Bondo towers over other Siaya towns

Bondo town's main street. [PHOTO/ISAIAH GWENGI/STANDARD]

Bondo, which is one of the most populous towns in Siaya County, has traditionally been a fishing town and its entire economy rotates around the fish from Lake Victoria.

The town developed and expanded over the years and is currently a busy and vibrant economic and educational hub with not only a university, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, but other tertiary institutions such as Kenya Medical Training College, Bondo TTC and Bondo TTI.

Located 64 kilometers West of Kisumu, Bondo was established in the early 1920s as a market centre. In the 1990s, it became the headquarters of Bondo district which was carved out of the larger Siaya District.

For several years, Bondo — which is also a sub-county and thus an administrative centre — played second fiddle to other urban centres of the then Siaya district. Not anymore. Nowadays it is a business hub preferred by traders, banking institutions and micro-finance organisations.

Financial institutions which have opened offices and branches in the town include Cooperative Bank, Kenya Commercial Bank, Equity Holdings and and Post Banks. They are all located along the town's main road.

The town offers a great market for goods and services from other sub-counties, given its population of roughly 30,000 and a good road network which directly links it to Kisumu, Siaya town and the Busia-Kisumu highway along which many urban centres of the county are located.

"Most of traders from other urban centres such as Ukwala, which is the headquarters of Ugenya sub-county, bring their goods to Bondo," says Grace Akinyi, a trader at Migingo market.

Most of the time, many streets in the town are jammed with traders from other places, who jostle for space with local transporters and motor vehicles and motorcyclists. The town's market days are Tuesday and Friday.

"The kind of growth we are seeing in Bondo can be attributed to the residents' ability to welcome investors," says Erick Nyayiera, a journalist who lives in the town. "Some towns in Siaya County are are older than Bondo, but they have not grown as much because of the attitudes of the residents."

The number of recreational facilities and hotels have increased and it can safely be said that Bondo has the highest number of hotels in the entire county and has thus become a favourite for visitors who seek decent and affordable accommodation facilities.

Places of worship and entertainment spots fight for space and well, clients too, more so during weekends and as for the winner, your guess is as good as mine.

But that growth has a downside.

House rents have skyrocketed, and even the neighbouring town centres such as Usenge, Usigu and Uhanya which were mainly inhabited by fishermen and fishmongers have been affected as developers take advantage of cheaper land prices and build modern and spacious houses.

The educational institutions, according to development experts, have played also played a role in not only the growth of the town, but the high rents as the number students and staff seeking accommodation increases every academic year.

Every new building that comes up in Bondo nowadays is either a hotel or a hostel for students.

"The town is experiencing a housing crisis because of the increasing population," says the university's Vice Chancellor professor Stephen Agong' who adds that even their staff are suffering. "Some of our staff members have to commute to from Kisumu daily because there aren't enough houses here."

Many local have taken advantage of the situation and converted their houses into low-cost hostels to target students.

While the growth in population has brought an economic boon, it has come with its share of challenges such as inadequate drainage, water shortage and insecurity.

According to Vitalis Ochieng, the Bondo sub-county Administrator, the county government has come up with plans for improving the sanitation and security.

"We cannot have development projects when people cannot walk or conduct business in a safe and secure environment," says Samson Akatch, the Deputy County Commissioner.