At the start of devolution, most counties experienced teething problems which greatly impacted negative service delivery to citizens.
There were public complaints on county officers and their inability to run the counties. There were wars between some governors and members of the county assembly that slowed down a couple of activities.
Despite these challenges, Kakamega County focused on improving infrastructure, health, hospitality and education sectors.
The first phase of the construction of the multi-million shilling Bukhungu Statium has been concluded, while the second phase is expected to commence early next year.
Timothy Asena, a 40-year old from Shikoti who commutes to Kakamega town every day to hawk pineapple fruits, said unlike in the olden days when roads were rugged and impassable, his business these days has been made easier by improved accessibility of roads.
In a day, Asena can walk home with up to Sh800 in profit as compared to previous days. He praised devolution saying it had opened up remote areas and linked them to towns and cities through improved road networks.
“The development brought by devolution is commendable; the town, for instance, has refurbished pavements and a water fountain to boot, things we used to see only in major cities,” said Mr Asena, adding, “There’s improved agriculture and increased access to business opportunities, resources and jobs.”
He lauded governor Wycliffe Oparanya for improving access to healthcare services by providing free maternal healthcare service kits through Oparanya care initiative.
“In 1990s, maternal deaths and infant mortality were relatively high as compared to these day. Counties have ambulances and properly equipped hospitals that have made healthcare more accessible,” he said adding that better markets and roads had improved business opportunities.
Nelson Simiyu who comes from Ingotse village said because of good roads and rural electrification he had managed to establish a welding business in Maraba Estate.
“The road has opened up many business opportunities in town and the 10km feeder road project by the county in every ward is making life easier. People are putting up standard rental houses, business premises, and investors have an opportunity to put up five star hotels,” Simiyu said.
He said transforming Kakamega town was a good move since it would attract both local and international investors to support the framework of county and the national Big 4 agenda for housing, health and infrastructure development as well as socio-cultural spheres.
Beatrice Ayidi, a vegetable vendor in Amalemba lauded the county government for putting up modern markets in every sub county.
“The business stalls are affordable and clean. The only challenge is people selling by the road should be moved inside so as to enable us have a better working environment and improve the revenue of the county since they block customers from accessing the market,” said Ayadi.
Peter Obara, a landlord in Mahiakhalo Ward, Lurambi Sub-county, talking to Tuko said rural electrification and water circulation had made it easier to open the business in villages and market centers.
As landlords, he said, among the key services offered to tenants alongside accommodation were water and electricity.
“These days, no one can afford to rent a house or a room in an apartment where there is no electricity and water. With these two, we have been able to open our business in remote areas,” said Mr Obara.
He attributed his argument to internet technology which he said was running the world and which residents, especially the youth and young adults, depended on electricity to connect to.
He however asked the county government to ensure water pipes destroyed during road construction were repaired with immediacy, arguing that sometimes it took months to get back water after pipes were destroyed.
“Destruction of pipes during road construction cause us more burden because while the bills come as usual, we are forced to resort to backup sources,” he lamented.
Governor Oparanya’s chief spokesman Dickson Rayori said the county government was committed to achieving affordable housing and health facilities.
He said the first phase of the 750-bed capacity teaching and referral hospital would be concluded soon and the next phase was expected to kick off early next year.
“As we put our efforts into constructing a world class hospital, we have likewise ensured that the county referral hospital which has been in existence for years gets refurbished, staffed and drugs delivered in time,” said Mr Rayori, adding, “Two plots of land have been identified in Kakamega town and Mumias where we will put up more houses. We are planning to construct 3000 units.”
He said the county had enacted “The Trade and Market Law” that barred traders from operating outside prescribed markets, and noted that the move would help curb the tax evasion menace especially by business people.
He observed that as a result of the new law, the county was constructing new open air markets. He said least three such markets had been constructed in Khayega, Shirere and Ikolomani wards.
The county government has also constructed a number of feeder roads within town, including MMUST-Kamadep road used by university students and staff.
He said the county was committed to ensuring maximum water circulation to households by 2021, noting that water projects would cost a total of Sh250 million.
“We have identified two locations where water will be pumped to Misango Hills in Khwisero and distributed by gravity to residents of Khumusalaba and to the entire Mumias East Sub-county, including surrounding wards,” said Mr Rayori.
He added: “The project will cost Sh50 million and will be jointly implemented by the county government and Kenya Red Cross.”
He also noted that the second location was Lumino Dam in Likuyani that would cover the northern part of the county at an estimate of Sh27 million.
Regarding rural electrification, Mr Rayori said the county was teaming up with the national government body concerned with rural electrification to see the success of the project.
“We have agreed that for every one shilling we contribute, the body will contribute another one shilling. We’ve already contributed a total of Sh120 million; that is, Sh60 million each,” he said, adding that the project would kick off soon.
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