Saturday, November 22, 2008

And now . . . let there be light in Kogelo

By COSMAS BUTUNYI

Chris Otieno is counting his lucky stars. The 22-year-old electrician is reveling in a windfall brought about by the unexpected arrival of electricity to his rural Nyang’oma-Kogelo market.

Shops and other business premises in the market are preparing the ground for the power supply. In a short while, the entire market will be lit up. And Mr Otieno is in big business -- wiring and fixing electrical fittings in the premises.

At present only the homestead of Mama Sarah Obama, the grandmother of US President-elect Barack Obama, and five other premises have been connected.

“I have fixed over 10 buildings and many are in the waiting list,” Mr Otieno told the Sunday Nation.

According to Kenya Power and Lighting Company deputy regional manager Michael Adhiambo, applications for 40 connections, including all premises in the market, are pending.

Following the announcement of Obama’s victory in the US presidential race, workers from the power company arrived at the hitherto dark village to dig holes for electricity poles.

But Mr Adhiambo told the Sunday Nation that Mr Obama’s election had nothing to do with the power project.

“It was just a coincidence,” he said. He said no order had been issued from any quarter to have the homes of Obama’s relatives supplied with electricity.

Rural electrification

Apparently the village had been earmarked to benefit from the government- funded Rural Electrification Programme. “This was only speeded up by the prevailing events,” said Mr Adhiambo.

He said the Nyang’oma-Kogelo electrification programme was estimated to cost Sh7 million. The change of fortune for the area has not come about without a price.

Food crops and trees standing in the way of power lines have had to be cleared. “Our field officers have carried out an assessment of the losses and are currently working out the costs,” he said.

He said there was no fixed price for the trees, and compensation will be based on the age of the tree, its economic value and whether it is exotic or indigenous.

“Fruit trees will attract higher compensation,” he said. The compensation for the trees will be based on a schedule of the value of trees that was prepared by the ministry of Agriculture.

Those whose crops were trampled on by the officers during the work are not as lucky as the tree owners. They will have to bear the costs.

Mr Adhiambo said the power lines have been erected on road reserves, which are public land.

Since Mr Obama won election as the 44th President of the United States of America, Nyang’oma-Kogelo has generally been on a roll. Apart from the unexpected encounter with electricity, the area’s road network has been upgraded.

Dusty road

The once rough road leading to Nyang’oma-Kogelo from the Ng’iya junction along the Siaya-Kisumu road has been paved.

Area youth have benefited from casual labour in the road construction projects. “There are more vehicles bringing in commodities here,” said Mr Dismas Jawa, who repairs bicycles at the market.

With more bicycles on the roads, business is booming for Mr Jawa, who has been running his shop for 40 years. Buoyed by the business boom, he is contemplating expanding his business to include a spares shop.

His parting shot: “Things can only get better.”

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