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ELECTION 2022

How quarries changed fortunes of one rocky Murang’a village

CENTRAL
By Boniface Gikandi | Dec 8th 2021 | 3 min read
A stone cutter imported from Italy at Kandundu quarry mine in Murang’a where the youth earn thousands of shillings daily for being part of the construction value chain. November 30, 2021. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

A settlement that had been abandoned near Murang’a town has now become the new gold mine for hundreds of youth employed in quarry mines.

Investors are also trooping in the locality to scout for land.

In 2017, a Chinese investor bought three acres at Kandundu village near River Maragua. The investor installed diesel-run stone cutting equipment, awakening local investors to the unexplored wealth.

The quarry mining thrived, with hundreds of trucks from as far as Meru, Nanyuki, Nyeri, and Embu diverted from the older machine-cut stone in Juja and Ndarugo in the neighbouring Kiambu County to Kandundu on the outskirts of Murang’a town.

Between 2005 and 2010, the Kandundu area was considered dangerous, as criminal gangs, who terrorised the neighbouring areas in Mumbi and Vidhu Ramji, roamed there freely.

In 2019, local investors finally saw the opportunities, bought land nearby and spent millions of shillings importing stone cutting equipment similar to that introduced by the Chinese investor.

Kamau Muikia, a resident, said youthful workers trooped to the mines after discovering the quarry’s worth, and each could go home with at least Sh1,200 a day.

“The former wasteland initially used by the criminals to hide stolen items or production of illicit brews, are now utilised,” said Mr Muikia.

Muikia said the quarry investment had reduced the distances covered to get stones in Juja and Ndarugo.

When The Standard visited the place, more than 30 trucks were waiting to be loaded with building stones. The county revenue collection clerks also collected the levies as provided under the Finance Bill.

A truck ferrying more than 500 pieces of stones is charged Sh700, with those that carry less than 500 pieces paying Sh500 per trip.

Kamau said youth earn a living by loading a standard feet stone block into the lorries, an expense catered for by the quarry owners.

“The area once considered a security threat is the source of income to hundreds of the youth who, after the Covid-19 pandemic, got casual jobs at the quarry,” said Kamau.

Sarah Ngonyo, who hawks food, said the proceeds had helped her.

“This is my only source of livelihood in the past three years. I have seen it grow following the investment in the building sector,” she said, adding that last year’s closure of the sites affected their businesses.

The closure ordered by the Ministry of Health followed failure by some players to observe Covid-19 protocols including provision of handwashing areas and toilets.

The investors, led by former Kiharu MP Ngenye Kariuki, said millions of shillings had been pumped into the area through purchase of quarrying equipment, including earth movers, stone cutting machines and generators for excavation of stones.

Murang’a Municipal Board Secretary Makara Ngure said the quarries had turned into a revenue generator for the county government.

He said employees, administrators, and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) officials were keen to ensure compliance with all regulations to protect nearby residents and environment.

“Presently, their board is collecting data from all the quarry mine operators ahead of the January inspection of the sites,” said Makara.

County Lands and Physical Planning Executive Sarah Masaki said players in the sector were duty-bound to observe the safety regulations. Licenses of those defaulting will be revoked, she said.

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