Reports Leo Odera Omolo In Awendo Town.
RESIDENTS of the agriculturally rich Uriri district have been urged to consider switching to more environmentally friendly cash crops instead of tobacco.
Tobacco is grown in abundance in Uriri ever since 1968, but the farmers are continuing to be much poorer. The crops are causing environmentally degradation such as pollution of rivers, mass destruction of indigenous trees.
The area District Commissioner George Kiplagat said during an interview in his Uriri Market office that river flowing downstream through the district was being polluted with chemicals used in the tobacco nurseries.
THE farmers, he said, are being exploited to the maximum and only paid peanuts after harrowing and grueling work in fire house where they are procuring tobacco grades, and despite the fact that the tobacco manufacturing companies are minting millions of shillings, the poverty index in the are has remained steadily the highest.
The DC urged the tobacco companies operating in the region to consider having corporate social responsibility of making hefty donations toward the socio-economic projects being undertaken by the locals.
“These companies should help the locals built schools, health centers, dispensaries, nursery schools as the good gesture of appreciation of the millions of shillings they are minting from tobacco crops, and yet the farmers continued be wallowing under the scourge of abject poverty,” said the D>C.
Residents have also told this writer that all the tobacco grown and harvested in the area are being transported along the way to Thika Town where they are processed. All the trucks, mostly trailers ferrying the crops from the buying centers in Uriri and Migori district belonged to Thika Transporters, and so are the workers employed at the processing factories in Thika, Nairobi and elsewhere.
They are insisting that the companies operating in the area should be forced to establish tobacco processing factories within the locality. By so doing many locals would be absorbed on employment in the factories and after this the tobacco should be exported outside as a finished product and not row product,” so they say.
The DC said because of the need for firewood for procuring tobacco grades, all the indigenous trees that used to stand on the hills have been felled indiscriminately and no new tree planted causing serious environmental degradation in the area. There is excessive use of fertilizers on and other chemicals on the soil.
All the fertile and arable land in the area could be destroyed turning the area into desert in not very long time in the future unless something is done to bring the tobacco growing in the area to a halt.
“Unlike the tobacco farmers, sugar cane growers within Awendo cane growing and those farming vegetables are minting good money and yet the amount of energy and work put n the ground is minimal compared to those put up by the tobacco famers.” said the DC.
Kiplagat, however, commended the good work by farmers, especially those growing maize, sugar cane and other crops for stepping u modern farming, which has made Uriri to be the bastion of food grain in the region.