Factors Making Kakamega the Poorest in Kenya

photo credit: Kenya National Bureau of Statistics
photo credit: Kenya National Bureau of Statistics

That Kakamega is the poorest County both in relative and absolute terms doesn’t surprise me at all; albeit I’m yet to read the report. A cursory glance at the County reveals the following observations.

1. Land holdings in the County are far too small to be economically viable especially in Ikolomani and Shinyalu.

2. A significant size of the County populaltion has emigrated to other counties in search of gainful employment leaving the least productive segment of the population in the County. It is not uncommon to find that most slum areas in urban and peri-urban centres are populated by migrants from Kakamega County, mostly engaged in pseudo employment. Furthermore, a lot of homes in the County have the elderly and infirm looking after grandchildren and great grandchildren due to absentee parents.

3. Majority of would have been employable residents of the County exhibit low levels of well being symptomatic in the prevalent abuse of alcohol (Changáa) and Drugs (Canabis Sativa) rendering them unproductive.

4. The level of societal breakdown in Kakamega is legendary and the press is replete with anecdotal incidences of homicide, fratricide, rape, theft, etc. Such social ills may be used as indicators of the vagaries of poverty on a people. Little of good could happen where people are forever foraging for their next meal in a context where few economic activities exist.

5. The cash crop economy alluded to in one of the posts above has not worked in favour of the residents of Kakamega. Recent reports in the press indicate that Mumias Sugar Company has been looted to bankruptcy and the company has been closed awaiting the hammer of administrators. Mumias company has been the cash cow of corrupt establishment for several decades. As a little child in Primary School, not far from the factory, when the late Saitoti was the General Manager of the company, already word on the street had it that the company way being bled. There is a Myth that Kidero, the Governor of Nairobi County turned around the company and so on but the reality is that it was during his tenure that the cadaver that is Mumias Sugar Company was chopped up and strewn to the dogs. Today, and this is a perennial problem, farmers in all sugar zones earn a net loss on their product and even the little that is due to them trickles like glue into their pockets.

6. The standards of education in the County are at an all time low and have been for a long time. Long gone are the days when government ministers and anyone who could afford the fare brought their children to boarding primary and secondary schools in Kakamega County. Our schools such as Mumias Boy’s, Complex, Kakamega, Musingu, Mukumu, Maseno among many others, even as provincials schools often ranked higher than National Schools countrywide in education and sports. The story today is quite shockingly different. Ikolomani, Shinyalu and many other constituencies today struggle to take children to secondary school let alone university. The transition rate from primary to secondary school in Kakamega is shockingly low.

7. Leadership within the County has remained the laughing stock of other Kenyans who’ve experienced a semblance of better leadership. I say this reservedly considering the general bad governance record of Kenya. Kakamega leaders are best known for heckling and delivering their peoples votes to other leaders. They’ve perfected the art of playing second fiddle. It almost unheard of to hear Kakamega leaders dissect the question of chronic poverty in the County. I will not honour them by listing the things they’re likey to be heard saying or seen doing. Neither will I mention their unworthy names in this post.

8. I could go on and on but this post is only meant to engender discussion not to pontificate and preach. Could anyone pinpoint anything positive that the Kakamega County Government has done since it was promulgated to combat poverty in a targeted and scientific manner. I’m told the Governor is an economist and former Minister of Planning and National Development. I rest my case.

Highlights of the Socio-Economic Atlas of Kenya
Highlights of the Socio-Economic Atlas of Kenya (pdf)
Economic atlas of Kenya Design and innovations (pdf)

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