OPINION

Dominion Farm’s exit dimmed locals’ hope

The collapse of Dominion Farm in Siaya county last year, under the suffocating weight of ill will amounted to an eclipse, throwing the region into something of economic shock. So much water has since passed under the bridge, with stakeholders pointing the finger at everybody else but themselves.

However, in retrospect and in light of the current invasion and free-for-all scramble for its abandoned land, the Dominion misadventure and the prickly situation which is creating, nurturing and sustaining an investment environment that satisfies the needs and expectations of all stakeholders comes to the fore.

The obvious expectation of an investor is the return on investment. It is the overriding strategic objective that justifies ploughing resources into a venture. This must have informed the decision of  American citizen Burgess Carr on his Dominion Farm Limited venture.

  The model was premised on exploiting the extensive potential of the resources-endowed Yala swamp ecosystem, incorporating Lake Kanyaboli and re-purposing it into mechanised, multi-purpose economic activities, including value addition. It was envisaged to be transformative and it turned out so indeed.

   That the dream got torpedoed midstream, barely three decades after the venture, is puzzling given that the firm before it closed shop had completely turned around the county’s socioeconomic environment. 

Like bolt from the blues, apprehensions started flying left, right and centre; landowners had second thoughts, turning their back on the deal; misgivings over tenure; land use policy surfaced with demands for fresh negotiations with county authorities, while activists led by an international NGO aimed persistent barbs at the company. Suddenly, everything that could possibly go wrong for an investor did go wrong.

Not surprisingly, political players waded in, often amid claims by Dominion of manipulation and even extortion. In the end, a firm that was key benefactor to the county, given the revenue it ploughed into the county treasury, empowerment of residents through employment, infrastructure improvement, health and schooling facilities and diversified economic activities was being roundly condemned as stakeholders interests took divergent trajectories. 

As they debate Dominion demise report, county leaders  must think of strategic options for a region generally suffering deprivation and in dire need of expanded economic opportunities, with high dependency on subsistence farming barely self-sustaining.

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