Why residents want Governor Wanga's flour milling plant shut

Azimio leader Raila Odinga hand over free maize flour to elders in Gwassi when he officially opened Kigoto Maize Milling plant on November 4,2022 as Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga looks on. Some of the residents want the factory shut down.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group.

A section of Homa Bay residents want Kigoto Maize milling plant closed for what they say is lack of a management body to spearhead the operations.

Community members from Gwassi South Ward in Suba have petitioned the government of Governor Gladys Wanga to first cater for their welfare before the operations at the factory can continue.

The say without the management team, workers operate blindly and may miss out on better employment terms.

Some workers said they are not insured and have been using their own money in cases of injury.

Two major accidents have been reported since it started operations late last year with one being fatal.

This led to a silent protest among some residents.

Kigoto Maize Mill was opened by Azimio leader Raila Odinga on November 4 and produces a sifted maize flour called Mokwa.

The multimillion processor was started by former governor Cyprian Awiti in 2014 but later on stalled.

Residents appealed to governor Wanga to make changes at the factory to benefit the community economically and protect workers.

Some residents claimed workers were posted there as political rewards and they do not have requisite qualifications to work at the plant.

During a meeting at Kigoto trading centre yesterday, community members wrote a memorandum to the governor asking for changes on how the factory is run.

Charles Owaga who lives 400 meters from the factory claimed local residents have in past occasions planned a strike to storm the factory.

But after negotiations they would cool down.

"We have a lot of problems that should be ironed out," Mr Owaga said.

According to him, workers at the factory are drawn from particular families with the others left out.

"Others see this as biased. They would all wish to work there even if it is on a casual and temporary basis," he said.

Buy from local farmers

When the factory was established, officials from the agricultural and trade departments within the county government were hoping that maize would be bought from local farmers to save them from middle men.

However since it started operation, farmers claim they have been sidelined.

Mr Owaga called on the county government to offer support to farmers.

He proposed provision of insurance cover for farmers.

"Suppose the crop fails, insurance companies should cover up for the loss. Farmers need sensitisation," he said.

Mr Nelson Magure said failure by the county government to conduct public participation before the project began is the root cause of all the problems.

According to him, relevant county government departments should streamline operations at the firm by connecting fresh recruitment of workers.

Trade and Industries executive Polycap Okonbo said he is aware of the complains.

He, however, said the grievances have not been officially presented to his office.

"We are working towards solving the challenges. Part of our plans includes constituting a board that will run the factory," he said.

The county government is developing an act that will allow it to appoint a board.

County Public Service Board is in the process of recruiting the board which Mr Okombo said will have the responsibility of recruiting workers from any part of Homa Bay.

Mr Okombo said all operational issues affecting the factory will be addressed once the board is in place.

"We have partnered with the agriculture department to support farmers to procure more maize," he said.


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