Meru Weatherman incapacitated

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Kenya Map showing temperature forecast for various parts of the Country. Image/Kenya Meteorological Service/

Kenya Map showing temperature forecast for various parts of the Country. Image/Kenya Meteorological Service/

By DAVID MUCHUI
The Meteorological (MET) service in Kenya lacks capacity to give accurate weather forecast leading to lack of confidence from the public, a weather man has said.

Speaking during a Weather advisories workshop in Meru, Prof Peter Kamau, a Meteorologist and agriculture lecturer at Kenya Methodist University said the Meru weather station lacks equipment and space for proper data collection.

“The Meteorological station in Meru is in a poor condition hence predicting weather in Meru is an uphill task. The sunshine recorder and rain gauge broke down long ago and has not been replaced. The probability of the forecast being correct can’t exceed 60 percent. That is very poor,” Prof Kamau said.

He said that Kenya Meteorological department continues to rely on borrowed equipment from Europe hence lacks appropriate technology to improve forecast.

“It should be known that the Meteorological department is very crucial to weather preparedness by various sectors. MET infrastructure in Meru is poor hence only general information is given. There is need for the County government and other stakeholders to support the department if we will get reliable weather information,” he remarked.

Meru County MET officer Mr Kaburu Nyaga echoed the sentiments saying that lack of resources has continued to hamper weather data collection.

“The MET department in Meru is hosted by KeMU University. The station has been in Meru since the 1970s yet there is no vehicle. MET stations are located over 90 kilometers apart hence we rely on voluntary weather observers in parts of the County,” Kaburu said.

They called on the county government to allocate land for the Meteorological station because the current location does not meet standards.

Meru County Agriculture Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) Coordinator John Rutere noted that agriculture being the bulwark of the economy, the government needs to give priority to weather forecasting.

Meru County Commissioner Chege Mwangi said there is need for the MET department to move with speed and address the negative perception held by Kenyans.

Prof Kamau also said there is need for the MET department to research, document and utilize indigenous means of weather forecast.

Mr Kamau said there is no local supply of weather equipment as all weather stations are manned from abroad.

The two day Workshop is organized by ASDSP and the Meteorological department with the aim of assessing dissemination and utilization of weather information by farmers.

Dry Riverbed, only hope for thirsty Tharaka Residents

By DAVID MUCHUI
Sept 2012

Jackson Kiarie, a resident of Kamaguna, Maragwa location in Tharaka North District, drives his donkeys carrying empty water jerrycans to a dry river bed; in sight it is a river of sand, and being new here you may think he has lost his way to the water source.

However, with a sigh of relief, he walks to the centre of the dry river bed and lowers the jerrycans and a funnel cut out of a plastic can from the donkey backs. He then goes on his knees and labors to dig up the dry sandy bed of Mubura River.

After unearthing about two feet of the dry sand, he smilingly watches as the sand starts getting wet as water rises to fill the hole. He jumps out and starts preparing his 20 liter jerrycans before he embarks on filling them using a piece of a gourd.

“This is our only source of water for domestic use and livestock. We have to dig the river bed to get the precious commodity,” says Kiarie as he fills his first jerrycans with clear water.

He notes that once the dry season sets in, the river ceases to flow hence water can only be found underground on the sandy river bed.

As soon as he leaves the hole, goats, donkeys and cattle descend on the watering hole with each animal yearning to quench its thirst.

“We have to live through this every day during the dry season. We drink from the same water hole with our livestock. Though the water is not clean, we have nothing else to do,” Kiarie adds.

The river bed is dotted with heaps of dry thorny shrubs enclosing various water holes as far as the eyes can see along Mubura River bed.

Stanley Njeru who has brought his cattle for a drink walks to one of the enclosed waterhole and removes the thorns paving way for the cattle to quench their thirst.

“The enclosed watering holes belong to different cattle owners. Each herder has to dig his own hole to avoid congestion and conflicts. We enclose them to keep off intruders,” Njeru explains.

Silas Munyoki laments that besides having to walk for long distances to the riverbed, they have to bear long hours of waiting to fill their containers because of low water levels.

“During peak hours, I spend over four hours before I fetch water. We need boreholes and tapped water to alleviate water problems,” Munyoki notes.

Mubura River is seasonal and is the only accessible source of water for the residents and their livestock.

It is such adverse water problems that bedevil the vast Tharaka North and South districts that the oncoming county government in Tharaka-Nithi County will have to grapple with to free the area from poverty.

Government officers, NGOs and residents have recommended irrigation as the only reprieve for the arid area which has been depending on unreliable rains for agriculture.

Lawrence Mugendi a head teacher at Kamagajiu primary school in Maragwa location says education in the area is adversely affected by water shortages with feeding programmes in schools hampered by the same.

“Our biggest problem here is water. We are looking forward to an irrigation project funded by Plan International to reduce these problems. Feeding programmes have boosted enrollment in school but water shortage is a threat to us,” the teacher remarks.

Though the region is arid, several rivers traverse the area from Mt Kenya before draining into River Tana. It is these ample resources that the residents believe can one day transform their dry land into a food basket and fetch good money for the county.

However, that remains to be a pipe-dream until plans to set up a mega dam in the Tana River among other irrigation projects are implemented.

In the meantime, residents expect that the Sh2.4 billion set aside by the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) for the County will be utilized towards installing piped water in the area.

Some of the major rivers that traverse Tharaka are Mutonga, Thingithu, Kathita, Thanatu, Thangatha, Kuuru, Kithinu and Ura rivers but are mostly used for irrigation in Tharaka South district.

Mega Projects Underway in Tharaka Nithi

By DAVID MUCHUI
Nov. 2012

Tharaka is classified under the semi arid districts though it is endowed with several permanent and seasonal rivers that emanate from Mt Kenya and Nyambene ranges.

Despite the many rivers many residents have not had access to clean drinking water while majority continue to rely on unpredictable rain fed agriculture.

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 0f 2008 by the UNICEF, 70 percent of Tharaka residents depend on surface water while only 22 percent had access to improved sources of water.

The report states that close to 50 percent of the residents of Tharaka have to spend more than one hour fetching as they have to walk over two kilometers to reach the water source.

Tharaka District Vision and Strategy 2005-2015 notes that proper utilization of the River Tana waters, proper management of present water works such as springs and boreholes as well as rain water harvesting as the solution to water problems in the area.

The Vision 2030 blueprint requires that the Ministry of Agriculture through the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL) development project increase the land under irrigation to between 600, 000 and 1.2 million hectares. This is expected to increase the arable land by 30 percent in the country.

Under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) the target is to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

In a bid to accomplish these goals, major dams that will enable irrigation, hydroelectric generation and aquaculture are underway in the area.

Recently, the Prime Minister Raila Odinga while on a tour in Meru County, announced that the government will construct a mega dam in Tharaka Nithi County at a cost of Sh50 million.

The Grand High Falls Dam which will be built in partnership with the Chinese government is expected to generate 500 megawatts of power as well as increase area under irrigation.

Likewise Plan International an NGO which operates in the area is funding Micro irrigation schemes at a cost of Shs 160 million which be used in tapping water from Ura River.

The micro irrigation project is expected to benefit 500 farmers while solving the chronic water shortage in the arid area.

However, it is the proposed construction of a multi billion Grand Falls High Dam that will cover Mwingi and Tharaka that is expected to change the semi arid area for better.

The Grand Falls High Mega dam is expected to generate 1500 Megawatts of power and put the vast semi arid area under irrigation.
It is estimated that the project will have an annual turnover of over Sh60 billion making the region an economic hub.

Kathingiri aiming for KCPE top slot

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Kathingiri Boarding Headteacher Micheni Ragwa (R), Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi (2nd R), Priscilla Murungi (Centre), KFS Chairman Peter Kirigua (2nd L) and Imenti South DEO David Ntuara (L) show off the Best Public Primary School trophy given to the school for leading nationally for six years running.

Kathingiri Boarding Headteacher Micheni Ragwa (R), Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi (2nd R), Priscilla Murungi (Centre), KFS Chairman Peter Kirigua (2nd L) and Imenti South DEO David Ntuara (L) show off the Best Public Primary School trophy given to the school for leading nationally for six years running.

The school is aiming for the best overall in this year’s KCPE after beating all public primary schools for six years.

 

Meru Ghettos Ambassador Swings Into Action

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Miss Ghetto Meru Rukia Mwendwa with Meru Governor Peter Munya during the Talent Academy launch

Miss Ghetto Meru Rukia Mwendwa with Meru Governor Peter Munya (Centre) and other guests during the Talent Academy launch

The Meru Miss Ghetto Beauty Pageant 2014 title holder Rukia Mwendwa is raring to go in her commission to fight social vices in slums as well as address poverty that paralyses the lives of many youths in informal settlements.

Being the first ever Miss Ghetto in the country, her job is well cut out for Mjini, Majengo, Kaithe, Kibera, Kooje and Shauri yako slums. She spoke to CiaMeru

Who is Rukia Mwendwa?
I am a 22 year old graduate of the Meru University with a degree in Business and Information Technology. I was born and raised at Majengo slum in Meru town. I have a passion for children and charity work. I like traveling and modeling.

What made you contest for Miss Ghetto?
As I said, I love it when I work with children and have a thing for modeling. I participated in the Miss Tourism, Meru County but did not make it to finals. Having been born in the slums and passionate for charity work, I saw this as an opportunity to give back to the community I grew in.

What community initiatives have you taken part in?
I have been engaged in activities at children homes in the county. Besides, I have an eye for fine arts which has made me to participate in talent growing initiatives.

Why do you think you are up to the task as Miss Ghetto Meru?
The Miss Ghetto Beauty Pageant contest organizers were looking for a person who can act as an ambassador of slums in Meru. I have the passion, the education ability to seek intervention from relevant organizations.

What are you up to now?
Due to abject poverty in the slums, there is widespread prostitution, drug abuse, illiteracy and sexually transmitted diseases which mostly affect the youth. We know that the youth have a lot of potential to make it in life. I am engaging NGOs and government to support sports, talent and motivation programs.

Have you had any success so far?
Already, we have won the support of the county government which has promised to work with us. I have helped in forming talent groups in Mjini and Majengo slums who have specialized in music and dance. I have also helped form a youth group where youths can access soft loans.
I have also engaged with a bank in Meru to develop a financial product for the youth in slum areas.

What is the main challenge in this endeavor?
I remember recently when I addressed a gathering of elites and overheard some people were surprised that a Miss ghetto can speak good English. Many slum children fail to access education because they are forgotten in government incentives. I look forward to partner with various government departments and NGOs in closing the poverty gap and stopping social vices.

What message do you have to the community?
It is clear that Slums are harbors of social evils in our towns. Let us work together in stopping the growth of slums and helping those living there improve their lives.

Family hasn’t buried kin 7 months after death

By DAVID MUCHUI

A family at Ruiri in Buuri District, Meru County is seeking justice as the body of their late father has remained unburied for the last seven months due to a land dispute.

The family of the late Samuel Muriungi lives in agony after they learnt that the one acre piece of land they have lived in all their lives was sold off without their knowledge.

According to Ms Rhoda Kendi, daughter to the late Muriungi, the family learnt that their land had been sold off after they were served with a court order barring them from burying their father.

“We have suffered for so long since my childhood. My dad passed away in August last year and the body is still in the mortuary. We received an order that we should not bury him on this land yet we have known the land is ours.

I completed high school last year but instead of joining college, I have to look for money to attend court cases,” Rhoda said.

The family’s clan has been raising money to support the children who cannot do farming on the disputed piece of land.

Mr Edward Kiruja, a clan elder said that family was deprived of their land by a second wife of their grandfather who sold it in collaboration with administration officers.

“After the death of their grandfather, the young wife decided to sell her piece of land. The title deed was in the custody of the village head who had been entrusted by the clan. We were never consulted when the title deed was released for the transactions,” Kiruja said.

The clan members are calling on government to intervene and help the family bury their dead and pay up the accumulated mortuary fees.

Decades-long wait for title deeds coming to an end?

By DAVID MUCHUI
Sixty (60%) percent of Meru land is not registered while only 14 out of the 110 recorded urban centers are registered which hinders development in the County.

According to Meru County Executive Committee (CEC) Member for Land and Economic planning Dr Paul Mugambi, presence of establishments in many towns and markets is uncertain due to lack of planning.

Speaking to Ciameru, Dr Mugambi said the speedy growth of towns and markets in the county calls for clear development guidelines for growth of commercially viable towns.

“We are partnering with stakeholders in the sector to come up with the right development plans for the county. We are already fine-tuning the Meru town development plan and the County integrated development plan in efforts to streamline development,” Dr Mugambi said.

The CEC Member said that planning is a costly affair where Meru town integrated development plan cost Sh70 million while Nkubu, Maua and Timau planning is expected to cost over Sh100 million.

“We have already engaged a consultant to help in re-planning of areas near Isiolo. We have frozen all developments around this area because we want the Isiolo resort city to grow towards Makutano and Kianjai. Without a proper development plan, we cannot have sustainable growth,” he explained.

Dr Mugambi noted that Timau town has great potential to be a tourist hub hence its integrated Development plan may cost up to Sh200 million.

He said that his office has already introduced centralized approval of building plans to curb corruption that has been entrenched in the process.

Meanwhile, Dr Mugambi said that over 40, 000 title deeds for residents of Meru County have already been processed at Ardhi House.

“We have started a crush program on land registration to ensure more title deeds are prepared before the President comes to issue them,” he said.

Areas where title deeds are ready include Kianjai, Kitheo, Buuri, Naathu A, Kiiru/Nkando, Kangeta, Uringu 2, Ntunene and Athiru Gaiti adjudication sections.

Corrupt land dealings tamed

By DAVID MUCHUI
The County government of Meru will revoke title deeds issued to grabbers of public land and will not renew leases for leasees who have not done any substantial development in their land.
Speaking to the press, CEC member for Land Dr Paul Mugambi however said that repossessing grabbed public land in Meru town may not be possible as most grabbers have legal title deeds.
“Land grabbing has been very notorious in Meru. We are auditing all public land in the county to identify grabbers. Some of the grabbed parcels are legally registered under individuals and we may hardly repossess any land in Meru town,” Dr Mugambi said.
He noted that repossession of grabbed land may be a costly affair for the County government due to ensuing court cases.
“I will try to repossess what can be repossessed. Public land is known but the records on paper show that it belongs to individuals. We are treading carefully but we are hawk-eyed to protect public land in other parts of the county,” he added.
On leases, Dr Mugambi said that the lands office is also auditing all leased land to establish those that have expired and underutilized land for re-allocation.
“Various religious organizations were given leases of 33 years and some have expired. They had promised to develop the land but we find most of it lying idle, we will not renew such leases.
We will give them what they can develop and lease the rest to investors,” said the CEC member for Land and Economic planning.

Improper filing of exam cost Meru School, ranking

By DAVID MUCHUI

Meru School was left out of the 2013 KCSE rankings due alleged irregularity in Computer studies subject, the School Principal Silas Mwirigi has confirmed.

Mwirigi said that 17 candidates were affected as a result of improper presentation of the candidates work.

He noted that the school has performed very well compared to last year with a mean score of 9.98 maintaining its position as the academic giant in the region.

“The teacher in charge filed the computer studies exam for the candidates in one soft copy. This was taken to be a collusion leading to cancellation of results.

We are engaging with the Kenya National Examinations Council to correct the same and have the school ranked,” Mwirigi said.

Mwirigi said he has already met with KNEC officials and is optimistic that the matter will be settled. He lauded the candidates for the good performance.

Meru County tops in Irregularities

By DAVID MUCHUI

Meru County topped nationally with the highest number of candidates involved in irregularities where 471 candidates in 15 centers across seven sub counties were found to have cheated.

Nairobi County had 19 centers implicated in irregularities while Homa Bay County came second to Meru with the 396 candidates implicated.

There are fears that some of the top performing schools in Meru which have not been ranked are among those found with irregularities.

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