Monday, 21 June 2021 16:39


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Envision a breathtaking well-designed urban city with upgraded market centers, modern-day public spaces, and facilities that are both people and environmental friendly as well as profitable to the surrounding community. This is exactly what the SymbioCity Kenya project, implemented as a joint partnership between the Council of Governors and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), hopes to achieve. Through a holistic approach to sustainable urban development and integrating all dimensions including sociocultural and gender perspectives, the programme aims to transform urban challenges into opportunities. SymbioCity Kenya has so far implemented Pilot projects in small towns in seven counties; Kisumu, Meru, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia, Homa Bay, Kitui and Nakuru, selected through a competitive process in 2016.
The Council of Governors visited Kwa Vonza town in Kitui County to assess the Kwa Vonza market Symbiocity Change project on 12th May 2021. This project is expected to empower residents economically and give Kwa Vonza town an incredible face lift. Initially, the piece of land on which the new Kwa Vonza market currently sits was just a nonstructured space where traders would camp to make their daily sales. Arising from the need to redesign the existing market stalls according to traders' needs, a detailed physical landscape design was formulated and construction work began. To this end, clearing and fencing the site, removal of waste debris, stumps and top soil stripping on the intended site area, leveling and grading works of the site to the formation have already been done. This will help manage rainwater runoff and stormwater from the nearby hills. In addition, a drainage system has been put in place all around the market to avert any chances of flooding.
Traders have also been allocated specific spaces as well as temporary structures within the market to shelter them from harsh weather conditions. Speaking during the assessment visit by the COG, James Kamami Muoka, the chairman of the Kwa Vonza urged each trader to maintain cleanliness in their own space since environmental conservation is a personal responsibility. ''Let each trader be responsible for maintaining cleanliness in their own space,'' he said. Besides traders, the new Kwa Vonza market will also incorporate a students' center. Other aspects such as security in the market have also been addressed with solar lights being installed at strategic places.
Successful implementation of the Kwa Vonza market project requires the concerted efforts of both town and County administrators among other stakeholders. Building the capacity of urban development stakeholders in these towns and ultimately counties will enable the formulation of a holistic vision for towns based on a sound understanding for assets and challenges. A multisectoral approach is key in the realization of sustainable urban development. All actors in the urban development unit need to work in harmony to ensure that they guide the urban cities conversation in the right direction. Rather than working in silos, different sectors should join forces with meaningful participation of civil society, academia, business and other stakeholders throughout the process.
While the SymbioCity Kenya project is still underway, remarkable milestones have been made in transforming our urban cities. Application of the SymbioCity approach in urban planning, management and development in the selected urban areas in seven counties has provided useful experience and innovative solutions to other counties and stakeholders. Secondly, decision makers and staff in the seven pilot counties have acquired skills that have proven to be instrumental in matters urban development planning.
At the heart of urban development is people and their lives. Through identification of synergies between urban systems, living standards have substantially improved and the local 'mwanachi' can now enjoy a safe, comfortable and quality life. The SymbioCity Approach is a model that achieves milestones though quick wins. This can be replicated in other counties and towns. The approach can also inspire other Counties to adopt urban policies, plans and processes that will offer responsive solutions for developing cities.


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