KENYA: Plans to digitalise Mariakani town planning excites residents

Posted on | maart 14, 2012 | 1 Comment

The primary function of this technology is to produce maps that give accurate representations of a particular area, detailing major road arteries and other points of interest. The technology also allows the calculation of distances from once place to another

They came in numbers. The rural folk, the old and the youth of both gender teamed up with those from the urban Mariakani town, Kaloleni district, Coast Province to discuss the town’s future development.

To guide the discussions were planning and surveying experts from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and ministry of Local Government and the ministry of Lands.

Town Council of Mariakani covers an area of 331sq kilometers with its headquarters located about 36km North West of Mombasa, the provincial headquarters of Coast Province via Mombasa-Nairobi highway, a factor that encourages flow of goods and people between Mariakani and major urban centers of the district.

The central message at the meeting was how to transform this sleeping giant from the coastal city of Mombasa town on the main Mombasa-Nairobi Road into a satellite town.

Talking about his vision for the town, James Kenga, a resident said, “what Athi River and Thika towns are for Nairobi is what I perceive of Mariakani for Mombasa.”

Charo Dena, chairman of the Mariakani Town Council was at hand to welcome participants from around the town and its environs for the second consultative meeting aimed at coming up with a modern digitalized map and plan that would guide future developments of the town.

Mariakani is among seven other urban centres around the country targeted for digital mapping in this second phase project by the two ministries.

All participants were keen to learn what digital mapping is and the benefits that will accrue from it.

According to Joel Odhiambo, a consultant with the Syagga and Associates, the consultant engaged by the two ministries to carry out the mapping said digital mapping (also called digital cartography) is the process by which a collection of data is compiled and formatted into a virtual image.

“The primary function of this technology is to produce maps that give accurate representations of a particular area, detailing major road arteries and other points of interest. The technology also allows the calculation of distances from once place to another,” he said.

Other towns set for the second phase of digital mapping include Bomet, Busia, Lodwar, Maralal, Kitui, and Kisii.

The first phase covered five towns among them Eldoret and Bungoma and the outcome of the consultative meetings and the digital maps developed are with both the ministry of Lands and the respective civic authorities.

According to the Town Clerk, Isaac Kagia, Mariakani council was created as an urban council by legal Notice No. 2086 of October 30, 1992 under County Council of Kilifi until 1977 when it was elevated and curved off from the County Council of Kilifi to form Mariakani Town Council.

Currently the council has five electoral wards represented by five elected civic leaders, two nominated councilors and a public officer.

The town is said to be among the fastest growing commercial towns in the Coast. The town council consists of five wards: Kaliangombe, Kawala, Mariakani, Mugumo-wa-Patsa, Tsangatsini. All of them are located within  kaloleni Consituency  Central Mariakani is located in Mariakani Location of Kaloleni division of Kilifi district.

Kagia says Mariakani has been known and cherished for its market for livestock and agricultural products. The two continue to be the source of main economic activities in the town.

“Mariakani is known to be the main suppliers of meat to the Coast as it hosts number of slaughter houses,” he said.

He adds that investors from tourism, trade, transport and construction sectors have taken advantage of the friendly and enabling investing environment, available land space, visibility and nearness to Mombasa city and available infrastructure—the Mombasa-Nairobi Road and the Kenya-Uganda Railway line to come in droves

The economic interdependence between Mombasa and Mariakani has helped transform trading in the district especially in the Northwestern part.  This has led to sprouting of other major urban centers around Mariakani like Mazeras, Rabai, Samburu, Maungu etc all of which are linked to other important towns within the region by all-weather roads.

However Grace Masese from the Urban Development department said all these pulling factors notwithstanding, “it is a fact that the rapid urbanization of Mariakani has its unique challenges”.

Prof Mulongo L. Simiyu, a consultant and lecturer, Moi University said Mariakani has a population 73, 000 which is growing at 3 per cent per annum. Forty per cent of these are immigrants from other parts of Kenya even as far as Tanzania.

By 2030, he said, the population of the town is expected to rise to 180,000 people mostly living in Urban, rural and per-urban areas with average land size varying from 2.3 to 4 acres for those living in rural or peri-urban areas.

“There are lots of emerging commercial activities including industries—led by cement factories and all these are adding pressure on land in Mariakani,” he said.

But the town does not have recreation grounds, any market, bus park nor fire station and insufficient schools. Available water and sewer service is insufficient and often leaves either open sewers or residents spend long hours in search of water.

Fueling the growth is the town’s population big family size. Dr Agnes Zani, a social scientist said while the national average per family is five people, Mariakani’s stands at seven.

Yet the urban space is merely 5% of the total land area for Mariakani. 37% of the area is peri-urban with the rest being rural. Unlike other Kenyan towns where it has been noted on average that women outlive men, not so in Mariakani. Average lifespan for women here is only 37 years, while men live for 43 years.

The sad thing for Mariakani says Odhiambo is that the town has no maps to guide its development.

According to Odhiambo, a surveyor, existing maps were those made by the British in 1890s and are inadequate. The result is that the developments currently taking place are haphazardly done. The lack of modern maps has also seen rise of land grabbing incidents and has fueled land-related conflicts.

He said this is the reason the ministry of Local Government plans to help Mariakani get digital maps to help guide the investment framework besides curbing rampant land grabbing.

With that in mind, experts like Odhiambo and others ensured that no less than 115 aerial photographs of the town were shot while aboard a hired helicopter taking every minutest detail.

According to the aerial photographs, informal settlements around Mariakani are growing.

The photographs show that developments are taking place along the Mombasa-Nairobi Road and this, according to planners would pose a big problem in the future expansion plans for the town.

In Mazeras for example, the area is densely populated and developments are emerging anywhere along the road as well as the railway line.

Things are made worse by the fact that access roads outside the main road are messy—meaning fire and water emergencies cannot be salvaged. In areas like Njoro ya Chini bordering the Mabati Rolling Mills, residents said there are no access roads and houses are built haphazardly without any planning.

One, Samuel Rai said he fears that any fire outbreak would raze down lives and property easily as there are no roads for emergency support.

The planners said the rapid industrial expansion also poses another danger in that it could comprise food security as industrialists are targeting farming areas.

According to Mulongo, there is need to begin controlling Mariakani’s development for sustainability.

“Houses are growing like bees on a honey comb,” he said adding that this is neither conducive nor sustainable.

According to local participants, among other needed amenities but lacking include a market. “Food from upcountry, including Taveta, Central and Eastern Kenya pass through Mariakani heading to Kongowea in Mombasa. The residents have to take buses to Kongewea to buy food in bulk to retail back in Mariakani at inflated costs,” they complained.

Provision of such a facility will not only benefit the locals, but people from outlaying regions of Kwale county would and thereby avoid the hassle of crossing the unpredictable ferry at Likoni.

Schools are also far between, no wonder the poor performance in national examinations.


Its nearness to Mombasa has also borne other social challenges that the town is yet to grapple with.

Long-distance truck drivers find the town a better place to spend their nights. Besides this breeding prostitution, physically, it has also bred problems of parking. The town has no parking lot as a result; there are long queues of parked trucks that run into kilometers causing huge traffic jams especially as one nears the weighbridge.


Participants urged for the planners to zone the town. They said there is need to have zoning of farming, resident and industrial areas.

As it is now, all these things are mixed and this poses health danger to residents from the industrial waste and noise pollution.

A businessman called for the town planners to also zone areas according to the type of products or goods one trades in. “let it be clear that if those who want to buy shoes, or food items should be guided with ease where to buy them,’ said one resident. He said as it is now, all goods both toxic and non-toxic are sold side by side.

AUTHOR: Henry Neondo
URL: http://
E-MAIL: neondohenry [at]


One Response to “KENYA: Plans to digitalise Mariakani town planning excites residents”

  1. Jordan 11 Retro
    maart 15th, 2012 @ 08:11

    Conquer fear and establish confidence the quickest method, is to do the thing you fear, until you succeed.

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