Building of long awaited Sh50m granite factory excites residents

Women crushing stones at Gimwenge village, Hamisi, in Vihiga County. [File, Standard]

At Gimwenge village in Vihiga County, many men and women earn their living by crushing stones into ballast.

They say it is the only way they can make money from the many stones dotting the county.

"I crush stones to make some money to buy food and provide other basic needs for my children," says Miriam Yaya, who has been toiling in the rocky area for over 15 years.

The 62-year-old is among many widows involved in the back breaking trade.

The women, like many other residents, can now breathe easy as the dream for a granite factory becomes a reality.

In 2018, Governor Wilbur Ottichilo bought a 10-acre piece of land at Buyangu in Luanda sub-County for the plant.

His administration and the national government said the construction of the Sh50 million factory would turn around the fortunes of the residents.

Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes, while visiting the site on July 26 last year, received the land and promised the national government was looking for an investor.

Early this month, the residents saw a glimpse of hope after the construction of the essential amenities at the site kicked off.

Widescope Construction Ltd, the company that won the tender, has already fenced off the land and is putting up the office block.

Mr Ottichilo led a delegation of county officials to the site last week.

"A few years ago hopes for having a granite factory in Vihiga remained a dream, but after talking to the national government it has come to fruition and we hope to mint profits from the rocks you see around," he said.

According to initial assessment by the county government, the factory would create at least 1,000 direct and over 5,000 indirect jobs.

“I want to thank President Uhuru Kenyatta for fulfilling his promise of giving us a factory. I am glad that he listened to me and the people of Vihiga at large,” said the governor.

Shortage of farming land has forced many people to look for jobs elsewhere, especially Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Nandi counties.

Granite is used to make construction materials like tiles, countertops, paving stone, curbing, stair treads, building veneer, and cemetery monuments.

The construction, which is expected to be completed next year, is being sponsored by the national government through the Petroleum and Mining ministry.

The county government had promised that the factory would be built between June 2018 and June 2019, but did not happen.

"After my election five years ago, I made numerous visits to the Ministry of Mining on establishing the factory after seeing my people suffer with the idle stones. In July 2020, I handed over a title deed of the 10-acre piece of land my government donated to the national government for the establishment of the firm" said Mr Ottichilo.

Many residents, who said they were almost giving up on the promise, believe the factory would not only add household income but also help turn the rocky areas into arable land.

They are asking the government to finish the project as scheduled.