Nyeri County is situated about 150 km north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, in the country’s densely populated and fertile Central Highlands, lying between the eastern base of the Aberdare (Nyandarua) Range, which forms part of the eastern end of the Great Rift Valley, and the western slopes of Mount Kenya.
The majority of Nyeri residents are black Africans from Kenya’s largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu. The Kikuyu language is therefore widely spoken, along with Kenya’s national language, Kiswahili as well as Kenya’s official language, English. Black Africans from other Kenyan ethnic groups (most of them being state and private sector employees) make up a small minority, with the rest of the population comprising Kenyans of Asian origin and a small white.
The most imposing landmark around Nyeri is Mount Kenya, and starting from about twenty kilometers out of town is the Mount Kenya National Park. Mount Kenya is an imposing extinct volcano lying strategically astride the Equator. The mountain has two main peaks – Batian (5200m) and Nelion (5188m). It is the highest mountain in the country and the second, after Kilimanjaro, in Africa. It has two main snow covered peaks, Batian and Nelion.
Nyeri County has a total population of 693,558 people according to KNBS statistics results 2009.
Prominent People in Nyeri County
A number of renowned people have hailed from around Nyeri:
• Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize winner, 2004)
• Mwai Kibaki (Kenya’s current president)
• Dedan Kimathi (a Mau Mau resistance leader)
• Catherine Ndereba (Olympic marathon Silver Medalist, world marathon champion, four time Boston Marathon winner and multiple time winner of Chicago and other marathons).
Nyeri is the burial place of Lord Robert Baden-Powell, a fighter in the Boer War and the founder of the Scouting movement, who once wrote “the nearer to Nyeri the nearer to bliss”.
The labour force, comprising the population aged 15-64 years rose from 202,079 in 1999 to 359,864 in 2002 and is estimated to increase to 400,739 in year 2010. The high increase in labour force has led to increase in unemployment and this may lead to crimes as a result of non-absorption of this population in services of gainful employment.
Around 53% of the population is engaged in agricultural production while the rest are in commercial and public sectors. Thus, the district needs to develop programmes and projects that will foster job creation to take care of the increases in labour force
Economy of Nyeri County
The largest formal employer in Nyeri County, being until recently the administrative headquarters of the former Central Province, is the Government of Kenya. The various sectors of the service industry, including retail, hospitality, banking, insurance, the charity industry, religious bodies especially the Catholic Church and professionals are also significant employers.
The main industrial plants are Coca-Cola bottling plant, water and fruit juice bottling plant, number of tea and coffee processing factories, milk processing and packaging factory owned and run by the Kenya Co-operative Creameries Ltd, and a number of maize millers. The Major industry in the County is farming.
Tourism is also significant, as there are many tourist destinations nearby, including the Aberdare and Mount Kenya National Parks, and a number of good hotels offering conference tourism and short upcountry holidays.
Nyeri’s’ roads, a good number of which are tarmacked, still require much improvement, as do street lighting, street marking, sidewalk paving and parking services.
Water provision services are quite good in some areas, with well-distributed clean and safe drinking water being available straight from the tap.
The sewage system is growing at a good pace, though the use of soak pits, pit latrines and septic tanks is still widespread. The towns’ sloppy topography allows nature to mainly take care of storm water drainage.
Phone services, especially mobile telephony, and internet services are widely available, increasingly affordable and reliable, with internet speeds and bandwidth improving rapidly following the continuing laying of a fibre optic cable network around the areas linking the County to offshore submarine cables recently landed on Kenya’s coast; and continued improvement and increasing affordability of phone operator internet provision services.
Electricity provision is also adequate, affordable and reliable to many residents but other most of the areas still lie in darkness.
Nyeri County is served by a reasonably well-maintained tarmac roads network connecting it to Nairobi, Nakuru and other surrounding towns. Most transportation of cargo to and from the region is by road, although the area has a largely underutilized railway stations and an Airstrip at Mweiga (about 15 Kilometers out of Nyeri Town towards Nakuru). The main mode of public passenger transport to, from, and within Nyeri is by way of fourteen-seater minibus taxis (matatus), though un-metered saloon car taxis are also widely used
Nyeri County is mostly known for its two main cash crops, i.e. Coffee and Tea but apart from these, it’s also known for dairy industry and tourism as part of its economic activities.
For a long time, coffee and tea boosted the local economy before a slump witnessed in the late 1990s dealt a major blow to the region. Despite many expectations that the economy would rise for this place after President Kibaki, who hails from this place, got into power, the economy has been slow to grow.
Generally, the county is well covered with vegetation. Land ownership is largely smallholder and the drier part of it covered with ranches and large scale irrigations.
Major roads in the county are generally in good condition but those in the rural areas have been neglected occasioning untold suffering to farmers during the rainy season.
The area roads, a good number of which are tarmacked, still require much improvement, as do street lighting, street marking, sidewalk paving and parking services
Real Estate is also yet to gain momentum and getting office space or rental houses in most of the urban centers in the county is a problem. For example, for the past year no new building has come up within Nyeri Town Central Business District.
But corporates have started venturing into the county with several financial institutions setting base.
And while a 24-hour economy has been hailed as one that will hasten growth, urban centers in the county, including Nyeri Town, go to sleep just after fall of darkness.
No eateries or entertainment joints operate past 11pm, thanks to unofficial decree imposed by an administrator five years ago.
Being a typical farmers’ town, there are no major commercial enterprises like shopping malls and major supermarket chains. The only exception is Uchumi supermarket in Karatina town and Maathai Supermarket Nyeri and Karatina.
The county enjoys one of the best-run water companies, Nyeri Water and Sewerage Company. The company runs a well-managed water supply system and water shortages are rare.
Besides agriculture, the county boasts of Mt Kenya Bottlers, Highlands Beverage Company and six tea factories that provide employment to the locals.
Nyeri County hosts Kimathi University College (a constituent college of Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology), Moi University (Kagochi Campus, in Mathira) Kenyatta University (Nyeri Campus), and University of Nairobi’s Extra Mural Centre.
Middle level colleges include Nyeri Technical Training College, Mathenge Technical Institute, Kagumo and Kamwenja teachers college. The county also has three prominent secondary schools — Nyeri High School, Kagumo High School and Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls.
The national state Police Training College is situated in Nyeri town. There is a Medical Training College, government nursing school, polytechnic colleges, and several private and public secondary and primary schools. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri runs several schools and colleges in Nyeri.
ATTRACTION AND TOURISM
Tourist attractions include the Aberdare National Park, Mt Kenya and hosts world-class hotels like The Treetops, The Ark, Outspan, Aberdare Country, Mt Kenya Safari Club and Naromoru River Lodge.
Mt Kenya Lodge, Mt Kenya Leisure Lodge and Starbucks Hotel are among other notable holiday destinations
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