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February 23, 2019

KFS reclaims 247-acre tea farm in Bomet

Bomet county commissioner Geoffrey Omoding (center) flanked by county ecosystem conservator Francis Misonge (right) and county police commander Naomi Ichami outside his office on Tuesday./Felix Kipkemoi
Bomet county commissioner Geoffrey Omoding (center) flanked by county ecosystem conservator Francis Misonge (right) and county police commander Naomi Ichami outside his office on Tuesday./Felix Kipkemoi

A tea plantation owned by the Bomet county government will be repossessed by the Kenya Forest Service.

The 247-acre Embomos tea farm at Konoin is part of land hived off from the southwestern bloc of the Mau Forest, records show.

The records, copies of which have been seen by the Star, indicate the land was demarcated from the forest land in 1994 by the moribund Buret county council, but it was never degazetted.

“Individuals have been cultivating on forest land for the last 22 years and we are telling them their time is up,” KFS Bomet ecosystem conservator Francis Misonge told the press in Bomet on Tuesday.

Public land, Misonge said can only be given to a private entity through a gazette notice.

“The parcel R.NO. 19162 is part of the South Western Mau gazetted forest. This forest was gazetted vide legal notice No. 174 of May 20, 1994,” reads a letter by Misonge to the Bomet CEC for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

It further reads: “In view of the above ... the said parcel is government gazetted forest on which no other development activities are allowed to take place including, tea farming and cattle rearing…only forest conservation and management by the Kenyan Forest Service is allowed here.”

The letter has been copied to KFS chief conservator, head of Mau forest conservancy and the station forest manager. Misonge further said that structures and fences on the land must be demolished.

The letter also places the Nyayo Tea Zones on the spot, having sold 372 hectares ( 920 acres) of tea plantation under its management to Sinendet multipurpose cooperative society in 1996.

Bomet county commissioner Geoffrey Omoding, who chaired a security meeting on Tuesday, said he has requested DCI boss George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji to investigate how the managers of Nyayo Tea Zone sold public land to individuals.

Omoding said the all KFS and Nyayo Tea Zone officers who oversaw land sale will be prosecuted.

“We have given both the county government of Bomet and Nyayo Tea Zones until next week to furnish us with details of how they acquired the said lands, failure to which we shall move ahead to repossess it,” said Omoding.

In a meeting on August 16 this year, Nyayo Tea Zones regional manager Elvis Ng’eno said the land containing tea was sold for Sh38 million, The meeting was attended by Mau conservancy and environment officials. Sinendet acquired the three blocks of tea plantations previously owned by Nyayo Tea Zones in 1996.

The three blocks of Mau forest land — Saosa ( 182 acre), Tendwet ( 12.6 acres) and Maramara ( 724 acres) are now managed James Finlay Tea Company limited.

During last Tuesday’s meeting, KFS survey officer Evans Kegode said that Gazette Notice No. 864 of February 15, 1995, ought to have been followed with a Legal Notice but the society went ahead and hived off the land.

Misonge said he has written to the directors of the cooperative society, informing them that they were occupying the land illegally and that they should vacate.

“We must recover forest land and use it for conservation purposes for us to attain the 10 per cent forest cover. For as long as we pretend and you are encroaching on the forest land, we shall not achieve that, and that is why we are out to reclaim our land,” he said.

Asked why it has taken so long for KFS to repossess the land, Misonge said Itare, Maramara and Ndoinet forest stations wereunder Kericho county but havee been handed over to Bomet.

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