At Masii, a few kilometres from Machakos town, curious travellers are drawn by the beautiful stones on sale by the roadside.
And on the Naivasha-Nakuru highway, food crops from potatoes to peas are on sale.
Curiously, both food and stones are “measured” using plastic buckets. The stones come in all colours and shapes. The stone sellers are nowhere to be seen. They leave their phone numbers next to their respective piles of stones for potential buyers to call them as they attend to other chores.
The stones include granite, both black and white. Other stones are white or reddish and glittering. They would be great for decorating the house or the backyard. Cladding and paving would be other uses. A bucket goes for about Sh300.
My biggest concern is that, unlike Mazeras, these Masii stones are not branded. I have not heard of Masii stones like Ndarugu stones. That would give them a higher price. The stones, I was told, come from a river. The two sellers I found on this particular day were women. Where were the men? Nature is indeed fair and a great equaliser. This region is not agriculturally rich, but it is endowed with other precious products just like deserts have oil. This region has plenty of sand too. You walk on the sand on unpaved roads, while more is found on riverbeds.
Further downstream near Kitui, I noted lots of brickmaking. What about upgrading that to tiles? Kitui could become a net exporter of bricks and related products.
Sixty years after independence, these hustles have not been formalized or scaled up to the industrial level. We have not enhanced their supply chain, given the sellers some nice sheds and connected them to the markets.
Kitui or Machakos are not unique, most counties have their hustles, based on their weather and natural resources. Can we scale them up to the industrial level?
One easy way to help them is by working with university researchers. But scholars must change their minds and see these hustlers as worthy of study, just like listed firms. Someone reading this is probably wondering why I should write about stones!
Sixty years is long enough. It’s time for the next big leap; who will hold these hustlers' hands into a new beginning? These beautiful stone stones should even be exported.