By Cheki Abuje
Sugarcane farmers from Busia County have breathed a sigh of relief with the construction of a multi-million sugar industry in the area by West Kenya Sugar Company. The residents say they now have a future and look forward to a socio-economic revolution in the farming industry.
The farmers who were drawn from Butula, Nambale, matayosi and Teso Sub-Counties disclosed to Africa Science News that the company has economically empowered them through better prices for their farm products, adding that a tone of sugarcane is sold at Kshs 3,250 Compared to other companies selling at between Kshs 2,900 and 3,000
Separately, the jubilant farmers lauded the company for introducing an early maturing cane variety (CO941) that is economical in terms of duration and input expenditures. The variety takes 17months to attract harvesting as opposed to 24months for other varieties grown in the area.
“With the construction of a sugar industry in Busia County, the economic base for the entire county will tremendously improve. Besides, our children will also get employment and our area will develop,” said a farmer. The farmer noted that cane farming in the county has been mechanized as a result of west Kenya.
The company has built a modern school (Otimoong’ Primary School), thus ensuring its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the community is achieved.
West Kenya, the now giant Sugar industry in Kenya after Mumias melting down, is putting up a multimillion sugar plant in Busia County. To farmers, this will relieve them from costs of transportation to maximize their profits.
Farmers incur transportation charges from other millers’ loading centre in Nambale then to the company crushing machines in Kakamega County. According to residents, the plant is a facelift in the production of sugar in the region.
Speaking to Africa Science News in his Kakamega office, the company managing director Tejveer Rai confirmed the construction, reiterating that his vision is to invest in farmers and see cane farmers in Western Kenya redeemed out of poverty that is wide spread.
He added saying that he is conscious of development in the region and beyond for the benefit of all Kenyans across the socio-economic divide. The company intends to put up health centres in the region as part of its CSR.
At the same time, the Managing Director expressed his confidence in the area’s cane farmers, and urged them to be focused on development agenda in agriculture than engaging in destructive politics that could leave the community in ruin.
The soft spoken MD further challenged sugarcane farmers to up their farming game and increase plantations under sugarcane farming for meaningful economic reap under West Kenya.
Nonetheless, Cane farming in the region has been seen as a source of abject poverty. However, MD Rai thwarts this narrative, saying cane farming has revitalized development in Western Kenya and has made farmer a happy person just like a coffee farmer in central region of Kenya. He shunned retrogressive politics in sugar sector, saying this is detrimental to development in the industry.
The managing director maintains that West Kenya is focused on seeing cane farmer enjoy the labour of his sweat rather than feel exploited as witnessed in the past, adding that the farmer should be the giant stakeholder in the company. The company supports a huge population both directly and indirectly in the area.