From grass to grace, how Kamuthi recovered

By: ERIC WAINAINA

It started like any other farmers co-operative society with just 152 members who worked as casual labourers in a farm located in Githurai and Kamiti in Kiambu County with aim of purchasing land to settle.

No one ever imagined that the society which was nearly brought to its knees would blossom into a real estate company running billions of shillings and the first member society to build a mega gated community.

The society was registered in 1964 with a sole intention of buying land to settle their members and 1989 the co-operative completed the purchase of a further 738 acres in Kiambu District across Kamiti Road.

The members were manual workers with meagre salaries who earned their living from picking and tending to the coffee plantation of colonial farmers as well looking after the dairy cattle.

In the following years, the illegal sale of their land, embezzlement of the members fund and poor leadership nearly crushed the hopes of the members ever owning property.

Kahawa Farmers Co-operative Society, today known as Kamuthi Housing Co-operative Society started off investing in farming activities but is now among the major real estate developers in Kiambu and Muranga County.

Following poor returns from farming venture, pressure for settlement land as well as poor management, the members resolved to sub-divide the land.

By: the time the decision was made, the management had sold off 154.5 acres to the City Council of Nairobi which further accelerated the member demands to sub-divide as the sale was not done procedurally.

According to the chairman Bernard Kungu Maina, the members who were moslty uneducated parents were allocated 1/2 acre and 1 acre plots depending on their share holding.

“The sub-division led tothere being no meaningful reason and economic activity to retain the co-operative leading to the individuals who had appropriated co-operative assets to themselves to liquidate the co-operative but their attempt failed,” said Mr Maina.

But the subdivision gave birth a new idea, and the members decided to change its business model to ebgin dealing in real estates.

REGAINED FOOTHOLD

After years of dormancy, the society regained its foothold in 2003 after the NARC administration breathed new life into the co-operative movement in the country. The society created a new set of leadership that vowed to reclaim all the grabbed land.

“We asked our parents to give give us their shares because we realised the management was taking advantage of them as they were not educated and were ignorant of their rights,” said Mr Maina who is among the new board members.

The membership, he said had remained constant until 2008 when the good management attracted new members and today, they have increased to 6,888.

This ensured that a fair election was conducted and Mr Maina and his board were elected. Mr Maina recalled finding the co-operative completely run down with a total asset base of Sh834,000 and negative bank balances.

“We begun by reclaiming our looted assets and embraced the new governments’ promise to revive the economy. The turning point was when we issued dividends for the first time in 10 years,” he said.

In April 2010, members approved the change of name to Kamuthi Housing Co-operative Society Ltd so as to reflect the current vision and mission statements.

“There was no land for farming and therefore we decided to be a housing co-operative where we buy land and give to our members and also buy it for resale to earn profit,” he said.

This is how their assets worth rise from Sh144 million in 2008 to Sh4 billion in the current financial year.

The society buys land and later resells at a profit and then gives it’s dividends to its members.

“In a coffee farming co-operative, the management must take care of the coffee by putting in the fertiliser. In our case, land is our source of income and therefore we do value addition by constructing roads, connecting power and water to that we can sell at a higher price and afford dividend and money to run the company,” he said.

Mr Maina said they switched from farming to housing since houses are in high demand and this in turn ensured high returns.

The society is currently constructing a Sh1.8 billion gated community in Kilimambogo, Thika West and a 400 acre gated community project in Muranga county.

The Kilimambogo project dubbed Buffalo Hills and Gold Village covers 1, 233 acres on semi arid land and will have 750 homes standing on a total of 355 acres.

The homes will be built on quarter and half-acre plots which are still available for sale to both members and non members.

It will also feature a nine-hole golf course covering 108 acres; a clubhouse next to a man-made dam covering 9.5 acres within the golf village with a swimming pool,, sauna, gym and spa among other leisure facilities.

Mr Samuel Wamae, the company’s projects manager, said that, so far, civil engineering, electro-mechanical engineering and architectural typologies are already complete.

The environmental impact assessment and golf course design, which will open up access roads within and water connection, are complete, he said.

This, he said, means that plot owners were now free to start constructing their homes according to the designs offered by the society.

The project is located 7.5 kilometres East of the Thika Superhighway,about five kilometres South of Garissa Road and about 1.1 kilometres West of the greater Eastern Bypass.

In Gatanga, Muranga County which boarders dry Ukambani area, the company is putting up a 400 acres gated community project dubbed Soya Dam Estate.

The Company Secretary Mr Eliud Njoroge said the project which will stand on a land which was a fruit plantation will host 2, 300 house units.

The project is located a near the proposed mega Soya dam by the government (hence the name), 30km east of Thika, 10km from the great eastern bypass and two km from Garissa road will entail residential, commercial plots and social services.

The plots are being offered at 1/8 at a cost of sh325, 000 to members and Sh350, 000 to non-members, ¼, (Sh625, 000 to members and Sh650, 000 to non members) and ½ acre.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION