What you need to know:
- Eight years ago, a group of boda boda operators from Kitengela had a bold vision — to put up a house for each member.
- That ambition is yet to fully materialise, but the investors are still hopeful that one day they will all move into the homes they sacrificed so much for.
In February 2010, a number of boda boda riders in Kitengela kicked off construction of a modern estate in Kisaju area, Isinya sub-county, the fruits of Sh100 daily contribution for a number of years.
Their dream attracted government institutions, banks and the public. They had taken a leap of faith, bold steps to transform their lives by ensuring that every member owned a house by the time they wrapped up the project.
However, almost eight years down the line since the foundation stone was laid, the project has been marred by a myriad of challenges, almost dashing the hopes of boda boda riders who make up Kitemoto Cycle Owners Saving and Credit Cooperative.
According to the group’s chairman, Alois Mwai, the initial 100 members began with Sh100 daily contribution per member, and in one year, they had managed to ensure each of them owned a motorcycle.
"It is then that we began to dream big. We were pioneers in this industry and we wished to leave an indelible mark, says Mr Mwai.
In 2010, they formed Kitemoto Housing Society under the umbrella of Kitemoto Cycle Owners Saving and Credit Cooperative before they approached National Cooperative Housing Union (Nachu) for a Sh4.7 million loan targeting to set up 100 three-bedroom houses in a five acre piece of land they had identified 13 kilometres from the populous Kitengela town, where they operated.
According to Mwai, to ease the burden of loan repayment, they reached an agreement with the financial institution to set up 24 three-bedroom bungalow units on two acres.
The units, currently secured with a perimeter wall, were to be disposed by Nachu.
Initially, the units were being sold at Sh4.5 million each, but the price has since plummeted to Sh3.6 million per unit going by the group’s Facebook page last updated on June 22nd 2020.
A spot check indicates that only a fraction of the houses has been sold to date, and attempts to reach Nachu officials for a comment regarding the project were futile.
Mwai explains that each rider was to get a bedsitter unit sitting on a 20 feet by 60 feet plot that would be expanded to a three bedroom house after settling the loan.
Members were supposed to pay a Sh7,600 monthly loan installment for seven years, as it is, 30 percent of members have since defaulted on payments.
The estate is in a sorry state.
The roofs of some of the houses have caved in, making the houses inhabitable, in others, the wiring has been vandalised, the grounds are unkempt.
Only a few members have managed to complete their houses, with a number of them ending up letting them out or selling them. Twenty five percent of members have never occupied their houses.
"I have rented out my unit for Sh5,000 a month, it has been difficult for me to service the loan, the boda boda business has not been good, yet my family depends on it,” says a former Kitemoto member.
But there are those that see the project as a partial success, saying at least some families live in this estate.
"At Least I have a place to call home for my family. Were it not for this project, I would be still renting and the effects of Covid-19 would have pushed me back to the village,” says John Ndegwa, who says that the only set back is water shortage and a wanting sewer system.
He is one of a handful of members that are optimistic that one day the estate will be completed.
Kitemoto Chair Alois Mwai explains that the first contractor short-changed them and ended up putting a substandard sewer system, prompting members to depend on costly sewer exhausters.
"Our first contractor messed up our project, the sewer line was haphazardly done, as a result, it costs our members more than Sh40,000 monthly to exhaust the sewer. It is a total mess during rainy season,” says a bitter Mwai.
The borehole that was to serve all the units, the members’ units and the bungalows under Nachu, has since run dry and the solar system collapsed, furthermore, the two-mile feeder cotton soil road to the project from Namanga Highway is impassable during the rainy season.
"The amount of money the contractor is demanding to work on our borehole is unaffordable to members, they are forced to buy 20 litres jerrican of water a day for Sh15,” he adds.
According to the Sacco secretary, Josphat Gathaga, they have learned from their mistakes and are currently eyeing the second millions’ worth project - the only deterrent, he says, is the high cost of building materials.
He wants the national government to actualise subsidies in the building sector to boost small scale developers.
"Our members are yearning for the second project but we are stuck, let the government accommodate small scale developers in the Big 4 Agenda by actualising subsidies, especially on construction materials," he adds.
Currently, the populous Kitengela town has more than 2,000 motorcycle operators with youthful operators making up more than 70 percent of this number. Most of them live hand to mouth, and therefore have no savings.