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Keroka gears up for take-off

Dining etiquette

For over three years now, Keroka Town has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Traders boycotting paying tax, leaders warring over boundaries, and investors halting development projects because of insecurity have been the common news about the trading centre shared between Kisii and Nyamira counties.

As devolution took over from the defunct local governments, a bitter boundary row has been ensuing, with administrative demarcations of the two counties being at the centre of it all, with each side accusing the other of intrusion into their territory.

But now, the boundary row aside, the town which, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, is home to close to 30,000 people, is set to have a major face-lift in terms of its social amenities and infrastructural facilities.

For over 40 years, the town has lagged behind in infrastructural development, making it to stagnate.

According to the Keroka Town Development Plan which was adopted in 1971, the town should be having around 30 breather alleys and a minimum of six by-passes. The plan shows clearly where all the facilities were supposed to be constructed.

Thankfully, plans are underway to create by-passes and access roads within the town to ease of movement.

A major road straddling the town from Etundubari to Gucha Hospital has been opened up, a major breakthrough in the development of the area.

Apart from the new one-kilometre by-pass, more than 10 other access ways have been opened up.

Already, grabbed roads in the town have been marked for re-possession, according to the town administrator in charge of the Kisii County Kennedy Mogire.

"We have been having a problem with accessibility in the town because almost all of the marked access roads and by-passes were grabbed and repossessing them has been a big challenge. But we have made a breakthrough by opening up the most essential ones," said Mogire.

The revenue base of Keroka has been diminishing over the years because of boundary wrangles which emerged between the two counties which co-own the town.

But according to the Nyamira County Finance Executive Jones Omwenga, the amount of revenue being collected has increased.

"We have been experiencing steady rise in revenues from the area over the last three months because of the efforts by the Kisii and Nyamira County Governments in looking for lasting solutions to the problems that have been plaguing the town's economy," said Omwenga.

However, he could not state exactly by how much the growth has been recorded.

According to Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama, Keroka is set to compete with Kisii Town in terms of revenue collection.

"We have been having administration issues with the town but that is behind us now as we are seeing a bright future and hope to double our revenue collection," said Nyagarama.

Mogire, on his part, said the efforts to put up infrastructure will enable investors look beyond the central business district.

"This is a very important town which needs not to be looked upon like any other village trading centre. We want to maximise on investment opportunities because the highway we have in the town has not been fully utilised to bring about meaningful growth," said Mogire.

Kisii Governor James Ongwae is also optimistic that the town will emerge as a major pillar of the region's economy after all the plans on improving it by the shared development plan between his county and that of Nyamira are implemented.

"All the controversies that have been dogging the growth of this town are behind us and it is our hope that residents will get better services," he said.

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