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Shipping & Logistics

Narok’s economy bleeds as floods cut off major roads, sweep away bridges

Road construction going on at a scene where floods swept away a section of the Mai Mahiu-Narok road leaving motorists stranded on March 14, 2018. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG
Road construction going on at a scene where floods swept away a section of the Mai Mahiu-Narok road leaving motorists stranded on March 14, 2018. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG 

Narok County government and private businesses are counting heavy losses following the floods that cut off roads rendering logistics a nightmare.

The number of tourists to the Maasai Mara game reserve, the county’s economic pillar, has reduced significantly as the site has become difficult to access.

Governor Samuel Tunai said most of the roads to the world famous reserve are impassable and only a few tourists that can afford air travel are visiting.

“Scores of tourists have cancelled bookings and are headed elsewhere due to bad roads, while hotels have had to incur losses,” he said.

The governor said local businesses that had been enjoying a vibrant 24-hour economy due to long distance travellers, have been forced to close down at night since there were no buses streaming into the cosmopolitan town while day businesses were recording reduced earnings due to low patronage.

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“We have only locals visiting the eateries and clothes shops as well as retail shops unlike normal days when travellers throng the town. Narok-Maimahiu road is a key road to Southwest Kenya and has literally been rendered impassable,” Mr Tunai said.

The Nairobi-Narok-Mulot Highway is major link between Western Kenya and Nairobi towards Mombasa and Central Kenya, but now passengers have been forced to divert their route to Nakuru, 130 kilometres away before proceeding to Nairobi, 157 kilometres away.

Narok, which is also a major wheat and barley producer, is also counting major losses as farmers are unable to ferry their produce to millers in Nairobi.

The Narok Cereals Association Chairman Lesiamon Koonyo said while they usually pay Sh15,000 to transport a lorryload of wheat to Nairobi, it is now costing them Sh30,000.

“A lasting solution needs to be found on this road. We lack ample storage and have to rely on millers’ ability to absorb our harvests to help us keep losses at bay,” he said.
Mr Tunai said “high level” talks between the national government and Narok County leaders would be held soon to find ways to speed up completion of the 70km Kibiko-Kimuka-Suswa road that will connect Narok and Kajiado counties.

Mr Tunai said once complete, the road will provide motorists with a shorter route to Narok County from Kajiado and would be an alternative when floods cut off the agriculture-rich county from the market.

Transport secretary James Macharia has since supported the tarmacking of the road located on higher ground unlike the Narok-Mai mahiu that sits on the lower sides of the Rift Valley.

The county is reliant on tourism, with Maasai Mara bringing in Sh3 billion last year.

Mr Tunai said this year’s tourism revenue could be hit hard thanks to the current floods.

According to Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem Coordinator Nicholas Murero, the floods have seriously affected business at some of the camps.

“The Itong-Talek road (heading to Mara) is impassable after several bridges were washed away and it’s hard to use that route,” said Mr Murero, adding that this has reduced the number of visitors.

About six tented camps in conservancies around the reserve have been marooned by the flood waters.

“The reserve is very wet now, and it’s not motorable in some areas and it is risky to cross some streams inside the reserve in search of wildlife,” said Mr Murero.

Last week, Ewuaso Ngiro River burst its banks sweeping away a bridge that linked the area to Narok.

Narok County is a key source of livestock meat products consumed in Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa as well as other neighbouring town.

The cutting off of the road means bad business as transporters have shunned the area citing heavy losses incurred when their vehicles suffer mechanical breakdown enroute to the market.

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