Staring at possible losses running into hundreds of millions of shillings, 19,000 shareholders of Sinendet Multipurpose Cooperative Society will Tuesday move to court to challenge a bid by Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to repossess 932.075 acres of a tea plantation.
The land on which the tea plantation stands is alleged to have been illegally annexed from South Western Mau Forest and a title deed processed and issued to the cooperative society.
The society took over the land from Nyayo Tea Zones Corporation 26 years ago after paying Sh38,438,000 million as compensation for the development the corporation had undertaken in the property.
The company has retained the services of a Nairobi based advocate - Mr Kimutai Bosek - who has been mandated to seek legal redress over the dispute with KFS.
"It is true, we will be moving to the Lands and Environment court in Narok on Tuesday to challenge the planned eviction. The land was bought for a price by the cooperative from Nyayo Tea Zones and it ceased being a part of the forest in 1995," Mr Bosek said in a brief statement.
Bomet County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding on Sunday told the Nation that indeed he had received information of the latest move by the cooperative society, but hastened to add it would not deter the government from efforts to rehabilitate the forest.
"The (court) move by the cooperative is meant to thwart government efforts to repossess the land and conserve the Mau Forest. We have initiated a process to revoke the title deed which was illegally acquired and there is no going back on that," he said.
The KFS has ordered the cooperative society to surrender the land which acts as a buffer zone between private farmlands and Mau Forest, or provide documentation.
The land falls under Saosa, Cheronget, Tendwet and Mara Mara forest blocks - which straddle Nakuru, Bomet and Kericho counties.
The land was excised through Gazette number 864 of February 15, 1995 under LR N0.20629 Saosa measuring 74.72 hectares, LR N0/20597 Tendwet measuring 5.14 hectares and LR N0.2060030 Mara Mara/Cheronget measuring 292.97 hectares.
Application for the allocation of the land was done under the Kericho Rural Multipurpose Cooperative Society, which later changed to Sinendet Multipurpose Cooperative Society under which the tea plantation is currently administered.
Kericho Rural Multipurpose Cooperative Society applied through the Commissioner of Lands to be allocated 236 hectares which was under tea plantation managed by the Nyayo Tea Zones Corporation.
However, in unclear circumstances, the society was allocated 372.83 hectares which in effect is 136 hectares above what was applied for.
After the approval of the application, the society paid to Nyayo Tea Zones compensation for tea plantation and buildings which stood on the land.