Kirinyaga County has completed the building of three more bridges which will help ease access to markets, schools and health facilities for the residents.
The new bridges in Mukure, Kabare and Tebere wards have brought joy to scores of villagers who had to endure the pain of walking long distances to get basic services.
The three facilities, which are part of Governor Anne Waiguru’s road rehabilitation and transport sector transformation projects, are estimated to serve more than 30,000 people.
These bridges will open up most of the areas which had remained cut off from other parts of the region.
Villagers says that they have been using wooden make-shift bridges to cross crocodile-infested rivers as they take farm produce to the market.
The makeshift footbridge would sometimes be washed away by water when the rivers swell.
Karia bridge in Kabare Ward has now connected people living in Kiritini and Mikarara sub-locations.
Area MCA Comba Nyaga thanked Governor Waiguru for allocating funds for the completion of the project, adding that residents would walk for five kilometres to access hospitals, shopping centres, markets and Kirima Dairy to deliver milk but they can now get to the facilities easily.
“This bridge has completely changed our lives, it has eased our mobility and even our children will be able to access schools as we deliver milk, tea and coffee to factories without spending much on transport,” said Mr Comba.
Mr Ephantus Kagiri says in the past, some of the residents have lost lives while wading through the swollen river before the bridge was constructed.
“We have lost lives here. We would wade through the water to get easy access to the market or walk for five kilometres, and, to us this bridge is a true testimony of the ongoing transformation brought about by devolution,” Mr Kagiri said.
Kahuho-ini bridge in Mukure Ward is now also complete.
Residents say the bridge has eased access to Kariani Coffee Factory, nearby schools and Karima-ini Dispensary.
The completion of Gacuria Muoyo bridge, connecting Murinduko and Tebere wards across the crocodile-infested River Nyamindi, has also come as a big relief to farmers, school going children and traders.
The bridge will serve over 5,000 people living in Ndindiruku, Kiumbu, Marurumo, Miatuini and South Ngariama in Mwea Constituency.
Gacuria Muoyo literally means “putting your life on the line”.
Residents say for a long time, they had to cross the river using the wooden makeshift footbridge and that sometimes, people would be washed away by water together with the bridge while crossing the swollen river.
John Githaka, a resident of Miatuini village, says the wooden bridge was like a death trap as he remembers vividly some years back he witnessed two school children being washed away while crossing the river.
“The wooden facility was our bridge to death; many lives have been lost here. You would hold onto your heart while crossing using the wooden bridge because anything could happen. You can slip and fall into the river or the structure can be washed away by water,” he said.
Residents had to travel for around 50 kilometres to access Wang’uru market.
“There are people who have been washed away together with the makeshift bridge never to be seen again,” added another resident, Rosemary Wanjiku.
Governor Anne Waiguru says from time immemorial, residents from villages near the river had to endure using a makeshift wooden bridge to get access to trading centres, posing a risk to their lives and making transport of farm produce costly.
The governor says the bridges are part of the road infrastructure meant spur economic growth by easing transportation of produce like coffee, tea, milk, tomatoes, French beans, watermelons and rice to the market and increasing employment opportunities in the transport sector.
"The county has embarked on a massive road improvement programme that will open up the interior parts of the county for sustained social and economic development. We are building bridges to ensure our farmers and traders have short and fast access to markets," she said.
Ms Waiguru says bridges and better roads have led to improved household incomes since families can easily transport their farm produce such as bananas, vegetables and rice to the market.
The governor has already commissioned another bridge across River Nyamindi and Mahiga-ini.
The county has also completed building Getuya, Mutonga, Karoboti and Kigua Njamba foot bridges which are expected to ease movement.