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Kenya Rural Roads Authority breaks dawn for Bamba residents

By Catherine Butaki | Jul 30th 2019 | 7 min read
By Catherine Butaki | July 30th 2019
Section of the road (PHOTO: Courtesy)

When you hear of the name ‘Bamba’ what comes into your mind? For most born 1950’s, it must be the famous Giriama Folk song, ‘Safari ya Bamba ni Machero’ (The journey to Bamba is tomorrow) written and composed by the late Stephen Bumbao, a music teacher in 1959.

The song immortalises Bamba as a faraway town whereby if you want to travel, you must begin your journey at dawn psyching yourself up for the usual choking dust storms and scorching sun.

Though innocently sang, the song depicts Bamba as a place that had been down in the dumps. Bamba town has been defined either by people who ended up there intentionally or by accident as the main market centre for the lowland livestock and millet agro-ecological zone.

The links to Bamba with other hinterlands was characterised by earthen tracks without definite alignment passing through difficult dusty terrain during the dry season, soggy, and impassable during the wet season.

That was the state of Mariakani-Bamba road, which is in Ganze Constituency in Kilifi County before construction. Against all odds, Bamba attracted settlements and other investments to become a modern socioeconomic center, demanding for connections with other towns of equal status hence priority to upgrade the road.

The construction of Mariakani-Bamba (D549) and Kilifi-Kiwandani Primary School Roads began on April 1, 2016, and received much attention after President Uhuru Kenyatta sang about it in State of the Nation address in Parliament in March 2017.

This was the first ever-tarmacked road for the residents of Kilifi County who had waited for the construction for close to 56 years since independence.  The 45 Km stretch, which was completed on November 1, 2018, starts at Mariakani town at a junction with Mariakani-Kaloleni road and traverses Mnyenzeni -Guruguru ending at Bamba town.

It also consists of the 6KM Kilifi-Kiwandani Primary School Roads, which starts at a junction with B8 Mombasa- Malindi Road and ends at Bofa both at a cost of Sh2.4 billion.

The road project was implemented by the National Government through the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA), and is part of the Road 10,000 Low Volume Seal Roads (LVSR) Programme pledged by the Government in order to open up rural Kenya.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Residents of Mariakani-Bamba have been relieved since the completion of the road project.  Alex, a boda-boda operator and a businessperson says he has seen light at the end of the tunnel.

He adds that it currently takes him approximately 45 minutes to ride to Bamba from Mariakani unlike before where it took him close to 2 hours due to potholes and the slippery road especially during the rainy season when he would even be stuck in the mud.

He says that the operating cost of his bike has also reduced since the road is smooth and consumes less fuel coupled with reduced travel time. Convenience to the local hospital for the residents is also an added advantage resulting to low maternal mortality rate by improving access to health facilities.

The dominant modes of transport in the area are boda-bodas, matatus and the much-derided Toyota Probox. 

The fares range between Sh250 for both probox and boda-boda, and Sh 200 for matatus unlike before whereby you could part with Sh500 and Sh400 respectively from Mariakani - Bamba. Kazungu, a matatu operator says that it currently takes him less than two hours to travel from Mariakani to Bamba town as opposed to three hours before the construction. Additionally, boda-bodas would charge Sh100 from Kiwandani to Bofa, which has since reduced to Sh50.  

A Section of the 6Km Kiwandani Primary Bofa Road

On a good day, a boda-boda operator makes close to four trips compared to one trip, which they could only manage in a day. A Public Service Vehicle makes close to three trips as opposed to one trip a day which it used to make before the construction.

The Contractor, to provide water for the construction of the road and have since been handed over to the residents, built approximately ten water-pans. These water-pans have quenched their thirst hence enhancing their livelihoods especially during the dry season for watering their livestock, consumption and farming.

Kalume, a teacher in Mwenzeni Primary School, says that the school has greatly benefited from the signage and speed bumps erected near the school since students can easily cross the road without fear of being knocked down by speeding vehicles. The students are also able to arrive at school earlier due to availability of motorized transport hence boosting literacy levels due to better accessibility to the educational centers.

Good road infrastructure is a key element to industrial growth and in this case, it is evident, as heavy trucks have started plying the route to a gypsum container freight yard “Roche” located approximately eight Kilometres from Mariakani town, which was set up after completion of the road.  There is a high likelihood that more industries shall mushroom along the road creating more employment opportunities.

Other beneficiaries of the project include the land owners who are anticipating an increase in the price of land. The average price of an acre of land was Sh30,000 and has since appreciated to Sh200,000.

A boom in business has also been recorded in the area. It takes Emmanuel Wanzai a shop owner at Bamba approximately four hours to transport his goods using a medium truck from Mombasa town, unlike seven hours he previously took.

At times, he buys from local wholesalers who have since established wholesaling outlets resulting from induced demand and improved transportation. Fish and miraa from Mombasa town also reach Bamba in time in the fresh condition which was rare before.

As part of the package, the Government has also upgraded in Kilifi town the Kiwandani to Bofa Link road. Tourism has been revitalized along the six kms stretch from Kiwandani to Bofa. According to Joel, a boda-boda operator, more tourists are now making their way to the beach hotels in Bofa since the road is smooth and less dusty. Some tourists have opted to relocate by buying or renting houses around the area. The road has supported the tourism industry, which has greatly boosted formal and informal commercial activities. The arrival of tourists has induced an increase in demand for other infrastructure services in terms of water supply, communication, electricity supply and waste disposal.

Homeowners near the road have been relieved of dust storms, which used to blow towards their homesteads as it has been contained. This posed a threat to both the health and hygiene of locals since most operate small-scale businesses like kiosks and shops selling delicacies, groceries, cereals and clothes to schoolchildren or passersby.

Land prices within Bofa have greatly increased from Sh2 Million to Sh4 Million for an acre for most of the land bordering the beach. Security in the area is also guaranteed, as security patrol cars are able to access most entry points. It is thus evident that the road has occasioned a holistic turnaround in the fortunes of the area.

The improved quality of the road has induced higher traffic volumes and hence the road is prone to overloading by heavy trucks, which remains a greater challenge. Kerra will continue to undertake axle load monitoring to inform plans in the future to strengthen the pavement to a higher standard for the heavily trafficked section to safeguard the investment and ensure longer service life.

It is high time we all applaud the ‘once-forgotten town’ with a new folk song, “SAFARI YA BAMBA NI RERO” (The Journey to Bamba is Today) because you no longer have to start your journey at dawn to reach Bamba.

The Author is Deputy Director of Corporate affairs, Catherine Butaki

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