Officer injured as police battled youth who invaded farms to illegally harvest tea leaves

Tea estates

Workers operate a tea picking machine in a privately owned tea plantation. A police officer sustained injuries during a confrontation with youths in Bomet who invaded private tea estates to illegally harvest green leaves.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

A police officer was seriously injured during a confrontation with youths in two multinational tea companies in Bomet County on Thursday, April 20 evening.

The police officer sustained deep cuts on the head after he was attacked during the confrontation at Ekaterra and James Finlay tea companies in Konoin constituency.

The incident occurred as police dispersed the youth who had invaded the tea estates to illegally harvest green leaves.

Bomet County Police Commander, Mathews Mangira, confirmed the incident and said no arrests had been made so far.

"The officer was seriously injured and has been rushed to Kericho County Referral Hospital for treatment," Mr Mangira said.

The police officer is said to have been ambushed by a youth who was hiding under the tea bushes during the confrontation.

Mr Mangira said the youths attacked workers in the two companies and confiscated tea plucking machines.

"We have recovered 17 tea plucking machines that had been taken by the rowdy youths. They abandoned the equipment when police were called in," Mr Mangira said.

It comes two weeks after another confrontation between the youths and police was reported at Ekaterra tea estate in the area.

This is the second time the tea companies have been invaded, a trend that is raising eyebrows.

A week ago, the youth invaded land belonging to James Finlay Tea Company in Bomet County and illegally harvested green tea leaves leading to an ugly confrontation with the police.

The illegal pickers invaded Chemasingi estate belonging to James Finlay estate in Konoin constituency, Bomet County on Monday evening.

In October last year, youth invaded Ekaterra Tea Company and torched 10 tea plucking machines in the height for the push to have the companies revert to manual plucking so as to create employment opportunities for locals.

It followed a spat between local leaders led by Kericho Governor Erick Mutai over mechanization in the tea estates.

After harvesting the green leaves, the youth sells the produce to middlemen who supply multinationals as out growers while others sell it to Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) factories.

Ekaterra and James Finlays have lately been in the limelight following a BBC documentary published on February 20, which exposed managers, supervisors and contractors seeking sexual favours from female workers.

The companies have since suspended those involved in the saga and put in place remedial measures in a bid to curb recurrence of the incidents.

The invasions come days after the National Land Commission (NLC) handed a major win to three counties over a push to resurvey land leased to multinational tea companies, youths invaded part of the farms and illegally harvested green leaves.

The National Land Commission (NLC) gave a major lifeline to Kericho, Bomet and Nandi counties in their push to re-survey the land in which the tea estates owned by multinational companies sits, to establish the actual acreage.

Any extra land that will be found during the resurvey should be handed to the county governments to hold in trust on behalf of the local communities, the Commission directed.

Through the Kenya Gazette notice issued on April 6, 2023, NLC directed that extra land found after the re-survey should revert to the county governments to hold it in trust on behalf of the local communities.

It handed a major win for Governors – Erick Mutai (Kericho), Hillary Barchok (Bomet) and Stephen Sang (Nandi) who have been pushing for a resurvey of the land under tea estates, increase of land rates and for the companies to revert to manual plucking from mechanization so as to create employment opportunities for locals.