A new devolved system of government in Kenya has recently established counties as distinct units of governance and development. The Constitution of Kenya – 2010 under the fourth Schedule and the County Government Act 2012 in part XI on County Planning, requires the new County governments to operate under a county planning framework that shall integrate economic, physical, social, environmental and spatial planning, to prepare county integrate development plans (CIDPs). Yet, the government has not provided guidelines on how to prepare such CIDPs.
The Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP), University of Nairobi has come forward to prepare a pilot County Integrated Development Plan for one of the Counties, called Bomet, lying in the expansive Kenya’s Rift Valley. On the 15th November 2013, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the University, DURP and the Bomet County Government to allow for the preparation of the first County CIDP. The day was marked with a launch party that saw the public come in to witness and grace the event with music and dance.
One of the essential courses taught to every planner, both at undergraduate ad masters level is regional planning. It provides the planner with the requisite skills and principles for preparation of regional development plans. Essentially, an integrated county development plan is a regional plan that integrates spatial, economic, social and environmental dimensions of development.
The University of Nairobi’s partnership with Bomet County Government came at an opportune time when the B.A fourth year and M.A second year were due to carry out their practical studio on the preparation of a regional development plan. The course instructors, Prof. Elijah Ndegwa, Mr. James Murimi and Dr. Musyimi Mbathi have extensive experience in the preparation of regional development plans in Kenya. It was really great excitement for the final B.A and M.A students who had the opportunity to head to Bomet in a University bus for the preparation of an integrated county development plan focusing on the spatial framework for the County.
Before leaving for Bomet, the students had spent prior weeks on desktop research aimed at understanding the existing conditions in the county; the socio-economic aspects, land and housing conditions, the topographic conditions and the institutional and legal framework that would inform their work. With proper grounding, the students were able to identify data gaps and outline data needs for the fieldwork. The data gaps and needs later informed the preparation of data collection instruments from various data sources. So on the 18th November 2013, the University of Nairobi bus left at around noon, fully packed with eager students headed for Bomet.
Bomet County is located in the Great Rift Valley. It lies at an altitude of 900 meters to 1850 meters above the sea level. This characterizes the area and the whole county with undulating topography that gives rise to the main rivers - river Kipsonoi which marks the boundary of Bomet and Buret districts and flows to Lake Victoria; River Nyangores which flows from South to West Mau Forest and traverses the county forming a structural element in the growth and expansion of the towns like Bomet town. The town is set to be the county headquarters. From the study, the town was seen to be quickly developing into a financial center for the south rift. It provides financial services to the booming agricultural sector in the region.
While using the Narok route to Bomet Town, one should expect to see the Great Rift Valley escarpment before getting to Mai Mahiu town. One witnesses the panoramic view of the great hills of the rift, the flat stretches of grasslands and shrubs teaming with wildlife before getting to Narok town, and further on one sees the cattle ranches of the Maasai before finally getting to Bomet Town. The trip takes approximately 3 hours while travelling at 80 km/hr. Accommodation for the students had been reserved at one of Bomet town’s lodges, where they would be spending two weeks of intensive field work. A unique approach that would be used during the fieldwork was the triangulation method. It encompassed four main tools of data collection; the household level questionnaires, the Key informants’ interviews, the focus group discussions and mapping (of facilities, infrastructure, resources etc.)
The household questionnaire was used to directly get information from the residents of the county. It covered all aspects of the household and the surrounding environment. This was done by selecting representative samples per ward. Bomet County has 25 wards and 5 constituencies: Bomet Central, Bomet East, Chepalungu, Sotik and Konoin. The focus group discussions were also held per ward, and covered the elderly, the youth, the Women, the men and persons with disabilities. They focused on core values, the community visions, resources, challenges, opportunities and recommendations. Special interviews were also held with key informants on specific matters. These key informants were government officials, specific community members, non-state agencies and persons from the private sectors. The mapping team traversed the whole county picking points and photos of infrastructure, services, resources and any other relevant point of information. These points were picked using the Global positioning system devices.
The combined team of B.A and M.A still required more time to complete the work. Four more days had to be added. A few challenges were experienced in the field, such as the university bus getting stuck in the wet muddy roads of the Mau forest at night. To show the full support of the county government – newly acquired land-rovers were sent to pick up the stranded students and a tractor to pull out the bus.
At the end of the fieldwork, the team was happy to head back to Nairobi, having achieved what they had set out to do. On their return, they are now busy on data processing and analysis to prepare the Bomet County integrated development plan. The client is the community of Bomet County led by theirGovernor, Mr. Isaac Ruto, who is also the chairman of Council of County Governors in Kenya. Everyone has high expectations of the project- the first County Integrated Development Plan.
Prepared by James Wanyoike, CURI (28th November 2013)