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Paradox in Emali Town: Destroyed Livelihoods in the Name of Development

Paradox in Emali Town: Destroyed Livelihoods in the Name of Development

History: Emali town seats at the border of Makueni and Kajiado Counties. It has a long history, having started as a market point in the late 1800s. Then, the market was mainly for barter trade among the two communities –Maasai and Kamba- in the adjacent hinterlands. The areas’ central location and flat topography contributed to the location being chosen ideal for doing business. The different communities traded in various commodities essential for survival mainly animal hides, grains and livestock. Traditionally the Kamba community in Makueni County were mainly farmers while the Maasai community were largely pastoralist; this in itself provided a base for exchange (trade) of farm produces and animals/ livestock.

The construction of the Mombasa – Uganda Railway in early 1900s and establishment of a stopover at Emali contributed positively to the growth of the town. Likewise, the opening of the Mombasa – Nairobi Highway in the early 1950s boosted the trading node as many road users were able to interact with the town. The town that occupies a total area of 300 square kilometres, is located along the Mombasa – Nairobi highway, about 120 km from Nairobi and 350 km from (and to) Mombasa. It is also a gateway to both Loitokitok (Kajiado County, and subsequently Tanzania) and Wote (Makueni County Headquarters). The towns strategic location has made it a vibrant business node well known for its ’24 hours’ grocery trade of onions, tomatoes, water melons and garlic, transit and roasted meat stopover and traditional Friday’s market day (popular with the business and rural folks). The town’s development record has in turn made a trickle-down effect as evidenced by the improved livelihood in the hinterlands.

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