Mwea town cries out for real estate developers
|Some of the buildings and structures in Mwea. [PHOTOS: JAMES WANZALA/STANDARD]|
SEE ALSO :Farmers, senators agree on land titles“You would harvest rice and all of it is taken by the white settlers, leaving farmers with a little for consumption,” said John Muriithi, the general manager of Mwea Rice Growers Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd. Rice farming — the main economic activity here — has seen the growth of huge milling companies like Mwea Rice Millers and Nice Rice Millers. There are also small factories that offer employment opportunities. Many people have migrated from different parts of the country to come and cultivate rice or trade in rice. There is also horticultural farming, which goes hand in hand with rice farming. Banks The new county government has started building more staff offices at the former DC’s premises, with Kerugoya town as the county’s headquarters. A number of commercial banks have also pitched tent in Mwea town. Despite it’s business growth, the real estate sector is still underdeveloped. The hotel industry, on the other hand, is growing fast due to traders who come to buy rice from far and sometimes have to spend the night in here.
SEE ALSO :Deaths loom over Mwea land disputeAnother reason, he says, is that land has been subdivided into smaller units, a fact that has discouraged buying of land by potential developers. It is also said most of the land is owned by the National Irrigation Board, and the rest is owned by the once colonial labourers. A good chunk of the land lacks title deeds. Lack of development has also been attributed to ‘foreign’ farmers who come from towns outside Kirinyaga County and lease rice farms and after harvesting and selling, go back to invest in their hometowns. “Although there is no property developments, land prices are rising slowly as the town gears up for new developments. In the year 2000, an acre in prime areas like Kibibi, Kamunyeki and Gathigirii, was going for Sh150,000. Today, an acre costs between Sh400,000 and Sh2.5million, while a 50 by 100 metres (piece of land) costs Sh800,000,” says Elphantus. For land bordering the Embu-Nairobi highway, a 50 by 100 metres piece of land costs Sh1.6million, whereas an acre goes for between Sh4million and Sh5million. A single room with water and power rents for between Sh1,300 and Sh1,500, per month depending on the location. In some parts of the town, a two-bedroom house goes for Sh7,000 per month. The most common means of transport in the town are donkeys and boda bodas. There are no matatus that ply the interior parts because of poor roads with only one tarmacked road. Donkeys pulling carts full of sacks of rice to the factories are a common sight. Residents say a lot needs to be done in terms of town planning. Clean drinking water is also a challenge in the town, with much of the water coming from canals in the rice farms. “Although we get piped water, it is sometimes dirty, especially during the rainy season,” says an attendant at Mates Guest House. The town has an open air Hypermarket that houses stalls for clothes, vegetables and groceries. Eastmart, situated opposite Merica Petrol Station, is the only supermarket in the town. A shopping complex and offices at Mluvala area are coming up. Charles Njiru Mkombozi, one of the investors driving the economy and development of the town, says banks in the town should come up with mortgage facilities to help property developers invest in the unexploited real estate sector since Mwea is now growing. Some blame former leaders for lack of development of the town. They say there is an urgent need for investors in education and real estate to invest in the town since the area is ripe for development in the two sectors. The town lacks street lighting and drainage system, making it a ghost town once dusk sets in.