Multinational tea companies operating in the South Rift smarting from a National Lands Commission (NLC) directive that title deeds for more than 200,000 acres of land be handed over to county governments have been hit with new land rates.
In a sign of hard times ahead, Kericho County increased the firms’ annual lands rates per acre 33 times, from a paltry Sh300 to Sh10,000.
“I have directed the County Executive in charge of Lands Barnabas Ngeno to move with speed and immediately effect the new land rates. The re-surveying of the land under tea should also be completed by the end of the year,” said Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony.
Professor Chepkwony said: “God has answered our prayers after waiting for 100 years, we now have the land in our hands in a sign of good things ahead.”
A buoyant Bureti MP Japheth Mutai termed the moment historic.
“It is a new order and a clear proof of the injustices visited on our communities by the colonial government which must be corrected,” said Mr Mutai.
“We are inching closer to taking full control of the land that was forcibly taken from our forefathers,” said Mr Mutai.
A celebratory mood hit the Kapkatet Stadium in Kericho where the governor and MP addressed residents who turned up in their thousands to celebrate NLC’s directive.
The multinational firms have grown tea in the land for many years.
NLC recently directed that the multinational tea companies in the region, including Unilver, James Finlay, George Williamson and Sotik Highlands, hand over title deeds to the county governments.
Kericho, Bomet, and Nandi Counties are expected to have the final say on whether the land lease for the firms will be reviewed or renewed as most of the details are shrouded in secrecy.
The multinationals have been operating in the region from 1920 and cumulatively employ more than 15,000 workers.