By Joseph Maina
What can a visitor expect to find in Nakuru County? Well, Nakuru is a county of many contrasts; it is a land of diverse cultures and climates, checkered pasts, varied expectations and multiple fortunes. Nakuru has played a critical part in shaping both the country’s colonial and post-colonial history, and remains a significant contributor to the nation’s food security, tourism and energy generation.
“The history of Nakuru County is colourful and splendid,” observes the county’s official website. “The county’s rich history is joined at the hip with that of the entire nation.” Nakuru County was among the prime agricultural lands that were annexed as white highlands, where many colonialists chose to settle.
From then on, Nakuru quickly transformed into a vast town that later became the headquarters of the then Rift Valley Province. And as the nation grew, so did Nakuru Town also develop as a result of the activities of the railway, being as it was one of the major stopovers that encouraged growth of business centres along the railway from Mombasa en route for Kisumu.
Today, known officially as County Number 32, Nakuru County spans an area of 7, 495.1 square kilometres. This landmass includes 5,039.40 square kilometres of arable land, 852.1 square kilometres of non arable land, 202 square kilometres of water mass (that basically covers lakes Naivasha, Elementaita and Nakuru) as well as 679.6 square kilometres of gazetted forest.
Located in the southeastern part of the Rift Valley Province, Nakuru County borders 7 counties with Baringo to the north, Laikipia to the northeast, Nyandarua to the east, Kajiado to the south, Narok to the southwest with Bomet and Kericho to the west. Administratively, Nakuru County is subdivided into eleven sub-counties and fifty 55 wards.
The county’s population is described as “multicultural and profoundly diverse”. Agriculture is cited as the lifeline of the economy of Nakuru County, with 70 per cent of the 7,495.1 square kilometres of the county’s land, which translates to 5, 039.40 square kilometres, is arable and highly productive.
“In agriculture, we grow everything except coconuts,” Governor Lee Kinyanjui stated. The county is a leading producer of cut flowers, cereals, dairy products and horticultural produce. Nakuru County usually experiences long rains between March, April, May and June, while short rains occur between October and November.
Nakuru Town is the county’s principal urban centre and is the fourth largest urban centre in the country after Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. In addition, Nakuru Town was named by a 2010 UNHabitat study as the fastest growing town in East and Central Africa. The country’s other major urban centres are Naivasha, Molo, Gilgil, Njoro, Maai Mahiu, Subukia, Dundori, Salgaa, Mau Narok, Bahati, Rongai and Olenguruone.
“Naivasha is ranked number one non-capital investment destination in Africa as well as the fourth investment destination in Africa after Dar es Salam, Kampala and Kigali,” notes the county’s portal. The stature of Naivasha as a robust investment hub is set for a higher notch with the plans of creating a dry port in Naivasha as a result of the construction of SGR phase two which covers Nairobi and Naivasha.”
The International Congresses and Conventional Association (ICCA) ranks Naivasha as the 34th destination for international congresses and convention. This prestigious ranking provides numerous opportunities for investment in meetings, incentive travels, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) in Nakuru County, particularly in Naivasha. Nakuru County is endowed with a huge capacity geothermal power production. Thanks to the amount of geothermal power produced at Olkaria to the national grid, Kenya is now the world’s eighth largest producer of geothermal power worldwide.
The national government has earmarked Naivasha for the establishment of an industrial park. The industrial park is meant to be near energy production point so as to cut on power costs. Some of the major attractions in the county include Lake Nakuru National Park, Lake Naivasha, Hell’s Gate National Park and Menengai Crater.
Lake Nakuru National Park is home to among other wildlife the big five – lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo and elephant. The Kenya Census of 2009 established that at the time, Nakuru County population was 1, 603,325. With its population growth rate estimated at 3.05%, today Nakuru County has an approximated population of 2, 046, 395.