They  came, they saw, they settled

A story is that told by an American whose grandmother became overwhelmed after hearing the story of Kericho. She wrote to her son and daughter in law who had just settled in Litein. “Do you know a place called Kericho?” she wrote to her son.

“Yes,” the son wrote back. “Kericho is 21 kilometers from where we are!”

On reading this, the story goes on, the old woman sold all her property and packed and moved to Kericho where she started a nursing home. That was in 1924.The ending of the story is that the old woman brought first her sister and later many other Americans who fell in love with the lush, sprawling beautiful tea farms in Kericho.

This is the poetic description of another European visitor to Kenya. “Tea plantations spread across acres and acres of land. The bright green of the leaves were brilliant in the sun, glistering with moisture from water falling on the leaves…”

Kiptabut and his legend

From Kericho alone millions of kilograms of tea  are produced every year, making it the home of tea growing in Kenya.

The entry of locals into trade is dramatically captured in the story of the White  administrator, Gregory Smith, known locally as Kiptabut, from his habit of entering kitchen granaries to look for excess food for public distribution. He was distressed to see local people going hungry or dying during one particular period of food shortage in the 1930s that he went across the entire breadth and length of Kericho personally entering the kitchen stores to see if there was millet stored there. Wherever he found some, he would take it out and give it out to the needy.

Native Traders

It was from this that in 1949,   Kiptabut decided to organize Africans in the first ever cooperative  in Kericho, Kipsigis Traders Savings and Credit Cooperative Society, -which still stands—  so that they could access stock for their businesses at factory prices. Kipsigis traders spread opening new shopping centres and markets.

And although the spirit of trading ebbed out somewhat after the exit of these early entrepreneurs, there is no doubt about the contribution they made in opening up the County to concepts of business.