A visit by President William Ruto to Homa Bay on Sunday offered a ray of hope for several stalled projects. Fishermen and farmers will benefit from road construction, and vulnerable families in informal settlements in Homa Bay town will be relocated to low-cost housing.
Residents asked Dr Ruto to complete all stalled projects before his government begins new ones.
Speaking at the AIC church Homa Bay, the President said the county has 200km of incomplete roads and is lagging behind in development.
Though reviving stalled projects will not start immediately, Dr Ruto promised to fast-track them.
"We shall factor the projects in our budget and make plans on how to complete them," he said.
On roads, Dr Ruto said he will ensure the Sh2.9 billion Mbita-Sindo-Kiabuya-Sori road that will connect fishing villages along the shores of Lake Victoria in Homa Bay and Migori counties is completed. The 74km road will open up marginalised areas that have not had tarmac roads since independence.
The road was one of the flagship projects of the previous administration but stalled after only a few kilometres.
Construction started in 2015 before it stalled, with the contractor withdrawing and citing financial challenges.
A new contract was awarded in April 2020 to China Civil Engineering Construction Company, which was told to complete the project within 42 months.
But work is underway at a snail’s pace and plans to complete it by January 2024 may not materialise.
With Dr Ruto's promise, the project will give hope to residents of Suba, who have no modern road.
Suba Beach Management Unit chairman William Onditi said poor roads along the lake had led to massive losses.
Fish is perishable and requires to be transported to the market as quickly as possible.
“We normally take five hours on the road over a distance that should take one hour. Most fishermen have ended up discarding fish when the delicacy goes bad because of bad roads,” Mr Onditi said.
Another key project whose construction stalled is the Kanyadhiang-Pala-Kadel ring road that connects the Homa Bay-Katito road to agricultural fields in Rachuonyo North.
Dr Ruto launched the project in November 2018.
But work stopped and workers withdrew from the site with all their equipment.
With its design, it was expected to ease movement of agricultural produce like maize, rice, sorghum and horticultural crops from the Kimira Oluch Smallholder Farmer Improvement Project (Kosfip), an irrigation project in Rachuonyo North and Rangwe.
Fishermen practising cage fishing at the Obaria beach will also use the road.
Kimira Irrigation Water Users Association chairman George Aoko said farmers suffer when their crops fail to be delivered to the market on time.
“Kosfip was designed to address food security in Nyanza. But it has failed to serve its purpose because of poor roads,” he said.
Mr Aoko said some farmers opted to suspend crop production because of their inability to access the market.
President Ruto also promised that his government would build low-cost housing for residents of Homa Bay town.
Finding a good house to live in is a challenge in the town.
The few rental units that are available are too expensive for residents.
Most people live in the informal settlements of Shauri Yako, Makongeni, Sofia and Misita where houses are made of iron sheets.
A project to build affordable houses started in 2018 when the county government signed an MOU with the State department of Housing and Urban Development in the Ministry of Transport to construct 2,000 affordable housing units in the county.
The project did not kick off and the land where the houses were to be put up lies idle and is used by politicians to hold rallies.
President Ruto said he will visit the county next month to launch the first phase of construction.
Some "400 units will be constructed in the first phase. The entire project will have 5,000 units," he said.
Residents said the project will change the face of Homa Bay, where poverty has driven families to live in substandard houses.
“We hope that priority will be given to families living in informal settlements. Such projects have had cases of some people hijacking allocation of houses,” Mr Winnie Adoyo said.