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November 19, 2018

Villagers cry as their farms are destroyed for collector tunnel

 e tunnel that cuts across Kiria-ini village in Gatanga, Murang’a county /ALICE WAITHERA
 e tunnel that cuts across Kiria-ini village in Gatanga, Murang’a county /ALICE WAITHERA

More than 100 farmers in Kiria-ini village, Gatanga constituency, want the government to stop the Northern Collector Tunnel until they are fully compensated.

The farmers say the Athi Water Services Board approached them, indicating that a part of the tunnel would cut through the village and asked for a way leave.

The farmers agreed to the proposal as the board pledged to adequately compensate them for their property.

Farmer Simon Jogoo said they held about eight meetings with the board discussing compensation, which was never effected as they disagreed with the low rates offered by the board.

Jogoo said he was shocked when officials raided his farm on Thursday accompanied by armed police officers and destroyed more than 1,000 coffee bushes, disregarding his plea to allow him harvest the berries first.

“In our last meeting with them, we requested to meet with their valuer to discuss how much they would compensate us for every crop that would be cut down,” he said.

Jogoo said rsidents fully supported the project but are shocked that their cash crops were destroyed before they were compensated.

He said their cries to the local administrators to assist them have born no fruits.

Jogoo said the Sh6.8 billion tunnel will make them poor, with more than 6,000 coffee bushes set for destruction in the village.

“The bodies concerned with coffee farming keep complaining that coffee production in the country is dwindling, yet our coffee farms are being destroyed with total disregard,” he said.

TAKEN LOANS

“Most of us had taken loans to buy farm inputs and are wondering why this government we overwhelmingly supported is now turning against us.”

Mary Muthoni, another farmer, said she has lost about 800 tea bushes, which make up half her tea farm.

She said the village will be brought to its knees if the government does not intervene and ensure they are compensated.

John Chege, 88, said he has no idea how much the government would compensate him.

“They came into my one-and-a-half-acre farm and marked where the pipes will go through and I did not object. Why are they refusing to pay me now?” he asked.

Chege said he had a big farm before the Mau Mau war, but lost it when he joined the war and was forced to buy his small farm to bring up his family.

Another resident, Stephen Njoroge, has been served with a notice that his four-room permanent house will be destroyed.

“I have no money to relocate my family or build another home,” he said. The tunnel, which is 80 per cent complete, will be commissioned next year in December and will carry water from three rivers onto Ndakaini dam to boost supply in Nairobi.

Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati said the government will distribute part of the water to locals.

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