Fresh row erupts at Dominion Farms

Residents of Kadenge Village, Kenya protest on September 4, 2015 against plans by sugar miller Dominion Farms to construct a sugar factory in the area. (Photo: Tom Otieno/Nation)
Weekly Citizen | 5 October 2015

Fresh row erupts at Dominion Farms
by George Oleng
A new controversy has erupted at the multi-million American investor farm at the Yala swamp in Kadenge, Siaya county over establishment of a sugar mill and cultivation of cane in the area.
Stakeholders who were hosted by National Environmental Management Authority in Siaya at the swamp at a meeting also attended by riparian land owners had to battle it out as to whether to accept the new development or renounce it. In 2002, the American investor signed a 25-year land lease MOU with local authorities in Siaya to invest in more than Sh2 billion rice production at the vast Yala swamp.

Locals at the swamp whose land was held in trust by the defunct county councils of Bondo and Siaya are now shedding tears accusing the investor of utter disregard to their social welfare. Among accusations levelled against the Dominion farms by the community is poor public relations, use of toxic chemicals in aerial spray that kill animals, scorching horticulture, denial of grazing fields and unfavourable working conditions with meager pay to the community who are temporarily employed.

In the MOU that was signed between the investor and the two local authorities with the community at the swamp claimed that they were not engaged in anyway that has seen the investor deviating from rice cultivation, to maize, to soya beans, to aquaculture which local leaders say is against the MOU unless a new one is signed with the county government.

But leaders in Siaya county on whose jurisdictions sit at the swamp led by Central Alego MCA Leonard Oriaro led a demonstration at the swamp to compel the National Environment Management Authority not to okay the environment impact assessment report that the investor will rely on to put up the sugar mill.

It is believed that if the new development comes into place, several communities at the swamp would be displaced as several hectares of land would have be consumed by sugarcane plantation, spread of diseases through effluence and pollution which is the current case at the swamp according to a resident who sought anonymity would be on the rise. Other MCAs who are against the venture and whose areas cut across the swamp include Joshua Owiti of South East Alego, Jared Abayo, West Gem, Elisha Okuku, Yimbo East, Joseph Agoko, Sidindi and a professional on issues of environment Edwin Ng’ong’a.

Oriaro said that if his call to play his representation role will not assist people he represents at Kadenge, he will resign as that would earn him honour as he would revert to his former role as a human activist than basking in the shadow of an MCA who can not alleviate his subjects from tribulations.

Ng’ong’a during the public hearing put Nema to task on the manner they handled environmental impact assessment analysis.

He said that Nema disregarded crucial stages and process for the investor to undertake the project to the detriment of the community at the swamp.


Multibillion-shilling sugar miller Dominion Farms is entangled in a conflict with residents who don’t want a sugar mill.
The firm wants the factory set up following an agreement it signed with defunct local authorities but locals opposed to it say it will destroy the environment.
They say the firm failed to honour an agreement it reached with locals to hire them as casuals at its inception in Yala in 2003.
It was also supposed to make good use of 3,000 acres that was made available to it and provide bursaries, roads, health centres and electricity.
Several people were injured on Friday when two groups clashed over the establishment of the factory.
Dominion Farms is owned by Mr Calvin Barges, an American.
Leaders and residents are divided. Five ward representatives led demos against the factory on Friday.
Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo is among those opposed to the sugar mill.
“The company has broken its promises. We cannot allow it to build a factory here,” he said on Saturday.
But Dominion Farms manager Chris Abir insists that the factory will be put up. He said the agreement with the Siaya County Council stood.
Mr Abir told the Nation on Tuesday that the firm applied for a sugar milling licence in July 2010.
“We have followed the correct procedures. The National Environment Management Authority has approved the building of the factory,” he said.
He accused politicians of inciting locals. “The mill will provide employment to youth. Many support it and their voices should be heard,” he said.
However, Nema County Director Leonard Ofula said the factory was unsuitable due to its proximity to Lake Kanyaboli.
“We recommend that the firm demolishes the factory it has been secretly building,” Mr Ofula said.
The ward reps who led the Friday protests said they would not allow the factory there as the firm had failed to honour a past agreement.

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