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Kenya, Uganda Sign Pact To End Cross-Border Conflicts Between Turkana, Pokot and Karamoja

The programme Cross-Border Sustainable Peace and Development seeks to end hostilities among the three neighbouring communities and enhance development in the region

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President Museveni, Uganda. Wikimedia Commons

BY GEOFFREY ISAYA

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni have witnessed the signing of an agreement aimed at promoting sustainable peace and development among Turkana, Pokot and Karamojong communities.

The programme dubbed Cross-Border Sustainable Peace and Development seeks to end hostilities among the three neighbouring communities and enhance development in the region by promoting non-violent interactions and collaborations.

The UN-supported intervention that will be led by a ministerial committee co-chaired by Kenya and Uganda will be implemented in the region to reduce tensions resulting from access to shared resources such as water and pasture.

Speaking during the launch ceremony in Moroto town, President Kenyatta welcomed the agreement saying it will help spur development in the region which has for many years suffered unnecessary communal conflicts.The UN-supported intervention that will be led by a ministerial committee co-chaired by Kenya and Uganda will be implemented in the region to reduce tensions resulting from access to shared resources such as water and pasture.

“This programme, in cooperation with the UN, is a programme that will help all of us to ensure that we have peace, our people live together and also to enable us develop,” the President said.

He said the peace and development programme will assist in transforming the border region from a conflict zone to an area of progress, development and wealth.

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President Kenyatta and Uganda’s Museveni signing the agreement on September 14, 2019.

The President noted that it is through wealth creation as envisioned in the signed peace and development agreement that the poverty that plague the region can be fought successfully.

“Peace is the foundation of all that is good. Where there’s no peace, no development, there’s no wealth that can be made. I want to thank President Museveni for the work he has done here to ensure that this region which was a conflict zone is now a region of peace,” the President said.

He called for free movement of people, goods and services across borders of African countries saying the continent can’t develop without free trade.

“If you don’t trade, you cannot create wealth. If you do not move, you cannot create wealth. And if you don’t create wealth, all you are doing is institutionalizing poverty. And we want to eliminate poverty from our people,” President Kenyatta said.

“Therefore, our coming here today is to demonstrate, first our unity as Kenyans with our Ugandan counterparts and our counterparts in the East African Community,” he continued.

The President, who was accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Simon Chelugui (Water) and John Munyes (Mining), said Kenya will develop amenities including schools, dams and health centres on its side of the common border that will be accessible to all communities in the cluster.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta|PSCU.

President Museveni, who spoke in Kiswahili and largely dwelt on development projects implemented by his administration over the years in the Karamoja region, thanked President Kenyatta for the various reforms that have enhanced cross-border trade and people-to-people interactions between Kenya and Uganda.

The Ugandan leader singled out reforms at the Port of Mombasa which he said have greatly improved the efficiency of processing and evacuation of Ugandan exports and imports respectively.

On regional connectivity infrastructure, President Museveni called for UN involvement in lobbying donor institutions and development partners to support more regional and inter-country roads.

“One of the advocacy points I want you (UN agencies) to help us with are these cross-border roads. We have already succeeded with His Excellency Uhuru with the road from Mbale through Kapchorwa, Suam to Kitale in Kenya. That one is being worked on.

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“In the same way, we want to work on the road from Moroto through to Kenya. We also need to work on the road from Nakiroro to Kenya… But above all, I want them (UN) to help us with the road crossing through Kenya to Southern Ethiopia,” President Museveni said.

Earlier, the two leaders commissioned the 2.3 million cubic litres Kebebe dam, a community water point that was constructed by the Ugandan government at a cost of 2.5 million US dollars.

The dam which is close to the Kenya-Uganda border serves over 1.5 million animals from the pastoralist Turkana and Karamojong communities.

Governors John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot) and Josphat Nanok (Turkana) spoke at the launch event that was attended by several senior Kenyan and Ugandan leaders.

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What are Tea Producers in Kenya Doing to Cope up With the Price Rise? Find it Out Here

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Kenya Agriculture
Tea is a staple drink in Kenya, though, unlike other major producing countries, it consumes far less than it exports. Pixabay

In a humming factory in Kenya’s highlands, tea is hand-plucked from the fields, cured and shredded into the fine leaves that have sated drinkers from London to Lahore for generations.

But Kenya’s prized black tea isn’t fetching the prices it once did, forcing the top supplier of the world’s most popular drink to try something new.

In the bucolic hills around Nyeri, factory workers are experimenting with a range of boutique teas, deviating from decades of tradition in the quest for new customers and a buffer against unstable prices.

Like the bulk of Kenya’s producers, they’ve been manufacturing one way for decades – the crush, tear and curl (CTC) method, turning out ultra-fine leaves well suited for teabags the world over.

Now however, between conveyor belts whizzing tons of Kenya’s mainstay CTC into heaving sacks, huge rollers also gently and slowly massage green leaves under the watchful eye of workers, all freshly trained in the art of what is known as orthodox tea production.

The end result – a whole leaf, slow-processed variety, savored for its complex tones and appearance – is still being perfected at Gitugi, a factory in the foothills of the Aberdare Range that has been trialing these teas since June.

It has been costly shifting into orthodox, and a cultural change for workers and farmers, said Antony Naftali, operations manager at Gitugi, in Nyeri some 85 kilometers (52 miles) north of Nairobi.

But the risk was necessary: prices for stalwart CTC at auction nosedived 21 percent in 2018-2019 compared to the prior financial year, underscoring the urgency to diversify and extract more from every tea bush.

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A farm worker harvests tea leaves using shears at a plantation in Kenya’s Kericho highlands, Kericho county, in Kenya. VOA

“We have relied for so many years on traditional CTC. But the price has dropped. We want to reduce the pressure… but also, to explore this new market,” Naftali told AFP.

Market turmoil

Even since prices have recovered somewhat, any fluctuations are still keenly felt in Kenya, the world’s biggest exporter of CTC.

Tea is a staple drink in Kenya, though, unlike other major producing countries, it consumes far less than it exports.

The humble cuppa is a pillar of the economy: one in 10 Kenyans depends on the tea industry, according to the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which represents 650,000 smallholder farmers by selling and marketing their tea.

The poor returns this year sparked angry protests on estates, and tea companies registered losses.

Part of the problem is oversupply.

Higher prices in recent years spurred investment in tea planting, resulting in Kenya’s best-ever haul in 2018 – at 493 million kilos (1,086 pounds).

But Kenya also has long relied on too few buyers, shipping 70 percent of its tea to just four markets.

Its top three customers – Pakistan, Egypt and Britain – have all seen a weakening of their currencies in recent times, making tea imports pricey.

Other big buyers – Iran, Sudan and Yemen, chief among them – have struggled to make payments.

“Our key markets are in turmoil,” Lerionka Tiampati, KTDA chief executive, told AFP.

“When you cannot control the price, then there’s not very much you can do. But what we are doing is we are trying to diversify the product.”

Reading the leaves

Orthodox production opens doors to markets where whole leaf, bespoke teas and custom infusions are rewarded with higher prices, says Grace Mogambi, KTDA’s manager of specialty products, who has travelled the globe to learn what drinkers want.

Kenya Tea
The prized black tea in Kenya isn’t fetching the prices it once did, forcing the top supplier of the world’s most popular drink to try something new. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Studying samples in Gitugi’s cupping room, Mogambi reels off the qualities desired by discerning tea drinkers: Russians like whole leaves, Germans prize tips, Saudis demand jet black and Sri Lankans dislike stalks.

“Consumer taste preferences are changing. Drinkers are becoming more aware of the type of tea they prefer,” said Mogambi, clad in a white laboratory coat, before swirling a mouthful of tea and ejecting it into a spittoon.

“If I’m spending more money on a cup of tea, I prefer given characteristics to be present.”

But orthodox and specialty lines represent only a tiny fraction of Kenya’s exports, and critics say the KTDA – which accounts for 60 percent of the country’s tea production — has been slow to adapt.

The board decided in 2000 to launch an orthodox range but, by the end of 2019, just 11 of its 69 factories were expected to be producing teas other than CTC.

Some like Kangaita, a factory at the southern flank of Mount Kenya, have been cultivating purple teas – a rare specialty unique to the region.

Other craft varieties include white premium, a loose leaf packaged in deluxe pyramidal teabags.

These appeal also to younger tea drinkers, a growing market demanding something other than run-of-the-mill black tea.

“Youthful tea drinkers are definitely looking for wellness, and other health benefits in tea,” said Gideon Mugo, chairman of the East African Tea Trade Association.

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Major brands outside the KTDA have been targeting the youth segment.

Kericho Gold produces a line of “attitude teas” packaged in bright boxes, including one for “love” and another marketed as a hangover cure. (VOA)