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Ukambani economic bloc takes shape as governors cry over cash crunch

Kitui Governor Julius Malombe (Left) Machakos Governor Wavinya Ndeti (Centre) and Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo jnr pose for a photo during a past event | PHOTO-Kitui Governor’s Press Unit

By Eastern Newspaper Correspondent

The Three Ukambani governors recently unveiled the economic blueprint for the region’s economy uplifting to make their counties food secure and stable.

Governors Julius Malombe (their chairman), Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos and Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) have developed a five-year strategic plan aimed at turning around the fortunes of electorates and bringing to an end the region’s underdevelopment, poverty, drought, and food insecurity. This is in the offing despite the fact that devolved units are yet to receive their equitable share of the revenue for the past three months.

The economic bloc, christened South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc (SEKEB) is to incorporate resources and human power towards one goal of solving water scarcity, exploitation of minerals, exploring tourism ventures, setting up aggregation and industrial parks, and road connectivity.

The governors said SEKEB in partnership with Africa’s Voices Foundation committed to spearheading Ukambani political bargaining power, implementation of infrastructure programs, and industrialization.
Governor Kilonzo Jnr who read the trio’s joint statement said ICT and innovation are centered in the plan adding that youth, women, and people with disabilities will not be left behind.

“We have forged a unity of purpose as local leaders to collectively address the issues that are paramount to the Ukambani residents. The five-year strategic plan is geared towards addressing the challenges of frequent famine and food insecurity. We must shift the focus from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation, climate-smart agriculture, agricultural shows, and trade partnerships,” Kilonzo said.

The county chiefs stressed bringing all elected leaders on board so that everyone would make their rightful contribution.

The governors said proper and gainful exploitation, mining, and management of mineral resources including sand, and the location of related industries like ballast crushers will be captured in the SEKEB strategic plan.

They set out clearly how the handle health care problems faced by patients in their respective counties including establishing a Renal Unit in Kitui, while Machakos will host a cancer center and a trauma center will be set up in Makueni.

Kilonzo said as SEKEB their focus turns to developing the region to be a giant not only in the Eastern region but also in the Country.

They noted that the multipurpose Thwake Dam project which is currently at 80 percent complete will spur economic growth, enhance food security and address perennial water shortages.

They welcomed a plan by the national government to construct the Sh8.5 billion Yatta dam to boost agricultural activities along the 58km Yatta Canal and substantially increase the acreage under irrigation.

On roads, the governors said they will continue to lobby for more inter-county major roads that will enhance connectivity within and beyond the bloc.

The governors said the Kibwezi-Kitui road had stalled at Kwa-Siku in Migwani, Mwingi West despite it playing a critical role in opening up the region.

They pleaded with the Ruto administration to compensate residents whose land was hived or taken away altogether for the road project arguing that the national government should urgently fast-track the completion of local roads that connect to LAPSSET port of Lamu.

On rural electrification, green energy, and the development of a tourism circuit within the SEKEB region, the plan will resolve bedeviling issues relating to the same once implemented.

The governors said SEKEB will develop an agricultural value chain concept suitable for the region’s climatic conditions.

They said a beef production project had been established in Machakos in partnership with an American investor.

“So far, the investor has set up a model farm and is testing different feed portions in the first phase. Once the piloting is successfully done, the knowledge will be shared with farmers and other stakeholders within the bloc,” the statement said.

“Our agenda is to create opportunities for many people along the value chain including feed production, animal breeding, transport, marketing, and processing.

They said it is time for the tourism sites to get the relevant attraction as an earner to the bloc.
The counties boost of hosting game parks such as Tsavo to the South, South Kitui Game Reserve to the South, Mwingi South Game Reserve to the East, and the bordering Meru National Park and Nairobi National Park, as they contemplated forcing relevant authorities for the bloc to get 10 percent of proceeds of tourism accrued.

They said the region is endowed with natural features and phenomena which include one of the wonders of the inverted gravity, a portion of the Machakos-Mitaboni road, Fourteen Falls, Yatta Plateau, Ikoo Valley, and the larger valley that extends from Miambani to Zombie.

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