Coffee farmers have renewed their struggle to have powers to appoint directors in coffee-related organisations reverted to them.
The move comes days after the farmers scored a major victory in the High Court by having six directors appointed by the minister of Agriculture revoked.
The authority to appoint directors in Coffee Board of Kenya and Coffee Research Foundation were vested in the minister of Agriculture through amendments to the Coffee Act 2001 by former Agriculture minister Kipruto arap Kirwa through Financial Act 2005.
However, farmers have been fighting to have a say in the appointments given that the two bodies are funded by money deducted from them.
“Our position is grounded on the fact that Coffee Board of Kenya is funded by farmers and is even occupying our building, Galla 2,” says the chairman of Gitwe Coffee Farmers Association in Kiambu, Mr Francis Mala.
Last week, the High court revoked the appointment of six directors to the Coffee Board arguing that the appointments were not procedural.
The six directors appointed on December 1, 2011, were to serve a term of three years.
The suit was filed by eight farmers from Nyeri. They argued that the appointments violated their rights because they were premised on amendments initiated without their consent.
The coffee farmers challenged the minister’s role of appointing the directors as provided by the Financial Act 2005, arguing it contradicted the spirit of the new Constitution that required stakeholders be consulted in matters that affected them.
According to the 2005 amendment, the minister of Agriculture was to appoint “persons with interest and expertise in matters of coffee industry”.
The ruling by Mr Justice David Majanja however failed to recognise the rights of farmers to elect directors, but handed them a lifeline to lobby for change of law.
“We view the amendments were done to serve sectarian interests and have ended up benefiting mostly the multinational coffee dealers at the expense of the local players,” said Mr Kimanthi Mutuerandu, the former chairman of Kenya Planters’ Co-operative Union.
He said the government cannot continue to insist on appointing all directors to Coffee Board and Coffee Research Foundation and still draw money from farmers.
Farmers have been quietly lobbying to have the amendments revoked complaining they were not consulted when changes were initiated.
The new Constitution has provided farmers with an opportunity to challenge the 2005 amendment.
They argue that the amendment denied them their democratic right to determine how their produce is handled.
They say last week’s ruling was a first step in having the law changed to reinstate the power of appointing directors to them.