The Kerio Valley region, which has for many years been known for banditry, poverty, FGM, floods and mudslides, is set for a major transformation that will turn it into a centre for tourism, culture, sports and civilisation.
The valley of death, as it’s known, will be transformed into a golden pot that will exploit potential transform the lives of hundreds of families.
Thanks to the Kenya Valley Development Authority, donors and the government are pumping more than Sh63 billion into the construction of two major hydropower dams and other community projects that will change the face of Kerio Valley.
The Arror and Kimwarer multi-purpose dams are massive projects that will take up more than 10,000 acres and displace about 1,000 families. The expected compensation has sparked a mad rush for land, as speculators and cartels seek to benefit.
“The two projects come along with huge benefits for the region, and it will now be a centre of attraction, not a place that evokes fear and thoughts about all the bad things, including death,” KVDA chief executive David Kimosop said.
After about three years of long-running rows over compensation of the targeted families, efforts by KVDA have finally unlocked resistance from the communities against the projects.
“We have held more than 70 community participation meetings to educate both those to be resettled and those residing next to the projects, as part of the due diligence to ensure everyone is on board,” Kimosop said.
KVDA, in conjunction with the National Land Commission, has identified more than 5,000 acres in Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu for resettlement of families to be displaced. About Sh6.5 billion will be used on the compensation and resettlement plan.
“We are acquiring suitable land for the families to be displaced,” Kimosop said.
Engineers are designing the projects, which will come along with unique facilities, including a sports complex, museum, campsites, resorts, conference facilities and world-class hotels.
Kimosop said a down payment of €41 million (Sh4.9 billion), which forms 15 per cent of the total cost, has been made for the design of Arror dam. “By the end of the year, we will have done ground breaking,” he said.
About 400ha of forestland will be acquired for the two projects from the Kenya Forest Service in exchange for 570ha recovered from private land owned by communities. Nema has approved the projects.
“The forest cover will be enhanced and not reduced by the dams, which will also help to cut down on landslides and protect key water sources that have quickly been drying up,” Kimosop said.
The Arror dam, which will cost Sh38.5 billion, is to be set up in Marakwet with a similar one in Kimwarer, Keiyo South, which will cost another Sh28 billion.
Rivers Arror and Kimwarer in Marakwet West and Keiyo South subcounties respectively will lead to downstream irrigation on over 20,000 acres for food production.
“There have been issues on compensation, but as leaders, we agreed to work together for the success of the projects,” Governor Alex Tolgos said.
He said all they want is fairness in compensation, and a proper valuation should be conducted in an all-inclusive process that will see affected families live in peace without regrets.
Kimosop said they will ensure the valuation is conducted in an accountable and transparent manner, devoid of corruption and other malpractices, with all families getting their rightful share.
Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, who visited the region to attend a public participation meeting at Kipsaiya, told the Star the two projects will alleviate the socioeconomic problems.
“The government will ensure strict adherence to the law in implementing the projects, which will not only benefit locals but the entire country,” he said.
The Arror dam will produce more than 60 megawatts of electricity and the Kimwarer dam 20 megawatts, which will be connected to the national power grid.
Close to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs will be created by the projects, which will take four years to complete and come along with rehabilitation of other community projects, including schools and hospitals.
KVDA plans to implement the Arror multi-purpose project through a joint venture between CMC Di Ravena Company and Itenera of Italy, with a loan funding from the Italian banks and government.
Already, initial funding of Sh4.5 billion has been given. The loan programme will have a five-year moratorium before repayment, which will take 15 years.
Community members are now supportive of the two projects after awareness campaigns by KVDA.
Mzee Ben Chelimo, whose family is among those to be moved from Arror, said: “We needed assurance that we will be adequately compensated before being resettled. Kimosop and his team have addressed our concern.”
He is happy the compensation being handled by the NLC will be done as per international standards.
“We have been informed that even those who will want to move graves of their ancestors will be facilitated to do so, and despite a few problems of going to live in new areas, we are happy with the work done so for by KVDA,” Chelimo said.
His views are similar to those from hundreds of residents in Kimwarer, Arror, Kamaram, Kipsaiya, Sambirir and Koibalek villages, which are some of the areas to be covered by the projects. Most residents own small farms for which they will be compensated.
The Arror dam will be the larger of the two and will have a ground length of more than 7.1km, and Kimosop said engineers will ensure it’s strictly safe, to avert disasters like the one at Solai in Nakuru recently.
The infrastructure network to be developed around Arror will be ideal for motor sports, marathon races and other tourism activities.
More than 100,000 residents, along with their livestock, will also benefit from access to clean water. Kimosop said swampy areas, along with escarpments like that of Talel, will be protected from human encroachment, which has led to drying of rivers and heavy mudslides during rains.
“In effect, we will have an additional more than 500ha of new forests to be developed as part of the environment conservation component of the project,” Kimosop said.
In the long-term, the vision is to also have an industrial park to further create more jobs through manufacturing and value-addition factories.
Kimosop said in the end, they have planned to have a Resource Centre at Arror, where historical records will be preserved for future generations.
The Elgeyo Marakwet county, in partnership with donors, plans to put up Cable Cars system that will move people across the escarpments.
“The region will be a peace haven and the home of modern civilisation,” Tolgos said.