By Talarus Chesang
Baringo coffee farmers have opposed ongoing plans to relocate a multi-million coffee factory from Katimok Forest in Baringo North to Koibatek Agricultural Training Centre (ATC) in Eldama-Ravine.
Residents put on the spot the County Governor Stanley Kiptis over earmarked relocation of the Sh100 million-worth coffee factory.
“Construction of the modern Coffee Milling Plant is now set to commence at Koibatek Agricultural Training Centre (ATC)-Elda-Ravine after consultative talks with the coffee farmers,” read part of statement posted in the County Government official social media page last week.
The factory, funded by Korean company World-Best Friends, was established in the year 2014 by the former Governor Benjamin Cheboi at Katimok Forest in Baringo North Sub-county.
Among the reasons quoted to have necessitated the move were that Katimok area was not suitable because of the low temperatures, making it unfavourable for sun-drying the coffee berries.
They also alleged that the small 2.5 hectare piece of land was owned by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and had no title deed.
Other challenges that arose were accessibility to infrastructure, market and proximity to large coffee growing counties like Nakuru, Laikipia and Eldoret among many other factors.
The residents have raised their concerns, demanding immediate stoppage of the move saying they were not consulted and that they are ready to stage emotive protests.
Residents of Baringo North have accused Governor Kiptis of secretly planning the relocation. However, the governor denied being part of the deal.
“Whichever the place the factory is located, we are ready to produce enough coffee required for the sustainable operation of this mill to meet the needs of Korea and other markets because we have the potential,” said Kiptis.
Among the leading coffee producing zones are Kipsaraman, Isaas, Ossen, Bartolimo, Kabartonjo, Tenges, Kituro, Kabarnet and Kapsoo.
Tugen Hills Farmers’ Cooperative Society manager Nicolas Chemelil said they have never had coffee from Mochongoi in Baringo South and Eldama-Ravine but the marketing team is soon visiting the areas to mobilise the farmers to grow the marketable cash crop.