Five decades ago, there existed an extensive sisal plantation farm in Nakuru Municipality that was home to big and small snakes sneaking from Lake Nakuru National Park.
The plantation was surrounded by mud houses and one roomed semi-permanent houses.
In the plantation, vast land was also covered by different species of natural traditional vegetables that included spider plant (sageti), amaranth (terere), black night shade (managu), slender leaf (mitoo), pumkin, jute mallow (mrenda), vine spinach (nderema) cowpeas (boo) and Ethiopian kale.
As the population started to go up in the area known as Kwa Rhonda Slums, it came with a demand of more land for the construction of low-cost houses that eventually stopped sisal growing.
This gave birth to Mwariki, Kaptembwa, Ponda Mali and Kwa Rhonda estates. Today, the population of the estates is estimated at more than 300,000 people.
Rent in the the slums ranges from Sh300 to Sh1,000 for a one-room mud houses to one-room semi-permanent houses. They border middle-income estates like Shabab, Racecourse, Langa Langa Phase Two and Koinange.
However, the coming of the World Bank-funded Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project (Kisip) four years ago was a big relief for the Kwa Rhonda Slum residents.
The objective of the Sh6 billion project was to improve the living conditions of the people in the estates.
Kwa Rhonda in Nakuru Town West Constituency has since cost the World Bank more than Sh3 billion, with the rest of the money coming from the national and county governments.
Under the project, roads have been upgraded and fully tarmacked. Street lighting has drastically reduced the rate of muggings and insecurity that was common in the vast slums.
The upgrading has seen land prices to skyrocket, says real estate agent Elly Ogutu. An eighth of an acre plot that used to cost between Sh600,000 and Sh800,000 is going for between Sh1 million and Sh3 million in an area where residents lived in abject poverty for ages. “They (plots) are un-affordable to most residents, which has in turn attracted outsiders who have invested millions of shillings in the highrise buildings,” says Ogutu.
These developments have opened up the area to modern multi-million-shilling housing estates. “We feel appreciated after years of neglect by different leaders and successive governments,” says George Mwanda, another agent who said the rent of permanent single rooms have shot up from Sh1,500 to between Sh2,500 and Sh3,000.
Hezron Okiki, an insurance expert, said more needs to be done to address the plight of the people who over the years had never seen even electricity in their homes. “It has been an eye-opener to many residents. The construction of modern houses, schools, hospitals and a police station has impacted positively on their lifestyles,” said Okiki.
Four other informal settlements in Nakuru County will also benefit with the World Bank project.