At least 1250 youth from the informal settlements of Gitimbine, Mjini and Majengo in Meru town are set to benefit from a project meant to upgrade access roads in the area.
The project meant to improve livelihood opportunities and accessibility to the underserved communities in Meru comes from the people of Japan through the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF)
The fund is administered by the World Bank through Community Road Empowerment (CORE), a non-governmental organization known for programs that improve lives of underserved communities in Kenya, East Africa and beyond.
CORE, the recipient of the project from JSDF, is responsible for the implementation of the project on the ground.
Speaking during a tour to assess the progress of the project, Meru County Chief Officer for lands and Urban planning Mr Aron Mbai lauded the Japanese Social Development fund (JSDF) and the World Bank for supporting the programme which will leave a positive mark on those in the settlements.
He said the fact that the project was labour-intensive means that the locals mainly youth and children will get direct daily earnings for at least three years it will be running.
Partners in the project include KURA, and CORE the direct implementers of the project and this project is taking place only in Meru County.
So far, he said, 500 young men and women are engaged in the first phase of the project and the number will rise to 1,250 by the end of the third phase.
“The young people are receiving daily earnings from their labour and this means that 500 homesteads are directly benefitting from the project. This is really a life-changing programme within the county,” said Mr Mbai.
He said the young people being engaged in the projects will also undergo training on how to register companies which will help them get tenders from the county government and other organisations in future.
“There are also those who will be picked to enroll in a technical training course at Meru National Polytechnic beginning April which is labour-based where they will get certificates, register with National Cconstruction authority (NCA) from where they will be in a position to bid for local tenders,” said Mbai.
He added that the upgraded roads will help people living in the informal settlements access crucial services along the bypass and Meru town in general in addition to boosting the security in the area.
“Before this project was started, it was hard to access some of the places including when there are emergencies like fire but this will now be a thing of the past.
Japan Social Development Fund project coordinator Mr Amos Biwott, said the project is aimed at improving the livelihoods and accessibility of the communities living around the areas of the three informal settlements.
“The project is sponsored by the government of Japan through the World Bank and we have several stakeholders involved including the ministry of roads and transport, Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA), Kenya Roads Board (KRB) and Meru County.
He said the project was targeting around 26 kilometres in the three settlements and will be implemented in three-year’ time.
“The first year we will do 10 kilometres and second and third year we are targeting eight kilometres each,” said Mr Biwott.
He added: “It also aims at creating employment for the youth and women living in the three areas and we anticipate that the groups, after training, will register their small companies and thereafter go for further training where they will get more skills on how they can be contractors.”
He said similar technology was also in application in Bungoma, Busia, Narok, Elgeyo Marakwet, and Uasin Gishu counties among others. He said the roads will be upgraded using the Do Nou technology and can last up to ten years.
“With regular maintenance, the roads can last even longer and this can be attested by the fact that the roads that were done in 2008 are still in good condition,” said Mr Biwott.
The project engineer Mr George Mwenda Kaluma said Do Nou technology basically means using the gunny bags with materials to improve sections of roads that are in dire need of repair or impassable.
“It involves filling the bags with appropriate materials like sand or murram and they are systematically laid on the application area, compacted and covered in place,” said Mr Kaluma.
The outcome, he said, is a well-improved road that has enough strength and once done, and with proper maintenance, can last for a very long time.
“We are also carrying other interventions on our roads including improving drainages, installing culverts and undertaking gravelling works,” said Mr Kaluma.
He said this was a better technology as they were using the community participatory approach to rehabilitate the roads which increases ownership in the sense that the people who are doing the roads are from the area and will have an idea of how to do maintenance on the same roads.
KURA’s Representative Mr Timothy Nyoboe said they have been supporting the project and initially started it together with the County government, Japan Government through JSDF, and the World Bank.
“The project and the technology were considered for Meru because of the previous implementation of the World Bank project including Eastern and Western bypasses and it was seen as part of continuity by doing the same to the densely populated community areas within the town,” said Mr Nyoboe.
“As technical advisors, we are so far pleased with the progress of the project and the only thing is that we are in discussion with the county government to see the best way to improve it further once they finish the gravelling of the roads by either sealing them so that they can last even much longer,” he said.
He said this was necessary considering the heavy rains that are always witnessed in Meru County.
By Dickson Mwiti