Nandi plans industrial park over tepid tea jobs

Nandi County Governor Stephen Sang.  [David Njaaga, Standard]

The Nandi County government plans to establish an industrial park in the tea-growing zone to address economic challenges resulting from the mechanisation of the tea industry.

The county government is seeking 1,000 acres to construct the industrial park in Nandi Hills, following a recent ruling by the National Land Commission (NLC) concerning large parcels of land owned by multinational tea companies.

Last week, the NLC directed Nandi, Bomet, and Kericho counties to address historical issues, including resurveying plantations and amending land rates.

Nandi Agriculture Executive Kiplimo Lagat said the county has engaged with tea companies to address the long-standing economic challenges affecting residents for the past two decades.

“When the tea-picking machines were introduced by multinational tea factories, the residents working in tea estates were sacked. We are reaching out to the firms to jointly offer land in a strategic location for the government to implement projects that will provide a long-term economic solution,” said Dr Kiplimo.

Kiplimo explained that multinational tea companies owning extensive tea plantations are expected to allocate a portion of their land for the government to establish alternative initiatives, as tea farming profits have declined in the region.

“The tea firms will continue to play an integral part in community development. They have applied technology to boost tea production, and we may not succeed in compelling them to prioritize local employment. We are focusing on restoring the region's economy by creating employment opportunities through value addition and industrialisation programs,” he said.

Governor Stephen Sang said the industrial park would attract local and foreign investors to establish manufacturing and processing entities, creating brands using local agricultural produce as by-products.

“The national government has offered Sh250 million, and as a county, we have contributed an additional Sh250 million to the project. We are waiting for the task force committee to conclude their negotiations with the tea firms regarding the concerns raised by the county,” said Sang.

The Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union reported that over 10,000 jobs were lost between 2012 and 2022 when multinational tea companies gradually introduced tea-picking machines in the county.

Due to massive layoffs, locals threatened investors, prompting both the national and county governments to develop sustainable programmes for empowering locals by creating employment opportunities.