What you need to know:
- A big population of the poor here are quarry workers and fishermen.
- The few hoteliers working for restaurant owners live from hand to mouth.
Ras Kitau in Manda, Lamu County, is a unique island where only tycoons own land.
Poor people have over the years flocked the island, where they serve as casual labourers on properties owned by the well-off owners of the island.
A big population of the poor here are quarry workers and fishermen, with a few hoteliers working for restaurant owners. The hotel workers, too, live from hand to mouth.
Life is so pitiful for the poor inhabitants that they have no toilets, which doesn’t seem to bother their moneyed employers.
There are also no churches on the remote island.
Owning land in Ras Kitau is a nightmare, especially for the poor, as an acre here goes for millions of shillings, which is way above the rates in other parts of the region.
Mr Reuben Masha, a quarry worker, says nearly all the parcels of land in Ras Kitau are owned by either rich Kenyans or foreigners who first came into the country as tourists.
“Most of us are stone miners and quarry caretakers. The few bungalows around here are owned by tycoons and tourists. Most of the owners don’t even live here. They only come during specific events in Lamu. Most of them reside in Malindi, Mombasa, Nairobi and even outside the country,” said Mr Masha.
Mr Juma Kahindi, another resident, says due to the unaffordability of land in Ras Kitau, those living and working on the island request their bosses to allow them to build temporary structures.
“We can’t commute from Lamu town to Ras Kitau for work every day or afford to buy a plot, which goes for millions of shillings,” said Mr Kahindi.
A spot check by the Nation revealed there are no toilets to cater for the mass of makeshift structures where Ras Kitau workers and their families live.
“You can’t dig and construct a toilet on land that’s isn’t yours. We use the bushes instead. Life is tough here,” said Ms Mary Mwangala.
Another challenge facing the poor locals is lack of health facilities.
One has to travel by boat from Ras Kitau to the King Fahad County Hospital in Lamu Island for treatment.
The area also has poor mobile phone and road networks, making communication and movement a nightmare, which in effect has confined Ras Kitau residents in a small world of their own.
“During emergencies, we spend not less than Sh2,000 to travel by boat from Ras Kitau to Lamu Island to seek treatment,” said Mr Charles Makori.
The locals called on the county government to consider building a dispensary at Ras Kitau to ease their suffering.