The disused markets of Meru that cost taxpayers Sh300m

Market

Nkubu market which was built at a cost of Sh130 million which has remained unoccupied by traders since 2016. Traders said it was wrongly designed.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete | Nation Media Group

They were built and launched with pomp and colour between 2010 and 2016 to spur economic growth and create employment.

But 10 markets in Meru County remain unused and derelict.

The poorly thought-out yet costly projects were rolled out in various parts of Meru through the Smallholder Horticulture Marketing Programme (Shomap).

That they remain unoccupied means that the projects were either badly implemented, abandoned, duplicated or put up in the wrong locations without proper consultations, thereby serving no purpose in the lives of residents.

Built for more than Sh300 million, the modern markets were billed as the panacea for the ills facing farmers, including kicking exploitative middlemen out of the value chains, as some of them would be fitted with cold storage facilities.

The markets also have value addition chambers, market offices, water storage tanks, modern toilet facilities, including those for the disabled, and spacious security offices with an extension for an open-air market.

Five fresh-produce markets and three horticulture collection centres were set up in Imenti South, Meru Central and Imenti North under Shomap.

Other markets were built as part of the economic stimulus programme in 2010 in Thimangiri, Kithaene, Rwamukaki, Kariene, Nkubu, Kithaku, Kanyakine, Ntharene, Mugambone and Miruri-iri.

The eight facilities were put up for Sh248.5 million with the aim of improving the marketing of fresh produce.

Only two markets - Kariene in Imenti Central and Thimangiri in Imenti North - were opened but are rarely used by traders.

Modern facilities

Besides the markets built by Shomap, the defunct local authorities had constructed modern facilities in Kanyakine and Nkubu for about Sh50 million each.

Maingi Mugambi

Meru county executive in charge of Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives Mr Maingi Mugambi (gesturing) inspects Mitunguu market which is under construction at a cost of Sh21 million, accompanied by other county officials.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete | Nation Media Group

The facilities were designed to ensure high hygiene standards with cleaning facilities, cold storage rooms, garbage collection points, incinerators and ripening chambers.

But while some of the markets were poorly designed, others were built in the wrong places where customers would not access them, traders say.

“They did not consult us before building them. We just saw some structures coming up in funny places and we were told they were markets but we could not go there because customers would not come there,” said Kariene resident Purity Kathambi.

The buildings are rotting, with some of them vandalised after being abandoned.

The Miruri-iri fresh-produce market, which cost Sh38 million, is deserted and covered in dust.

The Nkubu market, built for Sh130 million, has a standby generator but is almost in ruins after some shelves were vandalised.

Last year, the county government took over the markets and announced plans to remodel them to suit the needs of traders.

The work has started on several of the facilities, some of which are 70 percent complete, according to Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives Executive Maingi Mugambi.

Some of the markets, such as in Kariene, he said, were designed without considering the types of produce to be sold there, with stalls designated for fresh produce located above the ground floor.

“It is not possible to carry bags of potatoes, crates of tomatoes and bananas upstairs so we understand why the traders refused to occupy them,” Mr Mugambi said on Wednesday when he inspected construction at the Kariene market, where he was accompanied by Trade Chief Officer Martin Gitije, among other county officials.

“We invited residents for consultations and what we are doing is to incorporate their suggestions in the design. For instance, there will be stalls to accommodate clothing traders, salons, cybercafes and barber shops on the first floor while the ground floor will house fresh-produce traders.”

The Ng’onyi market, also in Imenti Central, would be used for white meat sales, he said, as residents are engaged in poultry and fish farming.

Other new markets under construction include Mitunguu in South Imenti, which will be completed in November.

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