alexa Kericho sets pace in addressing youth, farmers' welfare - Daily Nation

Kericho sets pace in addressing youth, farmers' welfare

Sunday October 27 2019

tea

Tea harvesting at Unilever tea estate in Kericho County on September 27, 2016. The regional government is striving to restore the industry's lost glory. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

This week, Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony answers your questions.

1. It is in public domain that you have expressed your wish to have land held by multinational tea companies revert to the county government once their leases expire. Will tea production continue under the management of the county? Why can’t your county administration opt for other options such as increase in rates or other forms of taxes? Komen Moris, Eldoret

That assertion that the county government intends to repossess the land currently under the management of the multinational tea companies is false.

Our interest is to define the land ownership as provided by law and ensure that the tea estates fully recognise the county government of Kericho as the actual leaser of the land which it holds in trust on behalf of the people of Kericho.

This will also form a basis for the county government to control the future of the land once the leases expire.

We are a law abiding government and we will ensure that the interests of the investors are fully protected as provided for under the law, and we have zero intention of interfering with the operations of the multinational tea firms.

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2. Not long ago, the Jubilee government through Deputy President William Ruto promised Kericho County a national referral hospital. Deliberations within the county followed on where the Sh500 million hospital would be located and Londiani was settled on. The county government then acquired 100 acres of land and used Sh10 million to fence it. It is now over three years since and nothing has taken place. Kindly clear the air on the issue. Richard Rop, Kericho County

The proposal to construct the Kericho National Referral Hospital in Londiani was a partnership between the national government and the county government of Kericho.

Our primary responsibility as the county government was to identify and provide adequate land for the project.

We conducted public participation during which residents settled on Londiani. Londiani remains the preferred location for the project.

We are yet to receive any communication from the national government on the project.

3. You have instituted court proceedings against the British for compensation of land taken from the Kipsigis during colonial time. The land you are targeting is currently under tea and has been leased to private companies by the Kenya government. What is the progress in this case and how much is the county government spending on the case? Richard Korir, Kericho Town

The matter is two-pronged; one part touching on the land issues and the other focusing on gross human rights violations that were committed against the Kipsigis and the Talai by the British colonial government.

We presented the lands case before the National Lands Commission which ruled in our favour and settled the question on the ownership of the land.

The second component that touches on human rights violations is progressing very well and we have engaged all avenues, including dialogue and the legal process route, to ensure that justice is done.

The victims are seeking reparation from the British government as well as a formal apology for what they went through.

Recently, we travelled to Geneva where we presented the complaint before the United Nations Special Rapporteur on The Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, and we succeeded in convincing him to institute investigations against the British government concerning the events of the colonial era.

The county assembly approved a budget of Sh59 million and a further allocation of Sh40 million, which went towards registration of 115,000 victims, recording statements from 300 victims, collection of artefacts, engagement of forensic medical experts and psychiatrists, legal fees for the top British and Kenyan lawyers handling the matter and payment of researchers to conduct research in Kenya, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

4. Devolution gave youth hope that it would bring services closer to citizens, increase job opportunities and improve governance. Far from it, if the reports on the impact of devolution are anything to go by. As the governor in charge of Youth Affairs Committee in the Council of Governors, how do you plan to change the sorry state of affairs? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

Though youth affairs is a concurrent function of both levels of government, devolution truly opened a new chapter for Kenya’s young people.

Not only have many jobs been created for young people in the counties, but they also have access to more economic opportunities than ever before in Kenya’s history.

In Kericho, what I have done is to invest heavily in youth empowerment programmes.

We have expanded sporting facilities such as the Kericho Green Stadium and offered support to athletics training camps like the Lemotit athletics, training camp to promote sports talent.

In Kericho, youth access to procurement is currently at 40 per cent and this has transformed the lives of many young people.

In terms of direct employment, I am proud to say that 55 per cent of the county workforce comprises the youth.

To promote access to education for young people, we have expanded vocational training and established seven vocational centres of excellence providing specialised training with the aim of equipping youth with crucial employable and entrepreneurial skills.

Still under education, we have provided over Sh710 million to youth in bursaries in secondary and postsecondary since 2014.

The programme has benefited over 115,000 students, among other projects. This is just the Kericho story. It is being replicated across the country.

A few years ago, my government partnered with UNAIDS and the National Aids Control Council to hold the Maisha County League, a special football league aimed at fighting stigma associated with HIV and Aids.

5. Back in 2014, you started a multibillion shilling project to set up Chebulu Conservancy in Soin-Sigowet Constituency, in which you asked locals to rent out their land to the county and also promised to employ their children once wild animals are stocked and tourists start streaming into the conservancy. All we can see on the ground are hanging buildings. When will the project be completed? How will land owners get value for the period the project has stalled? Gilbert Sigei, Kericho

This was a modest public-private partnership between the county government and the community, which we rolled out after a public participation process where the residents provided the land but retained the ownership while the county government invested in the project by putting up structures for the conservancy.

Unfortunately, some of the land owners involved in the project implementation passed away soon after the process kicked off, leading to the start of land succession issues that forced us to put the implementation on hold.

These land succession processes are nearing completion and then the implementation of the project will continue.

6. In the recent past, there has been an outcry by tea farmers countrywide about exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen. Tea being a major economic mainstay of Kericho County, what steps have been undertaken to address this issue? Mmasi Evans, Nairobi

It is truly unfortunate that the mismanagement of the tea sector has caused great pain to thousands of tea farmers across the country.

I have on several occasions called for the strengthening of regulatory institutions in the tea sector and the reintroduction of the Tea Board of Kenya, so that it can play a greater role in the management of the troubled sector.

The county government of Kericho has taken a step to bring together all the stakeholders in the tea sector to find lasting solutions for the dwindling tea earnings.

Earlier this month, I convened a meeting with the top management of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) factory directors and political leadership of Kericho to look into the challenges facing the sector.

This is with a view to ensuring that there is a continuous improvement in tea earnings for our farmers and that tea growing once again becomes a profitable venture.

We have also allocated Sh150 million towards the establishment of a county-owned tea processing factory in our 300-acre Kabianga Tea farm, alongside an international tea auction point in Kericho.

7. Kericho County is choking with garbage in all its major towns of Kericho, Litein, Brooke, Chepseon, Kapsoit and Londiani Junction. yet your administration seems less concerned with the sad state of affairs. What are you doing to clean up these towns? Eric Kipngetich, Nanyuki

Thank you for the question Eric. We have placed great emphasis in upholding sanitation across Kericho County and Kericho Town is currently one of the cleanest towns in Kenya.

Although solid waste management remains a key challenge in achieving a clean and safe environment, the county has made tremendous strides in enhancing cleaning services.

We are currently running a programme to eradicate all garbage by end of the year and we hope to have cleared all sites across the county.

Within Kericho Town and its environs we have outsourced cleaning services to a private contractor and installed segregated litter bins in strategic areas. This programme will soon be rolled out to all the other towns.

8. On the recent fiasco on Division of Revenue Bill, governors, senators, county executives and ward reps, the County Assemblies demonstrated a rare sense of solidarity on the need for the national government to fund counties to the optimal level. Going by bloated wage bills in all the counties, was it rational to demand for more money merely to pay salaries when real and actual development has stalled in the counties since 2013? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

The Council of Governors and leaders from all the 47 county governments moved to the Supreme Court for interpretation on the principle of sharing revenue, and not on the quantum.

We decided to go to court because there has been unnecessary push and pull between the county governments and the national government concerning the division of revenue almost at the start of every financial year and we wanted the matter to be settled once and for all.

Based on the functions given to county governments, the county government is required to engage qualified personnel to offer services in the various sectors.

It is no secret that to date counties still struggle with huge human resource gaps in critical sectors such as health and agriculture.

9. You have passionately pursued justice for the historical injustices meted upon our people by the colonial regime and particularly to coerce the British Government into compensating the natives for the displacement and subsequent loss of huge chunks of their land mainly to then-British settlers. Seeing it that your term will be ending in about two-and-half years, what will be the future of the case? Joseah K. Kalya, Kabianga

This is a legal process which was started in 2014 following the passage of a motion by the County Assembly of Kericho mandating the county government to pursue compensation over historical injustices committed by the British colonial government in Kenya.

This matter has already made great strides and we are hopeful the case will have been concluded during my tenure in office.

However, should that not be the case, I am confident that it will continue to its logical conclusion because the human rights case is a people-driven initiative which is not pegged on my being in office or not.