Once a vibrant trading centre, Pap Onditi in Nyakach sub-county is now eerily desolate.
Other than iron-sheet structures and some old buildings surrounding the modern retail market under construction by the Kisumu County government, the Nyakach district headquarters is deficient in basic infrastructure.
The scene created by the poorly maintained near triangular tarmac road surrounding the tiny market paints a grim picture of Nyakach’s administrative centre, which used to be an economic hub with a hive of activity until the late 1990s.
Formerly referred to as Laini Kopiyo, Pap Onditi, meaning the “field of Onditi”, was set up by its former paramount chief Opiyo.
A local man named Onditi offered a part of his land for the building of the chief’s office, which was moved from its previous location in Sondu said Moses Okoth, a member of the Nyakach Luo elders.
“With time, people forgot the initial name and Pap Onditi has stuck to date,” said the 80-year-old man.
Even as residents of Pap Onditi lament its apparent abandonment, the nearby Katito town is blossoming into a vibrant commercial centre and decimating any prospect of Pap Onditi’s resuscitation.
“Our fate was sealed when the Katito-Kendu Bay highway was rerouted to bypass Pap Onditi shopping centre,” said Michael Odindo, a resident of Kabodho where the centre is situated.
For anyone passing through the main highway, it would take a keen eye to recognise Pap Onditi though it is over 100 metres from the main road - save for the imposing sign for Nyakach Sub-County Hospital.
Other than the health facility and the deputy county commissioner’s office, Pap Onditi also boasts the sub-county police headquarters.
But if one has any concern to raise with Kenya Power, they would have to take a public service vehicle for Sh50 to the emerging fast-growing town of Katito to get their problem resolved.
“It is hard to comprehend that Pap Onditi has no single financial institution, supermarket or even a major wholesale shop to buy basic commodities,” said Mr Odindo, who repairs motorcycles at the market.
“Most residents do their major shopping at Katito or Nyakwere in neighbouring Homa Bay County where they are guaranteed a variety of commodities and even save some little coins,” he added.
But Lavender Oduor, who set up a salon at Pap Onditi in 2015, is no longer worried about the 6.5km trip she has to take to buy materials for her business.
“Residents here rely on borehole water, which goes for Sh15 per 20-litre container. Most of us buy the commodity in neighbouring homes, apart from a few landlords who have dug wells for their tenants,” she said.
The sight of women and children delicately balancing containers on their heads confirms that access to clean water is still a problem, even as Katito residents enjoy clean tap water.
A few metres away, the Pap Onditi social hall that used to attract people from various corners of the region now lies in a sorry state and remains a shadow of its former self.
Mr Okoth, who has watched the rise and fall of Pap Onditi, says the genesis of its downfall was back when residents of Kabodho resisted attempts by outsiders to acquire land to set up businesses in the area.
On the contrary, he said, Katito was open to all and sundry and people took advantage of its strategic location to set up shops as they tapped the rapidly growing population.
The recent elevation of Katito to a town by the Kisumu County government seems to have dealt a final blow to Pap Onditi, whose fortunes have been dwindling over the years.
Speaking when he presided over the elevation of the urban centre earlier this year, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o noted that Katito’s position - lying on two major highways, Ahero-Sondu and Katito–Kendu Bay - primes it as a commercial hub of the region.
“Moving forward, the county government will continue to make deliberate allocations to improve the infrastructure of Katito while seeking partnerships with development partners,” the county chief said.