Farmers now reap big after county overcomes reputation of bad roads

Governor Francis Kimemia inspects the tarmacking of roads in Olkalou town. 

Joseph Ndiangui of Naitiri in Leshau Pondo, Nyandarua, has witnessed more than four electoral cycles in the country.

In each electioneering period, he recalls that poor road network across the vast county has been a top campaign issue.

So bad were the roads that residents became the butt of a joke; that anyone who makes it home on a rainy day deserves a medal.

Mr Ndiangui speaks of the pain of helplessly watching his farm produce go to waste because the roads to the market had been cut off.

To make matters worse, one could not even give away the cabbages, carrots, tomatoes or potatoes as every farmer in their neighbourhood was facing the same dilemma - stuck with piles upon piles of farm produce.

A joke was told of how dogs in Nyandarua had developed a distaste for milk. The dogs, the joke went, chose to go hungry rather than take the monotonous milk.

Pictures of rotting farm produce and farmers pouring their milk were awash. Even donkeys, known for their obstinacy, would hardly conquer the bad roads.

But the advent of devolution turned out to be a blessing.

The county, which had been marginalised by successive governments, has risen.

Thanks to an efficient road equipment programme by the county government, roads are no longer an election issue in this year’s polls.

Governor Francis Kimemia (flagging off) says the poor state of the roads was among the issues that worried him most.

“I don’t remember the last time campaigns happened in this county, or district as it was formerly known, and we didn’t have the matter crop up. This is the only electoral period I have not heard any complaints,” says Mr Ndiangui.

When he was elected in 2017, Governor Francis Kimemia says the poor state of the roads was among the issues that worried him most.

Mr Kimemia says although he was ready to tackle the task ahead of him, resources allocated to the county were not enough for the massive rehabilitation of the infrastructure he envisioned.

“I couldn’t stand the sight of residents carrying coffins on their shoulders and using donkeys. It was a shame. I resolved that this is one issue that I will not rest until it is resolved,” he says.

Having spearheaded reforms in the public service while working at the National Government, Mr Kimemia says, he resolved to replicate the success at the devolved unit.

Streamlining of operations to enhance efficiency earned his administration instant dividends as the county was ranked top by the World Bank under the Kenya Devolution Support Programme.

The county emerged the best for four consecutive rankings and with it came a prize of more than Sh900 million.

It is through the funds that the administration acquired road machinery worth more than Sh500 million to begin the transformation task.

“These funds were godsend. I sometime wonder how we would have tackled this road problem. With this tidy sum, we managed to buy five complete units of road construction equipment. We divided them among the 25 wards and the results are there for everyone to see,” says the county chief.

“We said never again will poor state of the roads be a campaign issue. Right now, there are parts of the county that are receiving rains but you have not heard of any inconveniences.”

The governor says his administration has rehabilitated about 6,000 kilometres of roads using the equipment.

Nyandarua County acquired road machinery worth more than Sh500 million.

“We have a graded 4,500 kilometres of roads and gravelled 1,500 kilometres across the county. By using our own equipment, a kilometre of road is done at a cost of between Sh500,000 and Sh700,000 compared to Sh1.5 million charged by contractors,” says Mr Kimemia.

Also done in the rehabilitation programme are bridges across all the wards.

Residents are upbeat, with farmers confessing that their ventures have started bearing fruit.

Nelson Kimonda of Mathakwa in Miragine Ward says his potato farming business has blossomed following the rehabilitation of the roads.

“I had relocated my potato farming to Kinamba area of Laikipia County after the poor state of the roads made it difficult for us to sell our produce. But now, trucks are coming right to our doorstep to pick the potatoes. It is the same thing for milk, dealers are collecting it from our farms,” he says.

For Kevin Njogu from Engineer Ward in Kinangop, the improved roads were a blessing after losing his job due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He says after relocating from Nairobi, he retreated to his rural home to try a hand in farming.

“Having grown up here, I know how the roads have been problematic. I was lucky that when I came back to engage in commercial farming, the infrastructure was perfect. My farming is flourishing and I don’t think I want to be employed again,” says Mr Njogu.