- The women are said to have been deterred by the low annual bonus payments and the hard economic times.
- Many towns have recorded little or no activity as farmers prepare to receive their payments in days.
Dwindled annual tea bonus payments have discouraged sex workers from pitching camp in Murang’a county as has been the norm.
The reduced bonus payments have caused an uproar among farmers who have complained saying they expected more pay following the radical reforms that the government has been implementing in the sector.
This is despite the fact that many farmers have acquired loans from banking institutions that are normally serviced with the annual bonus payments.
This means that many farmers will not get a penny as their payments will all be absorbed by the loans.
Tea Prices Stabilisation Taskforce chairperson Irungu Nyakera has however announced that the sector will experience a boom next year and that the reduced payments are as a result of poor sales made from July last year to June this year.
Many tea factories have recorded a reduction of Sh2 to Sh1 in their payments from last year's payment.
The development has discouraged sex workers from camping in tea farming areas as is common during the annual tea bonus payments.
In Githambo area, Kahuro subcounty, tea farmer John Kimani said the women know better than to come to the region after the dismal payments.
Kimani said the women follow the news and know when to pounce on farmers and that they have chosen to keep off the county for now.
“They know that even if they come, they will find nothing to steal from us because our pockets will be empty,” he said.
He said normally, their shopping centre and the nearby Murarandia and Kahatia shopping centres would be streaming with women waiting for farmers to receive their payment and patronise local bars.
His sentiments were echoed by another farmer Peter Kiarie, who said the women book hotel rooms weeks in advance as they wait for the payment.
Kiarie said that once they receive the payment, most farmers are known to dress sharply when they go to the shopping centres and that it strokes their ego when young beautiful women pay them attention.
“Men go to the bank and withdraw wads of cash which they put in their coats just to feel good. When a girl spots a man, she approaches him with compliments. Most men fall for the trap so easily,” he said.
The women have been accused of sometimes using some drug on their hands to confuse farmers once they shake hands with them.
In other instances, Kiarie said the women will wait until the man gets tipsy and slips a drug into his drink before stealing from him and leaving him passed out in the bar.
There have been numerous cases where women receive phone calls from strangers or bar operators informing them that their husbands passed out in their premises.
Women are then forced to go to the bars at night to pick their husbands and take them to the hospital for treatment. This is despite the fact that it is women and children who mostly tend to tea farms.
Kiarie however said this time round, there will be no chance for such cases as farmers will be in their homes going about their normal activities.
Murang’a town chief Charles Muna said years ago, bonus payments would boost business activities in the town as farmers would travel from their villages to access banks.
He said then, women would throng streets waiting for farmers to withdraw their money and spend it on them.
But with the decentralisation of banking services, the chief noted that many financial institutions have opened branches in many shopping centres which has in turn diverted business activities from the county headquarters.
In Kangari shopping centre, one of the busiest towns in the county that is driven largely by tea, the women are said to be trickling in but in small numbers.
James Gitau, a trader in the town, told the Star women who are not from the area, have been seen in the last few days but noted that the excitement over bonus is not as high as it usually is.
Kangari town assistant chief Simon Mwangi said the Covid-19 pandemic could be a deterrent but noted that they could still stream in as the bonus payment is released.
In Gatura shopping centre, Gatanga subcounty, the women are yet to come as residents expect to receive their bonus payments next week.
“By next week, we will see if they will have come,” area Chief Simon Ngugi said.
The situation is the same in Kiria-ini town, Mathioya subcounty, where assistant chief Francis Wahiu said the flurry of activities seen during previous bonus payments are no more.
Wahiu attributed the low enthusiasm to hard economic times occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and the low bonus payments.
“We are on the ground and have not noticed any changes in our town,” he said.
-Edited by SKanyara