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THE OLDEST PROFESSION AND THE PRICE OF TEA

Tea ladies?

It’s tea time, or rather the time when the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) pays out the annual bonuses to tea farmers. This year’s bonuses are expected to reach Sh40.5 billion, a massive rise even on the historic Sh38.2 billion paid out in the 2009/2010 financial year. KTDA Chief Executive Officer Mr Lerionka Tiampati noted (‘Tea farmers to reap from Sh40b bonus’) that the rise in this year’s national earning makes it the third year in a row of impressive performance.

That’s good news for tea farmers, apparently good news for the oldest profession in and around Kisumu, and not so good news for farmers’ wives.

The problem is that farmers flush with up to hundreds of thousands of shillings in cash sometimes head off to town and blow their money on wild women and drinking, assuming they don’t lose the lot to clever con men in the first place. It is alleged that ‘twilight girls’ pour into the region from as far as Mombasa, Nairobi, Nakuru and Kisumu to lure the now rich farmers and end up swindling them of their hard earned money.

“Avoid prostitutes!” Kirinyaga Central’s MP Gachoki Gitari warned tea farmers in the county who are expecting their bonus payment. The same message was repeated to tea farmers in the South Rift region by the chairman of the Small Scale Tea owners Association South Rift branch, Joel Chepkwony, in a speech at the Tea Hotel (where else) in Kericho Town.

“As soon as the farmers get their money, they should go home and plan well how to pay for their children schools fees, how to improve their family lives maintain, their tea bushes to the highest standard and make good saving for other family overheads,” said Mr Chepkwony.

“Past experience [shows that] some farmers end up losing the entire amount their earning from tea bonuses to prostitutes and the conmen masquerading as money doublers, the groups commonly known as “Wash Wash”, he continued.

THE FARMERS’ WIVES TALE

According to The Weekly Citizen, the ‘tea farmers wish to be away from their normal social joints in Kericho’ and prefer the ‘change of environment’ in Kisumu Town, not least because ‘their spouses are known to cause unnecessary embarrassment in Kericho town with some going as far as following them to their hideout where they enjoy good times with young mistresses’.

The Forum’s not quite sure that the farmers’ wives are being unreasonable, or that the ‘embarrassment’ caused is ‘unnecessary’, what with the husbands running the likelihood of losing all their money and the wives facing the likelihood of having to tend the shambas without a Shilling. (The Forum was also somewhat skeptical of The Weekly Citizen’s headline, ‘Where young girls rape old men’: it didn’t read as if the ‘old men’ needed much cajoling).

Not surprisingly, many farmers wives are demanding that the ‘tea bonus’ be split with them before their spouses get the chance to lose it all.

It is a story that gives rise to salacious interest by the media but there is a serious point to be made. For the farmers’ families whose husbands and fathers have headed to Kisumu with the brains between their legs, the result can be impoverishment and hardship (and the spread of disease).

Joel Chepkwony’s advice in his speech to the Small Scale Tea Owners Association should be heeded. The KTDA should make bonus payments through farmers’ bank accounts, or arrange for them to draw cash from the nearby Tea Farmers SACCO offices within their localities, in the small trading centers like Kapsoi, Litein, Mogogosiek, Bomet. It wouldn’t entirely solve the problem but there would be a far greater chance of local families getting their hands on at least some of the earnings, and a reduction in the number of fickle farmers make their way to the lure of the red lights of Kisumu.

KENYA FORUM EXCLUSIVE!

Who wrote, ‘We will suicide bomb these intransigent bastards and let the rest of Kenya enjoy the fruits of our blood and deaths’? Find out more in this Friday’s posting…


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