In the next two decades, Somalis will have overtaken the top three largest communities in Kenya to be the most populous group if the current population trends remain.
The latest Household Survey shows that Somalis' families are at least one and a half times bigger than the average household in Kenya, and twice as much as the families in Nyeri, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kiambu counties.
Wajir, Mandera and Garissa counties, which are home to most Kenyan Somalis, have between six and seven children on average, according to the Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey (KIHBS), 2015/16.
Wajir has the biggest families at 6.6 children per household, followed by Mandera 6.4 and Garissa 5.5 members per household. Other counties with bigger households are Tana River and West Pokot which have 5.4 people, on average, in every household. The survey was released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). “Relatively high average household sizes were recorded in arid and semi-arid counties (ASAL) of Wajir, Garissa and Mandera,” Mr Zachary Mwangi, the KNBS Director General said.
Whereas some households in North Eastern have about seven members on average, households in Kiambu, Nairobi, Nyeri and Murang’a appear to be shrinking in sizes, helped by increased use of contraceptives, having more educated populations and the impact of urbanisation.
“Those numbers are very factual and represent what is actually happening on the ground,” Aden Duale, leader of majority in National Assembly and the region’s top ranking Government official, told the Saturday Standard yesterday.
Duale said that the North Eastern is largely dominated by Muslims and both their religion and culture prohibit family planning. “In 2009, people thought the numbers given were not genuine and even went to court. But this new report being released a year before the next census confirms that the numbers were correct,” Duale said.
The survey ranks Nyeri County as having the smallest sizes of households in the country at 2.9 people on average per home. Nairobi and Mombasa counties have an average of three people each per home - that is a father, mother and one child, or one parent and two children.
Kiambu, Kirinyaga and Murang’a counties, where most of Kenya’s largest community, the Kikuyu, come from, are also ranked among the six counties with the smallest households.
“The average household size in rural areas was higher, at 4.5 members compared to 3.3 members in urban areas. Wajir, Mandera and Garissa counties recorded high average household sizes of 6.6, 6.4 and 5.5 members, respectively,” the report notes.
All these are below the national average of 4 people per household. The KIHBS survey defines a household size as the number of persons living together in a household.
“Nationally, the average household size was estimated at 4 members in 2015/16 KIHBS, which was a decline from 5.1 members reported in 2005/06 KIHBS,” the report notes in part. “Households with 1 to 2 members accounted for 31.6 per cent of all households,” the report adds.
The findings support a previous report that ranked Central Kenya as the top county in usage of family planning, while the north Eastern region was hardly using any contraceptives. According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014, the penetration of contraceptives in Central Kenya, which is home to Kiambu, Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties was at 73 per cent. This means that 7 in every 10 women in Central were using some form of family planning. On the contrary, in North Eastern region, only 3 per cent of their population, or 3 in every 100 people were using contraceptives.
In the last census, population growth in North Eastern Kenya rose almost three-fold, from 962,143 in 1999 to 2.3 million in 2009. In Mandera, where the population boom was most pronounced, the numbers had quadrupled in a decade. Current projections show that Kenya has about 50 million people within its borders. The explosion of the Somali population caused tension in the 2009 census.
Some of the results of the census especially that covered North Eastern region were partially cancelled by the then Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya, who is the current governor of Kakamega County. But the matter landed in court and was reversed.
“The numbers from North Eastern region did not fit the normal population trends and that is why I rejected them,” Oparanya said.
This is after it emerged that the population growth rates in the region deviated significantly from patterns noted in the rest of the country and in the respective neighbouring districts. The population in the north seemed to be growing fastest compared with other regions despite the fact that the area had fewer women.
“My understanding at the time was that the region inflated their numbers to benefit from increased allocation of resources after devolution. Areas with bigger populations were to benefit from increased allocation,” Oparanya said.
Since independence, Kenya’s biggest community has been the Kikuyu, which is now 17 per cent of the population or 6.8 million people as per the 2009 census.
According to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), the second biggest group is the Luhya, which stands at 14 per cent of the population, at about 5.4 million people.
The Kalenjin come third, making up 11 per cent of the population. Given that voters cast their ballots along these ethnic blocs, the larger communities have always had an advantage over the smaller ones whenever there is competition for power.
“There are more than 42 ethnic communities in Kenya. Language and cultural background are the main criteria for ethnic identification in Kenya,” NCIC says in its report. The other big ethnic groups by size are Luo at 10.8 per cent and Kamba at 10 per cent. The Kenyan Somalis are now at position six and if they grow at the same pace as they have done in the last two decades, they will be in the top four.
In the last census, population growth in North Eastern Kenya rose almost three-fold, from 962,143 in 1999 to 2.3 million in 2009.