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Rise and rise of town that will host this year's Mashujaa fete

By Timothy Kariuki | October 20th 2021


An aerial view of Ngurubani or Wang'uru or Mwea township where Mashujaa Day celebrations will be held this year. [Timothy Kariuki, Standard]

Mwea township, also known as Wang'uru or Ngurubani, has made strides in the last 20 years.

By the year 2000, when the rice subsector was liberalised, and farmers freed from the stranglehold of the National Irrigation Board, it was one big parade of donkeys on a market day.

The town then had only one petrol station, one mobile banking outlet, and there were no major hotels.

Today, the town has over seven petrol stations, a similar number of banks and about 17 other financial institutions. It probably has the highest concentration of boda boda riders in the Mt Kenya region.

Mwea has also surpassed some older and more established towns on the Nairobi-Meru route, emerging as a popular stopover for commuters who mostly purchase Pishori rice, snacks and a variety of fruits and vegetables hawked by roadside traders.

It also has an enviable nightlife, with revellers travelling from as far as Murang'a and Chuka to sample what the town has to offer.

When it hosts the 2021 Mashujaa Day fete, it will have executed yet another coup on older towns such as Kerugoya/Kutus and Sagana.

When the government announced plans to hold the 2021 Mashujaa Day fete in Kirinyaga County, many guessed that the occasion would be held in Kerugoya town or the county headquarters in Kutus. Or maybe even the older Sagana which thrived as a railway station in the colonial and immediate post-independence years.

But the government inexplicably settled on Mwea.

In this highway town which is home to almost all the communities in the country, millions of shillings exchange hands every day.

Mwea MP Kabinga Wachira has attributed the growth of the town to the coexistence of various communities. He said most of the initial inhabitants are the descendants of Mau Mau, who had been detained at Gathigiriri and Mwea prisons.

Kabinga said, after detention, Mau Mau fighters were brought to Gathigiriri prison in preparation for their release.

But after they were released, many of them settled in the area and started rice farming.

Some of the detainees worked for the African Land Development. They built the Mwea Rice Scheme and canals that brought water from rivers Nyamindi and Thiba, levelled the rice fields, and put up the nine villages that host residents.

They were offered land in Mwea, but many turned it down due to the hard labour they had endured.

The town has, however, made some developmental strides in recent times. From the construction of a Sh350 million stadium with a capacity of 10,000 people, there has also been the construction of an additional 13 kilometres of tarmac from the initial four kilometres.

The MP said the transformation had come at the right time. He noted that the constituency had been neglected in the infrastructural development, despite the town pumping over Sh10 billion into the GDP through rice farming.

Kabinga said, with the transformation witnessed, the town's economy is likely to overtake that of Embu and Nyeri towns.

Further, he said Thiba Dam in Gichugu, which is near completion, would solve the water scarcity issue which will double the rice production from the current 114,000 metric tonnes to 230,000 metric tonnes.

Kabinga said local leaders are pushing for the larger Mwea to become a municipality, having hit a population of over 100,000. Municipality status would enable the area to benefit from the massive infrastructure upgrade it is currently lacking.

Residents have been delighted by the transformation the town and the county at large have undergone.

It will also be a beneficial tribute to thousands of Mau Mau fighters who endured backbreaking routines building the scheme canals and watched many compatriots killed.

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