Malakisi town is arguably one of the oldest towns in Western Kenya and the firstest industrial centers in the region.
With its official commissioning in August 27,1976, Malakisi ginnery is one of the oldest ginneries in Busia that now tells a story of one of the many dying industries in Western Kenya that was part of what was once a lucrative venture for farmers in the region.
With its strategic location between Bungoma and Busia counties and fueled by a vibrant cotton industry Malakisi once faithfully served residents in Sirisia, Bumula and Teso North constituencies for decades.
Malakisi town stood as the industrial capital of the now Bungoma county with the ginnery manufacturing products such as Udo bar soaps, animal feeds, udo oil and cotton wool among other commercial products.
Today the abandoned ginnery that once throbbed with life and reassuring sounds of the cotton production has since been replaced by the chattering of monkeys and old machines that have never been used for years now.
This follows the collapse of cotton farming in Busia dating back to the 80s that led to the closure of the cotton ginnery since most farmers shunned away from growing cotton leading to the loss of jobs by many residents
It has been years now since the government of Kenya stated plans of reviving a total of 4 ginneries in Busia and Bungoma counties,( Malakisi ginnery being one of them) an idea that now remains a piped dream as the efforts are bearing no fruits.
With the coming of devolution, Malakisi residents had high hopes that the cotton industry would be brought back to life. The county government of Busia under the leadership of governor Sospeter Ojamong had assured farmers that his administration will see to it that cotton farming will be revived, a promise that hasn’t been fulfilled to date.
Farmers here fault the government for poor management of the ginnery that led to its collapse years ago after it took over its operations. The ginnery initially was managed by an Indian whose management has been praised by cotton farmers here in Sirisia.
After the ginneries collapsed back in the 90s, farmers had no market to sell their cotton produce and hence most of them opted to hop onto tobacco growing which also does very well in this part of Western Kenya.
With the failure of local leaders to revive the ginnery and cotton growing in general despite their promises, the national government had to come in to the rescue of the farmers.
In 2020, the government through the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), introduced the high-Yielding Mahyco C567 in cotton growing areas where farmers were distributed with free seedlings.
Farmers in Sirisia got 280 kilograms of the hybrid cotton seeds as a way of encouraging people to keep up planting cotton.
“The government gave us hybrid seeds back in 2020 which performed very well as the yields were very high, this gave us hope that the cotton industry here will get back on its feet and we will start earning again from growing cotton but this is not forthcoming,” confirmed Arnold Marumbu who is chair for Sirisia Subcounty Cotton Farmers association.
Confirming this,Sirisia Sub county Agricultural officer Electine Wabwile said that in addition to the 280 kgs of cotton seeds given to farmers, the government also gave out two ginning machines to the Malakisi ginnery which is still not in operation due to lack of raw materials.
Cotton Farms Sirisia have been neglected and the area is now mostly dominated by the tobacco growers who claim that it’s far much better to grow something that has a market even though the prices are low according to the farmers.
“Cotton farming collapsed just after the introduction of tobacco in this part of the country and most people abandoned growing cotton and took up tobacco farming,” said another farmer.
Arnold also mentioned that in as much as the government is doing its best to revive the ginnery, it is better that the management of the factory be reshuffled and new management brought in as the same people who led it to its previous death are still the same ones managing.
“We can only have a proper working ginnery if the management is changed because if the same people who made it collapse are the ones still managing, then the same fate awaits,” he said.
In addition, the farmers pleaded with the government to increase the market prices in their previous harvest in 2020 they were selling 1kg of cotton to the ginnery at ksh 50, which they complained to be so low and due to this low price, farmers are now forced to sell their cotton to middle men who give them a slightly better price.
Farmers here are now hopeless not having any directions from the government on whether they will receive the seeds this year as promised or this promise will continue being just a dream to them.