In 2005 one of Steven Malingu’s tenants lost a child. The child's single and unemployed mother, according to Malingu, could not afford the cost of burying her child in a public cemetery in Mabale, Matayos Constituency.
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Moved by the situation, Mr Malingu (pictured) offered some space on his more than 20 acres of land in Maduwa village on the outskirt of Busia town where the body of the minor was laid to rest.
A week later after the burial of the child another friend of Malingu approached him requesting for space to bury his kin.
The 67-year old man accepted, but charged the family of the deceased Sh300 before showing them the place to bury their relative.
The public cemetery in Mabale got filled up in 2005 and there was no more space to accommodate bodies. As the situation became complicated, Malingu began to offer an alternative for people to bury their friends and relative.
The number of people seeking space to bury their kin started to soar and Malingu set aside some six acres of land as a graveyard for Christians in early 2006.
Malingu soon became a household name in Busia. The trend has continued for more than a decade. Right now he charges Sh4, 600 for adult space and Sh1, 800 before a grave is dug.
He always monitors the way a grave is dug to ensure it meets the recommended level and standards. A better part of the initial six acres of land is already full.
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“I could not withstand the difficulties my friends and tenants were going through looking for space to bury their relatives that is why I decided to create some space for the same burial,” said Malingu.
He has offered to sell 10 acres of land to the county government to create a public cemetery. The county does not have one currently since the one that was available got filled more than 10 years ago.
“There is need for the county government to have its own cemetery because I am sure with time my children will refuse to have people buried in their land,” said Malingu.
Malingu has six adult children and is worried that his offspring may not accept to have their land used as a burial ground.
“It is not easy for someone to accept bodies to be buried in his land which can still be used for various purposes,” he said.
He has affinity for farming. He has used part of his land to plant maize and coffee which he sells locally.
Although Muslims had converted a section of Kenya’s security strip in Marachi Estate as their cemetery, the national government has barred them from burying people on the ground arguing it was a security zone.
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Land, Housing and Urban Development Chief Officer Maurice Odundoh said a team is identifying a suitable place for cemetery and would soon submit their report.