Othaya farmers seek parliament's help over co-op operations

Coffee bushes

A farmer tends to his coffee bushes in Nyeri on November 9, 2021. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Farmers affiliated to Othaya Cooperative in Nyeri has sought the intervention of Parliament in rescuing their society from sinking after alleged mismanagement and embezzlement of funds.

The cooperative with 14 factories has asked the committee of agriculture to form an investigative team that will conduct an inquiry on the extent of losses the factories have suffered at the expense of the farmers.  

“We have been working extremely hard in our farms to ensure we produce quality coffee… we had the expectations that we will receive at least over Sh100 for our produce last year but we got Sh85,” said Mr Charles Gatere.

Othaya Cooperative has been one of the best performing coffee societies in Nyeri recording high prices for farmers through direct sale of coffee.

The farmers said that for five years, the coffee production has stagnated at 3.7 million kilos against an average of seven million, which they termed a dangerous trend.

“Farmers have continued to buy coffee inputs that are not approved by the Coffee Research Institute which has resulted to a decline production due to the vagaries of climate change that has damaged our crops,” he added.

As a consequence, the farmers noted that the Othaya Wet Mill has been underperforming due to lack of coffee from the farmers. 

Early this year, in a letter to the commissioner of cooperatives, the farmers asked that they conduct an impromptu inspection into the affairs of the cooperative saying the officials had gotten away with a lot for the last six years. 

The farmers accused their management officials of paying some farmers to attend the annual General meetings so as to influence the meeting's agenda and decision.

They are also accused of failing to observe procurement rules, misappropriation and misuse of funds from 2016 in a petition filed to the County Assembly of Nyeri.

"Their response was they have always adhered to the laid procedures while procuring goods and services and construction works," said Mr Paul Wanjohi, a farmer in the petition. 

The farmers continued to say that the society’s expenditure has skyrocketed to a level that is not sustainable, which has resulted to over borrowing from financial institutions to run basic operations in the factories.

“They have been paying some farmers to attend the annual general meetings with an aim to achieve a pseudo-quorum, which is illegal and unethical as all members should attend the meetings at their own volition,” said Mr Edward Githambo, a farmer.

In response, the cooperatives chairman James Gathua said that those complaining were misleading farmers with fabricated material with an aim to turn the farmers against the management. 

He further noted that they (the management) have never received any summons by the Agriculture committee to explain on the alleged loss of funds. 

"This is a machination by one of the board member that was fired from the board a while back... otherwise we are waiting for the report and its recommendations,"  said Mr Gathua.