An aerial view of pineapples growing on Del Monte Kenya Limited farm in Kiambu county

An aerial view of pineapples growing on Del Monte Kenya Limited farm in Kiambu county. The actual size of the vast swathe is shrouded in mystery. 

| File | Nation Media Group

MPs report on Del Monte land lays bare corruption, conflicting acreage figures

What you need to know:

  • The vast tract of land likely to be the next frontier of rows as blatant political deceit feature prominently.
  • Kiambu has apublicly acknowledged that Del Monte has ceded 600 acres for public use, the report states the devolved unit has actually received 2,696 acres.
  • Questions have also arisen as to the acreage that Del Monte has ceded to the counties, deepening a long-running mystery over the exact size of land held by Del Monte.

A parliamentary committee report on American-owned fruit processor Del Monte's land spanning Murang’a and Kiambu counties, has lifted the lid on fraud and political deceit over the vast land likely to be the next theatre of conflict.

The report follows a petition by Kandara Residents Association, which contends that part of the Del Monte land belonging to the local community, was forcibly acquired and leased to the processor.

Questions have also arisen as to the acreage that Del Monte has ceded to the counties, deepening a long-running mystery over the exact size of land held by the pineapples processor.

Murang’a county has publicly acknowledged receipt of 1, 400 acres from Del Monte but the report says the devolved unit bagged 4, 843 acres.

And while Kiambu has also publicly acknowledged that Del Monte has ceded 600 acres for public use, the report states the devolved unit has actually received 2,696 acres.

“Upon careful scrutiny of the submitted documents, the committee has established that 4,843 acres of land in Murang’a county and 2,696 acres in Kiambu county have reverted to their respective counties,” reads the report tabled in the National Assembly on October 5, 2023.

It cites a letter by Murang’a county government dated February 17, 2023 that mentions 1,400 acres have already been ceded by Del Monte.

The 14-member committee is chaired by North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko and deputised by Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara.

The finding on land surrendered to Murang’a county lends credence to a joint Murang’a and Kiambu intelligence report in September 2022 that warned that some 3,000 acres had been ceded for public use but was immediately grabbed by prominent figures and leased back to the processor.

Del Monte

This issue had emerged on August 5, 2023, when President William Ruto started a five-day tour of the mountain and twice publicly railed at Murang’a leaders for introducing tussles about the Del Monte land instead of agreeing to surrender it for public use.

“The president is the custodian of all intelligence in the country… Some big politicians from Kiambu county grabbed 3,000 acres of our land. The president should order Del Monte to furnish him with all lease agreements it has signed with private individuals and conspicuously he will get information about the beneficiary of those 3,000 acres,” claimed a member of the lands committee in Murang’a county assembly.

A section of the expansive Del Monte farm

A section of the expansive Del Monte farm. The American fruit processor has ceded 1,400 acres of land to the Murang’a County government. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The MCA claimed the county government had received 1,400 acres and the powerful figures got 3,000 acres totaling 4,400 acres. Given in total 4,843 acres were surrendered, it means 443 acres were unaccounted for.

The MCA said “all the Murang’a county politicians have that information but are too afraid to confront the president with it.”

A senior member of the central region security committee confirmed to Saturday Nation that “the President was officially informed by intel team of the real situation on the ground and the cartel out to take over the land that was meant for the community.”

The source added that “there are politicians and businessmen who are using Del Monte to hoard batches in tens of acres preying on a chance to grab them.”

Part of the surrendered land had even attracted real estate brokers who then Murang’a county commissioner ordered investigated and arrested.

“There are a few individuals who have started selling off Del Monte land to unsuspecting locals…These characters are very bold and have even established brokerage office that I have since ordered demolished. There is no Del Monte land for sale,” Karuku Ngumo declared on February 5, 2023.

Interestingly, the firm cautioned against selling the land had placed 443 acres up for sale. Curiously, this acreage tallies with the balance of the land that is unaccounted for.

The Del Monte land has viciously divided leaders in Kiambu and Murang’a. In Kiambu, governor Kimani Wamatangi has claimed powerful figures scrambling for the land are destabilising his administration. “There are some leaders who have in the past thrived in stealing public lands and are now targeting more hence why they are sponsoring noise and turmoil about my administration,” the governor has alleged.

In Murang’a, two political wings have emerged with one led by Senator Joe Nyutu and Gatanga MP Edward Muriu that is demanding public land ceded by the processor be given out to beneficiaries.

Another wing led by Kangema MP Peter Kihungi is demanding the public land be held in trust by the county government.


Pineapples planted at Del Monte farm, Ol Donyo Sabuk in Machakos County in this picture taken on July 14, 2019. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

“There should be no land to be shared out by individuals…There is nothing like free land. What we should have is the land reverting to the county government and it be subjected to a spatial plan for current and future needs,” Mr Kihungi recently said on Inooro FM.

He added that part of the land should be utilised in resettling people from any of the nine sub counties to be displaced by mega dam projects.

Now, the parliamentary committee wants the ceded land in Murang’a shared out on 70:30 ratio “where the residents will get the bigger portion and the county government retains the balance.”

The committee legitimises the activism by Kandara Residents Association which, through the petition by its leaders led by secretary general, Mr Geoffrey Kairu, has been pushing for a big share of the surrendered land to be allocated to its members.

The committee now endorses a recommendation by the association that has submitted 1,930 names of intended beneficiaries drawn from Gatanga, Kandara and Maragua sub counties to receive a lion’s share of the 7,449 acres to be distributed between the association and the county governments of Kiambu and Murang’a.

“Having considered the evidence and submissions adduced, the departmental committee on Lands recommends allocation of excised land to Kandara Residents Association and county governments of Murang’a and Kiambu in the ratio of 70:30 as per the National Lands Commission’s (NLC) gazette notice 1995 of 2019 within 60 days of adoption of this report,” the report reads.

It cites the association to be advocating for the rights of residents who have suffered historical land injustice by the Del Monte ‘occupation’.

The list to be allocated land contains victims from several local villages identified as 600 in Gachogi, Lower Gatanga (400), upper Gatanga (230), Maragua (200), Matharau (200) and Umoja (200) and Makenji (100).

This comes as a major win for both Mr Nyutu and Mr Muriu who have been insisting that the land be surrendered to its beneficiaries.

“We do not care what the residents will decide to do with the land …The priority is it first be surrendered to them. Whether they will decide to farm, share it out …The land must first be given out to them,” Mr Muriu said.

Mr Nyutu insisted that “we can peacefully, honestly and with allegiance to integrity deal with this small matter from the perspective of justice.”

He said “this matter is not controversial should we only be honest in all our dealings about it.”

The senator said the ceded land should be used for the determined and adjudicated purposes without playing some hide and seek games with acreage.

“We are in agreement that part of the land should revert to the national government for the establishment of an export processing zone that will create more than 3,000 jobs and increase manufacturing returns by over 70 per cent in Murang’a county. The land should also host 2, 000 units of low-cost housing as per President Ruto’s desire,” he said.

Mr Nyutu added that “the residents pooled as victims of land injustice should get their share as per due process while the county can utilise its acreage by building the level five hospital. Any remaining land should be subjected to spatial plan and placed in an open land bank.”

The controversy surrounding Del Monte land has been fueled by unwillingness of relevant institutions declaring the actual acreage the processor controls.

When she appeared before the Lands committee in May 2022, the then Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney said the government intended to renew 32,240 acres for the company.

But in its submissions, Del Monte said it sits on 22,500 acres while the committee in its report indicated that the processor has 20,000 acres but had only utilised 14,000 acres.

Interestingly, even the committee led by Mr Nyamoko did not in its report provide the exact figure of the acreage under Del Monte control, in certain instances using acre as unit of measure to define land ceded but using hectares in listing various blocks in the holding without reconciling the figures.

It adopts the figure 22, 644 acres that Kandara Residents Association had provided in the petition to be its working figure from which it deducts 4,843 acres as ceded to Murang’a while again under-declaring that surrendered to Kiambu county to 1,000 from the earlier 2,696 acres.

Former Gatanga MP Mr Nduati Ngugi said the issue is of great interest “and it has far reaching political and economic ramifications.”

He said the Del Monte land issue has become such a hot potato that new Lands CS Alice Wahome should deal with it, given that “she once served as MP for Kandara which is the epicenter of the processor’s land politics.”

He further added that the issue is firmly becoming a political agenda for 2027 General Election especially pitting politicians aligned to the South (Gatanga, Kandara, Maragua and Kigumo), where Del Monte is, against those from the North (Kiharu, Mathioya and Kangema), whose majority politicians are opposed to any members of public being allocated land in the plantation.

Such is the big controversy that Del Monte Human Resource Manager, Mr Gerald Matoke, issued a memo to employees gagging them from speaking to the media about the matter.

“Note that only designated staff is authorised to speak about Del Monte… If a member of the press contacts you for comment, please refer the request to our public relations office for guidance,” read the October 17, 2023 memo.

Ms Wahome said "let us wait for the parliamentary procedure and outcome regarding the report. I study it with the relevant stakeholders and apply what enhances good governance about it.”

She added "President Ruto's government is a listening and caring one and will only implement what seeks to promote the bottom up economic model to transform lives while also strictly adhering to the rule of law".