The gem of clashes-hit Laikipia County

The gem of clashes-hit Laikipia County

Away from clashes between farmers and herders in Rumuruti, the completion of infrastructural projects in the town has transformed it into a new investment hub in Laikipia County.

Dozens of hotels and residential houses have risen in the once sleepy town and even on its outskirts.

Some of the iconic hotels are The Route and El Paraiso, both on the Rumuruti-Maralal highway.

Entrepreneurs from various parts of the country have set up base in Rumuruti, seeking to satisfy the demand for housing for the rapidly growing population.

The robust road network is a boon for tomato, potato and horticulture farmers.

With improved roads, the vast horticulture farms can now find labour more easily, to the convenience of the workers, who are picked up and dropped off by buses within walking distance of their homes.

This is expected to convert the town, which lies along the Equator, into an economic zone akin to Konza and Tatu cities.

The county government is expected to relocate its new Sh60 million headquarters from Nanyuki in Laikipia East to Rumuruti in Laikipia West.

Stakeholders argue that Rumuruti is the most centrally placed town in Laikipia County, allowing easier access for residents seeking services

The town is the gazetted county headquarters but the devolved unit has been operating from Nanyuki.

In February 2014, the Laikipia County Assembly endorsed a motion to shift the headquarters to Rumuruti.

Fadhili Development Properties director Abel Kemboi says the prices of land in the town have been increasing sharply.

"Ten years ago, a 50-by-100 plot sold for Sh500,000 in the town centre but the same size now costs Sh11 million. This price is expected to rise going by market dynamics," he says.

Some investors have bought land in the area to set up businesses, he said, while others have resolved to build and settle with their families.

Investors are also looking to buy plots to build rental houses to satisfy the growing demand for better and affordable housing.

"A rental single-roomed house goes for Sh3,000, a bedsitter costs Sh5,000 while a one-bedroom goes for Sh7,000. Two-bedroom units go for Sh10,000 per month. The same units would have cost half the price some five years ago," he says.

Charles Kigweru has been growing tomatoes on his farm since he relocated from Othaya in Nyeri County.

"When I came here 15 years ago, the town was muddy and underdeveloped. But I am now able to deliver my produce to the market, thanks to better roads," Mr Kigweru says.

"The population is growing rapidly and I am happy because the business is booming. Farming has created employment for many people in this area."

Apart from infrastructural upgrades and booming agribusiness, the municipal board has set aside 2,000 acres for the proposed Rumuruti Special Economic Zone.

The devolved government is floating a Sh1.116 billion infrastructure bond at the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

The bond will finance road rehabilitation, sewer expansion, bus parks, upgrades of towns, water for production, feedlots, tomato processing and dairies.

The county administration also plans to build five water pans with a capacity of 200,000 cubic metres and an irrigation reticulation system.

Other projects earmarked for the town include the Sh3 billion Rumuruti multipurpose dam, Sh300 million sewerage and treatment works by Nyahuwasco and the Sh93 million Lobere dam.

Through the ambitious smart-town initiative, Governor Ndiritu Muriithi's administration has been upgrading 10 trading centres with proper roads, green spaces, drainage and street lighting.

Officials have used modern cobblestone technology to construct roads, pavements and parking lots in the county’s major towns.

They include Doldol, Oljabet, Ol Moran, Karunga, Naibor, Matanya, Kimanjo, Kalalu, Pesi and Wiyumiririe.

The county has modernized the land registry in Nanyuki and improved the filing system. A new registry has been opened up in Rumuruti to serve the larger Laikipia West sub-county.

"Years ago, this was considered a remote area and it was believed that nothing good would ever come out of it. We are happy with the transformation that has taken place in our town,” says Rumuruti resident John Muchemi.

The devolved unit is working jointly with the National Land Commission and the Ministry of Lands to instil sanity into the land sector in Laikipia.

“The truth of the matter, which we must own up to…, is that a large number of PDPs (part development plans) that are in circulation in Laikipia are not properly approved. This creates doubt as to the legality of land leases that were processed pursuant to those PDPs,” Governor Muriithi says.

“If you are dealing with land transactions in Laikipia, we urge you to use our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) facility to do better research. There has been massive land fraud in the county and investigations have been ongoing.”