This article was first published on the Council of Governors’ website
What can an integrated and participatory urban planning bring in practice? Nakuru and Kakamega County representatives share progress updates at a joint workshop for SymbioCity Kenya.
“It was clear from talking to stakeholders that a key challenge is water shortage,” says Naomi Muranga, physical planner at Njoro sub-county, Nakuru.
To identify the needs versus the gaps, her team is looking to undertake a feasibility study.
“Our vision is that at the end of the day the residents of Njoro are going to have adequate amounts of water that is safe for consumption,” explains Naomi, who is the new coordinator for the so-called Pilot town of Njoro.
Her colleague at county level, Bernard Maruhi Maina, Director of Housing, describes the idea to increase water availability in an informal settlement in Njoro: “The domino effect is that other areas of interest – infrastructure, housing – will be uplifted.”
“Making water available in the informal settlement will have domino effects”
Bernard highlights the SymbioCity Kenya (SCK) programme’s community engagement as welcome. “We know that the devolved system of government requires that everything that we do must involve community members,” says Bernard adding that basing the project at the lowest level of county has helped reach people whose views are paramount.
Naomi Muranga however flags the lack of continuity among stakeholders as a concern. “Having new members in different fora makes it challenging to bring them onboard on what is happening,” she says.
In Kakamega county’s Pilot town of Butere, consultations found that residents experience youth unemployment and unrest as a significant issue.
Millicent Cherotich, landscape architect for Kakamega county government, describes how their so called quick win project as part of SCK will help mitigate this through a recreational park. The park is envisioned to have sports and sanitation facilities, and engage youth in meaningful activity such as matches or business activities.
This also fits well with the Urban Areas and Cities Act of 2011, which stipulates that for an urban area to be a town it must provide services such as recreational facilities and cemeteries.
“This park is going to serve the larger community in so many aspects”
“This park is going to be the simplest and serve the larger community in so many aspects, including in social well-being,” says Millicent, who is assistant Pilot coordinator for SCK in Kakamega. “We are going to engage our youth in meaningful activities. We will be able to tap talent and create business opportunities, maybe when there are tournaments we can hire staff, and the place can be used for political rallies and workshops.”
Millicent believes that the SymbioCity process will be an eye-opener to the people of the county at large:
“We intend to maybe copy paste the process to the other sub-counties and have other towns plan in a sustainable manner. That will encourage people and investors and spur economic activity within Kakamega.”
Her colleague in Nakuru expresses similar ambitions. Thanking CoG for the project, Bernard Maruhi Maina says on a final note:
“Once we reach a closure we know that we will have the capacity to replicate this. Nakuru has 11 sub-counties, 55 wards, and upcoming centres that are going to benefit. As County Government we have put in place structures in terms of human capacity, making sure we have qualified staff in every sub-county. We look forward to replicating the planning concept in other smaller towns.”
The joint workshop was held in Nakuru County on October 10-12, 2017, to help accelerate implementation of SCK. Altogether seven Kenyan towns are piloting this urban development initiative which is hosted by the CoG.
Interviews by Ruth O. Chitwa and Gerald Muka, Council of Governors