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October 21, 2018

Big landslides destroy tea farms, cut roads to Murang’a markets

The aftermath of a landslide near River Mathioya in Murang'a county. /FILE
The aftermath of a landslide near River Mathioya in Murang'a county. /FILE

Tea farmers in Murang'a County have been hit hard by the landslides in Murang’a that happened in April. The landslides caused cracks in acres of tea farms that farmers will no longer pick their tea.

Jennifer Wangui Macharia from Kangema sub County whose one acre of tea farm was affected by the landslides says everyday there are new cracks on her farm.

“The tea leaves are ready for harvest but an afraid of getting into the farm incase the place sinks again. I have never seen anything like this for the 45 years I have lived here. Landslides that have always occurred in Murang’a County have not been this intense,” says Wangui from Kiagotho location in Kanyenya-ini ward in Kangemi sub County.

She says they have always experienced good rains but this year's long rains season has been unusually heavy leading to landslides which had displaced people.

Tea farming is her only source of income and in a good month, Wangui earned about Sh50, 000 to Sh70, 000 from her one care tea farm but she is now helpless after the landslide affected half an acre of her tea farm.

“I cannot pick tea leaves in the affected land as they are deep cracks which get worse every day and I cannot risk my life. We are helpless and we don’t know what to do with part of the destructed land, we are waiting for the County or National government to give a way forward,” she says as she shows us a section of the affected land.

Her neighbour Mary Muthoni had a double misfortune with her house and tea farm being destroyed. She says she started noticing a small crack in one of her two bedrooms and within a week, the crack had intensified and she could no longer live there.

“I was so afraid and I sought shelter in my neighbour’s home where I have been staying since then.

Charles Waithaka, chairman of the Micro and Small Enterprises Authority said some of these farms may be uninhabitable and the residents may have to be relocated to other places where they can live and farm.

He said this is the worst humanitarian crisis to ever happen in this area as farmer’s livelihoods have been affected.

“Farms and even roads have been cut off and pushed to new grounds and every day, something new happens. In future, this could lead to conflict due to farm boundaries,” says Waithaka who is also a resident of Kangema sub County.

He added that due to the landslides, lorries that transport tea cannot access the collecting centres and this is affecting the economy of the area.

Waithaka urged both the County and national governments to take action in order to prevent further disaster.

Jeremiah, Kanyenya-ini MCA visited the affected farmers with his counterparts from Rwathia and Muguru wards in Kangema County which have been hit hard by the landslides.

He said more than 500 households have been affected and Gitugu area has been the most affected and some of the residents have moved out of their homes and are living with neighbours and relatives.

“We have been relying on well-wishers to help the affected persons. Am afraid farmers may not be able to harvest much due the destruction in farms. The County and National governments should use resources from the disaster management kitty to help those affected,” he says.

Some of the areas that have been hit hard by the landslide include Kangema, Mathioya, Kiharu and Kigumo areas in Murang’a County.

Peter Mweri, MCA Rwathia said normally, the landslides occur in sloppy areas of Murang’a but this time, it has even hit the upper areas that boarder the Abedares.

Paul Murage, Murang'a County Director Meteorological Services said the county experienced an early onset of rains and since the beginning of March, the residents are still experiencing some rains.

He cautioned that even as interventions are being done, people should know that we only have a window period of three months until the next short rains start in October

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