Murang’a senator Irungu Kang’ata wants the county government to conduct public participation on how the land it is demanding from Del Monte Company will be utilised.
He said the land, once ceded to the county government, should be used for public projects such as hospitals.
The senator said a health facility that can be used as a university hospital would go a long way in helping Kandara and Maragua residents and the people neighbouring the company.
Kang’ata said residents living near Del Monte seek medical attention at Thika Level 5 Hospital in Kiambu and are sometimes turned away.
The company has ceded 635 acres to the Kiambu government for its lease to be renewed.
More than 17,000 acres of the 22,000 acres the company occupies are in Murang’a county. The rest of the land is in Kiambu county.
Kang’ata said the county government should organise public consultation forums to get locals’ view on the issue. “The county government should expand its consultations before and after signing an agreement letter with the company to more than just leaders,” the senator said.
Murang’a governor Mwangi wa Iria and other leaders have asked for 3,000 acres from the company along the Thika-Kenol highway.
The county government said it intends to build an ultra-modern city that will rival the neighbouring Thika town and create employment opportunities for thousands of people.
In 2015, former Senator Kembi Gitura asked the county government not to renew the company’s lease until it surrenders the land.
Kembi said Del Monte’s claims that it has employed more than 7,000 people do not hold water as majority are not residents. “The new city will provide even more employment opportunities and greatly boost the economy,” Kembi had said.
In 2016, a group of Kandara residents petitioned the county assembly to compel Del Monte to give part of its land for communal use.
Members of Kandara Initiative Caucus said the company has been of little benefit to the surrounding community, despite being in existence since the colonial era.
“The company has never engaged in corporate social responsibility and has been in constant conflicts with members of the public,” member Kamau Waruthi said.
The company has been in operation since 1965 and is one of the largest exporters of canned fruits.
Del Monte’s estimated annual revenue is Sh4.5 billion. It has a processing capacity of 1,500 tonnes of pineapples daily.