women and Youth Group established in 2019, Lellei and other women are now planting tea.

"I have planted over 80 tea bushes and I plan to expand the tea plantation," she said.

She told Standard Digital that her turning point came last year after being arrested and arraigned in court over brewing and selling of the illicit drink.

"I was fined Sh20, 000 which was very hard to raise. That is besides spending several days in the cold police cells," she said.

Ainamoi Senior chief Richard Bett painted a grim picture of how the situation was before the change of heart by the brewers.

He revealed they would pour between 1,000 and 3,000 of the illicit drinks weekly before the offenders converted to anti-alcohol crusaders.

"From the 1990s up to recently, Bagao was notorious for brewing and consumption of illicit drinks. I remember that when I was appointed to be the Ainamoi Chief in 2005, almost half of the Bagao population were alcoholics," he said.

Mr Bett, added the fight against alcoholism in Bagao was an uphill task since it’s located in a remote part of Ainamoi constituency with the brewers and consumers using caves as their hideouts during police raids.

 “Accessing the caves was a challenge to us if one lost his footing, for instance, would fall over the rocks and suffer fractures," he said.

But today, the Chief sleeps easy after Mrs Lellei and several other women ditched illicit drinks brewing to venture into tea farming.

One of Bagao’s communal tea nursery. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

Bagao Women and Youth Group chair Nicholas Kigen the chairman said they have established a tea nursery containing over 48,000 seedlings and that they intend to increase the number to 100,000.

“After managing to eradicate alcohol abuse in the village, one of the area residents Michael Koros decided to support the group by donating a two-acre piece of land,” he said.

Impressed by the group’s effort, Electrification and Renewable Energy corporation (REREC) board member Mrs Beatrice Kemei recently visited the group to donate material for growing at least 10,000 tea seedling besides a cash token to support the group’s activities.

“I was touched by the group’s determination to transform their village from a drinking area to an agricultural place,” she said.

Kigen said besides the tea venture, they intend to also venture into coffee and banana farming.

Bagao village Illicit brew business Tea farming
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