LAND GRAB BLAMED

Voi EPZA project to be delayed following land tussle

Industry expected to revamp Taita Taveta county economy and create hundreds of jobs.

In Summary

• A section of residents living in the proposed area have opposed construction.

• Governor Samboja says EPZA facility will reduce youth unemployment.

Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja addresses residents in Kaloleni, Voi constituency, on Saturday
INDUSTRY: Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja addresses residents in Kaloleni, Voi constituency, on Saturday
Image: SOLOMON MUINGI

Construction of an Export Processing Zone Authority station in Voi could be delayed further because of a land tussle pitting the local community against the Taita Taveta government.

The proposed industrial park at Ndi, along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, was set to revamp the county’s economy and create hundreds of jobs.

During a public participation drive in Voi town in February last year, residents unanimously agreed to have the EPZ established on a site measuring 600 acres. They said the area’s proximity to the highway and availability of water would be big enablers of the business hub.

Details have, however, emerged that a section of residents living in the area has opposed the construction of the multimillion-shilling industry there.

Governor Granton Samboja revealed that already squatters have invaded more than 200 acres of the land.

"All the plans have been delayed again because unscrupulous people went ahead to claim ownership of the land we had set aside to be compensated. The government is moving with speed to regain the land,” he said.

He stressed that the establishment of an EPZ in the county is a key development agenda that will create jobs for hundreds of residents.

Samboja said the government was working closely with the EPZA to ensure the proposed project is implemented.

 “We sent a delegation of county officials to the Export Processing Zones Authority headquarters in Nairobi in a bid to lobby for speedy construction,” he said.

The project will unlock the high potential in mining, farming of crops such as macadamia and livestock production for export, thus turning around the region’s economy.

"Apart from boosting the economy, the project will create thousands of jobs for the people, thus boosting our economy,” Samboja said.

"Industries help break the vicious cycle of poverty as the employment opportunities work towards boosting livelihoods and sustenance. This helps in building vibrant economies.”

Dan Kirigha, a resident, urged the county government to repossess all public utilities either invaded by squatters or investors who have failed to follow due process.

He claimed that leaders have been reluctant to recover grabbed public land, leading to an invasion by squatters.

"Time has come for the government to repossess all the grabbed public land. We are losing a lot of time in legal tussles and risk losing out on the project,” he said.

Governor Samboja said they have finalised the county inventory that greatly shields county resources from being used to benefit unscrupulous individuals.

Voi town is among over 40 gazetted zones by the EPZA for the construction of industries by public and private developers.

While campaigning for his reelection in Voi town in 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced plans to establish an EPZ station and a dry port in the region. None of the projects has been launched.

The county’s proximity to the Port of Mombasa and the SGR that cuts through it makes it conducive to industrial investment. Taita Taveta is also a preferred destination for livestock investors.