Although the county headquarters is located at Kathwana township, Chuka town still remains the commercial hub of Tharaka-Nithi County. The town is home to the best hotels, banking facilities, the County Referral Hospital, leading schools, the Chuka University and to crown it all a modern open market at the very centre of town.
Business thrive since Chuka lies along the Meru- Embu road that connects the town to Moyale at the border with Ethiopia and the City of Nairobi and beyond. The road is also the shortest route for Miraa dealers from Maua to Nairobi and international destinations.
Many people who visit Chuka town are impressed by the level of cleanliness, with garbage bins placed all over the town giving no reason for the revelers to litter the town. All the major streets in the town are tarmacked hence the town is not muddy even during rainy seasons not forgetting the street lights that make the town quite safe even at late hours of the night.
Chuka University is probably the best gift God has given Tharaka Nithi County, it located at Ndagani some two kilometres from the centre of town. What one cannot fail to notice on arrival at Chuka is the open air market that gave the town a new face since the year 2015 when the then Member of Parliament for Chuka- Igambang’ombe Constituency, Muthomi Njuki, set aside money from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to uplift it to modern standards.
In 2017 Njuki became the County Governor and channeled more funds from the County Government to modernize it further.
Before Njuki took the mantle to furnish the market, traders relied on their umbrellas to get shelter from sunlight, dust and rain. Today, the market is iron roofed for the most part save for a small portion that remains under asbestos where eateries and dress making are the major businesses.
Some phone accessories and M-Pesa shops are also found in this northernmost side of the market that is not easily visible by a new person in town.
The most visible part of the open air market is the eastern side that faces the Meru-Embu highway and is just adjacent to the automated matatu terminus. Here, traders sell clothes, footwear, beddings, and padlocks.
There are no foodstuffs sold here during the day save for evenings when vegetable and fruit venders intrude and change the glittering face of the market into a greens affair by laying them on the pavement.
By this time, the stall owners are closing shop and probably the reason behind no conflict over encroachment into their business premises.
This is primarily the face of the section that is credited to Muthomi Njuki in his tenure as MP and now the Governor of Tharaka Nithi County. The stalls are separated from one another by a very narrow space between them but traders maintain the security of their wares by locking the rented stalls with padlocks when they are away.
Another section enclosed right behind the stalls is where fresh produce is sold on regular market days. There is lighting and business goes beyond 9.00pm. The perishable produce include cabbages, potatoes tomatoes and onions.
In this section, the small scale traders use their own makeshift stalls or just lay their wares on the floor. It is an open space and it wasn’t changed during the upgrade. There are no constructed stalls here.
Just next is the cereals section it is not enclosed like the asbestos roofed shops in the northernmost part but is under the iron roofing. Inside here hardy cereals such as maize, beans, green grams and sorghum are sold. Some tomatoes, spices and potatoes are also sold here on other days that are outside the regular market days. The regular market days for Chuka town are Tuesdays and Fridays.
A fresh produce trader, Mberia Kibiti who mainly supplies spices to Chuka and Embu markets from Meru County told KNA that modernizing the market is the best thing Njuki has done for Chuka residents.
“Before the roofing, rainy days were chaotic. Business would stall suddenly once the rains started pouring. Nowadays, I do not to worry about rains at all,” said Kibiti, commonly known as Mumeru by his clients, with a contented smile.
He further discloses that the lighting in the open air market and the town in general has not only created a business conducive environment but has also made Chuka one of the safest places to move freely at night.
“I arrive with or receive my supplies as late as 2.am sometimes and wake up as early as 4.30 am depending on circumstances. The town is very safe,” he asserts.
Unlike the regular market days, this section of the market is turned into a second hand clothes market on Sundays. Revelers from all parts of Tharaka Nithi and neighbouring counties congregate here to buy clothes. The place is busiest during Sundays and now as we approach the festive season this weekend might be very busy.
On the western side of the market the County Government is putting up freezers to enable better sale of dairy products. It is yet to be completed.
In order to dispose dirty water from the market, the County Government constructed a deep trench that joins the Tharaka Nithi Water and Sewerage system to exhaust the market waste.
Chuka town has been suffering a major drawback though. With all the eminent business prowess the town does not have a stadium at all. National events that have taken place in the town are held in school compounds.
Last year’s Jamhuri Day celebrations were held at Chuka Boys’ High School compound which was modified to suit the use of tents.
However, this could soon be a thing of the past with the completion of Sh.274 million Kirubia stadium within the suburbs of Chuka town that is virtually complete save for finishing of washrooms.
By David Mutwiri