Nanyuki and Oloitokitok towns are my favourite Kenyan places to visit and they share some similarities.
Both are straddled by Africa’s few remaining snow-capped mountains, they also have cold weather and beautiful flora and fauna that attract local and global nature enthusiasts.
Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest for Oloitokitok, and Mount Kenya for Nanyuki. On the socioeconomic front, Nanyuki seems to have an upper hand partly due to the huge presence of the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) and the numerous expatriates in the conservation sector.
The region’s volatility a few months ago however seems to have generated negative sentiments to would-be investors, settlers and entrepreneurs.
On a personal level, it has been an amazing six years since I relocated to Oloitokitok and got trapped by the enchanting Tsavo West and the amazing Maasai people.
The imposing stature of Kili, as we call Mt Kilimanjaro, is resplendent during rainy seasons when the allure of her majestic peaks — Mawenzi and Kibo — present themselves in a dazzling array of snow white clothing.
Both regions are caught at the crossroads of a struggling nomadic people with desire for better economic returns from the indigenous communities’ traditional sources of livelihoods: pastoralism, and a changing climate and lifestyle.
As a health worker these conflicts meet at the sustainable population growth table, but that’s a topic for another day. While Nanyuki and Laikipia’s environ seems to attract many already established people, Oloitokitok has caught the eye of the younger type of hustlers, many in their mid or late 30s although a few in the older age brackets and with deeper pockets seem to also be arriving.
For many of the former, horticulture seems to be the lure and if you live in Mombasa or Nairobi some of the tomatoes, onions, watermelons, chillies etcetera may be from Oloitokitok.
Some entrants are investing in livestock, while a few dabble in enterprises such as hardware shops.
One notable project that has potential to grow Oloitokitok town is the new Simba Cement factory.
Already, established firms like Hass Real Estate and Acacia Gardens have projects within the catchment.
Many more smaller real estate agencies are also on the ground jostling for potential clients.
In all this though is the question of the impact the growth of the town and surrounding areas will have on the ongoing wildlife and natural resources conservation efforts.
Will it negatively impact these or will it create alternative livelihoods that will shift demand from reliance on the environment?
Disclaimer: At the risk of irking my Tanzanian readers, I should add that although Kili’s peaks are in the country, technically the mountain starts in Kenya.