By Steve Mkawale
Samburu, Kenya: In a county where rampant incidences of insecurity have been a bane for far too long, not forgetting the harsh climatic condition that has made residents remain in a constant grip of famine, Samburu Governor’s in-tray is already full.
Governor Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal has an uphill task of fulfilling the expectations of the community that has been marginalised by successive governments. He has thus pledged to work round the clock to give the county a new face.
He admits that insecurity is a cause for concern and needs urgent solution. He regrets that cattle rustlers have continued to spread fear in the region, with high cases of murders and theft of livestock being witnessed frequently.
Lenolkulal notes that the killing of 42 Kenya police officers on November last year by heavily armed cattle raiders was the highlight of the worrying pattern of insecurity in the region.
However, Mr Lenolkulal has promised to find a way of involving locals in addressing rampant incidents of insecurity.
“There is a need to engage the youth in more productive activities through creation of jobs and employment opportunities. This will make them fully occupied, giving them no room to engage in banditry,” he says.
Lenolkulal says although the county has always been in the news for all the wrong reasons, it can no longer be ignored as the devolved system of governance takes shape. He says his government is crafting methods of boosting the tourism industry in the county, which will help improve the living standards of residents.
Lenolkulal says that establishing of more conservancies is on his agenda. Noting that wildlife is a major resource in the county, the governor says that his administration will look for ways to engage the young-unemployed people in the region as rangers.
“I am engaging stakeholders in the tourism industry to see how we can expand the existing conservancies and come up with more products in the sector that will offer employment opportunities,” he says.
Lenolkulal notes that like a beautiful gem tucked in the quiet earth, the county is charming and home to the famous Samburu National Reserve- a major source of revenue to the inhabitants.
“Samburu has 25 per cent of the country’s forest cover and there is a need for the county’s authority to incorporate the youth in policing of the resource,” says the Governor.
The county is endowed with a variety of wildlife resources that is a source of attraction in tourism industry.
The 17 Shaba springs where wild animals congregate during the dry season is a major tourist attraction that the governor has pledged to capitalise on so as to improve the living standards of the people.
The Bachelor of Arts in Economics graduate from Egerton University says the county is currently formulating a marketing strategy aimed at boosting the tourism sector.
“If we properly package our products and address insecurity in this region, our revenue collection will improve tremendously, thus creating jobs for the youth,” he observes.
Another sector that the governor will focus on is the livestock farming. Lenolkulal says that the county being semi-arid is suitable for livestock keeping.
“Our contribution to the national livestock industry, particularly the slaughter stock is significant and if well managed and structured it will be a big source of revenue. We plan to invite investors to establish abattoirs as a way of value addition to livestock farming so that pastoralists can make maximum profits,” he says.
Poor road infrastructure is another major concern that Lenolkulal says he will give priority to.
Scenes of motorists stuck in the muddy sections of the Maralal-Rumuruti Road are common during rainy seasons.
In his 2013/14 proposed budget, he intends to spend 20 per cent of the Sh3.1 billion to rehabilitate the dilapidated Mararal-Rumuruti Road. “I have been a victim of the poor road network. Recently, I spent the night in cold after floods rendered the Mararal-Rumuruti road impassable,” he says.
On education, the Governor targets to establish nursery schools in every ward. Lenolkulal says that already, Sh250million in the budget will go towards construction of the first phase of early childhood development centres.
“To address the 80 per cent illiteracy level in this region, we need to target the young boys and girls whose lives are being wasted away in the villages herding cattle and goats,” he says. Lenolkulal has also prioritised tertiary institutions by setting aside 13 per cent of the budget towards construction of three polytechnics in the first year of his administration.
Provision of clean drinking water and medical services are other key areas the governor has focused on. “In my first year, I will ensure that 30 per cent of the budget goes towards provision of clean-drinking water and improvement of the existing medical facilities,” he says.
The governor observes that while the county is sparsely populated with approximately 200,000 people, a small percentage of semi-pastoral inhabitants do practice agriculture.
“Some 30,000 acres are suitable for farming, with areas of Poros, Malaso, Lpartuk and others being suitable for farming cereals. A few farmers grow barley and wheat in these areas,” he notes.
The governor says the peasants will be equipped with knowledge on drought resistant crops and the modern farming methods.
He says that water harvesting during floods is necessary so that it is utilised for irrigation and livestock consumption during dry spell.