Rabai MP to petition state to compensate coconut farmers

A section of coconut plantation in Rabai, Kilifi County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Rabai MP Kenga Mupe plans to petition the government to compensate coconut farmers in Kilifi for the losses incurred during the drought of the past four years.

Rabai sub-county is one of the coconut zones and the biggest producer in the county, with over 40 per cent of yields coming from the region.

Locals have depended on the cash crop for their livelihoods for years.

But coconut trees have dried and become unproductive because of the drought.

Speaking at Shika Adabu in Rabai/Kisuritini ward, Mr Mupe said the drought had cost residents their livelihoods and they are struggling to survive.

“We all know there has been a severe drought ... The community have relied on coconut farming, but many coconut trees have dried, and people have lost their source of income,” he said.

“I will table a motion in Parliament to have the government compensate coconut farmers so they can have a source of livelihood to support their families and develop the county.”

Reviving coconut farming in Rabai, he said, would improve the social and economic status of the community.

“As leaders in the national and county governments, we are focused on ensuring there is development in our areas to improve the livelihood of our people,” he said.

He said he would work with the county government and other partners to empower coconut farmers so that they can produce quality products.

The Rabai community had asked the new county government to revive coconut farming to help fight poverty.

Residents noted that the collapse of coconut farming had affected over 100,000 people.

Mr Nzaka Mwotovu, a coconut farmer in Rabai, said families are poor and must find other means of livelihood that turn out to be sustainable.

“Families cannot educate their children because they have no stable source of income to raise school fees and buy food,” he said.

He said there were no leaders committed to reviving coconut farming in the region and pushing the agenda on behalf of farmers.

Efforts by the community to create a committee to spearhead the issue of coconut production were in vain because there is no policy in place about the crop.

“We have not had leaders who have stood to fight for the coconut plant for the benefit of the people of Rabai to have them manage the plant, and we are at a crossroads,” he added.

Economic constraints also prevented farmers from reviving the crop, he said.

“There is no leader who has bothered to compensate our farmers like what happens in upcountry whenever their cash crops are affected,” Mr Mwotovu said.

Coconut farmers in Kaloleni and Watamu in Kilifi North sub-county are also affected, and farmers are now irrigating their coconut orchards.

Mr Christopher Kitsao, from Mbarakachembe village in Watamu, said farmers fetch water to irrigate the remaining crops to avoid further losses.

"We already incurred losses, but some of us did not want to stop coconut farming due to drought, and we decided to irrigate those that survived," he said.

A 2010 coconut survey by the Coast Development Authority established that there were 9.9 million coconut trees in the Coast region, with Kilifi and Kwale recording over two million.

Sixty per cent of the coconut trees are old and no longer productive.

The report noted that coconut farming in the region was a sleeping giant and that Kenya was losing over Sh50 billion annually for failing to exploit the crop’s potential.