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Farmers in central Kenya count losses as heavy rains pound region

CENTRAL
By Standard Team | April 18th 2016
A degraded section of Kairuni road in Chogoria ward, Tharaka Nithi County. The ongoing rains in Mount Kenya region wreaked havoc on many roads. PHOTO: PETER MUTHOMI/STANDARD

NYERI: The onset of the long rains has brought untold suffering to residents of most rural areas in Central Kenya.

Since the rains started a week ago, most of the roads, which are under county governments, have become impassable.

In some areas, the situation is so bad that even boda boda operators have been driven out of business by the muddy and slippery roads. Trucks for delivering farm produce to the market have also been stuck in the mud and farmers are appealing to the county governments to come to their rescue.

Sadly, the heavy rains have also brought construction work on some of the feeder roads to a standstill.

A farmer in Mwiyogo in Endarasha, Phillip Njau, said the price of potatoes has doubled due to the high transport costs. “It has become more expensive to travel from a farm in Endarasha to Nyeri town than from Nyeri to Nairobi,” he said.

BADLY HIT

Ngangarithi and Ruring’u estates in Nyeri town have been badly hit by the rains and residents forced to wade across streams that have burst their banks.

Ruring’u resident Timothy Bundi was stranded on Tuesday last week for close to eight hours after a truck got stuck in the mud on the road to his home.

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Nyeri acting executive for Roads and Infrastructure Robert Thuo said his department was upgrading 8km of earth roads per ward in all the 30 wards in the county. “The county is grading and gravelling roads and the programme, which started in January, is expected to be complete by end of May 2016,” Thuo said.

Farmers and motorists in Kirinyaga County have also complained over the poor state of feeder roads since the end of the El Nino rains. Some of the roads that are in a pathetic condition are Ithareini-Kianguenyi, Mururi-Ngiriambu, Kimbimbi–Kanjinji and Mukinduri-Kiaga. These roads are key to the agricultural sector as farmers use them to deliver their produce to the market.

According to Gichugu MP Njogu Barua, there has been confusion as to which roads are under  the County Government and  which ones are under the national government until last December, when all roads in the country were classified and gazetted.

“We now know which road belongs to the Kenya National Highway Authority, the Kenya Rural Roads Authority, the Kenya Urban Roads Authority and the county government and from now on, farmers and motorists will no longer complain over who has failed where,’’ he said.

Kirinyaga Transport and Infrastructure executive Joseph Muthike said even before the classification of the roads, most feeder roads in the area have always been maintained.

“The county government cannot be blamed wholesale since funding for the maintenance of such roads has not been forthcoming from the national government. This is not a Kirinyaga affair but cuts across the country,” he said.

BAD SITUATION

The situation is so bad that that a well-wisher has donated her machinery to improve the condition of the roads in Kirinyaga. Purity Wangui Ngirici, through her construction firm, Ngirici & Sons Ltd, has started working on the roads that are impassable. In Embu County, there is no shortage of the roads’ nightmare. Some sections of the roads are impassable due to mud and motorists have been avoiding them fearing they would get stuck.

The Kivwe-Kithimu road, Kivwe-Kevote and Muthatari-Kimangaru road, all in Manyatta Constituency are in dire need of rehabilitation. The Ena-Ugweri road, especially the section from BAT to Ugweri, has also been difficult to navigate since the rains started juts as Machang’a-Makima and Makima-Gategi.

Roads that are in a sorry state in Runyenjes Constituency include Runyenjes-Rukuriri road, Rukuriri-Kathangariri road, Runyenjes-Ugweri road, Runyenjes-Gichiche road and Runyenjes-Nduri road, which serve agriculturally rich regions which produce coffee, tea, milk and horticultural crops.

Embu Governor Martin Wambora said his government was working on roads in all wards.

In Meru County, tea produce worth millions of shillings in Kirimachuma location in Tigania East Constituency, is going to waste after roads in the area became impassable.

Over 400 farmers, who have already boycotted tea picking, held demonstrations to protest the poor state of the roads. They said they are losing about Sh3 million daily as their produce cannot reach the factories.

The farmers led by Joseph Nguru said leaf collection trucks can no longer reach buying centres due to the poor state of the Kirimachuma-Kiliindo-Kairone road.

-Report by Lydiah Nyawira, Munene Kamau, Phares Mutembei, Joseph Muchiri and Sammy Mose

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