|Women of Kibwezi - A Case Study of the Kibwesi Women's Integrated Rural Development Programme (HABITAT, 1990, 76 p.)|
In the early- and mid-nineteenth century, Kibwezi was known as a regular ivory and slave caravan stopping place and all the early explorers passed through it. Later, in the 1890s, when the railway linking the Indian Ocean and Lake Victoria was built, Kibwezi became a fueling - firewood - and watering stop.
Over the years since then, a small administrative office was set up, a petrol station and eating facilities for lorry drivers were developed. The roads - from Mombasa to Nairobi and the Kibwezi-Kitui-Thika main roads - were only dirt tracks and traffic hurried through to its final destination. A development plan for Kibwezi was produced by the physical planning authorities and occasionally widely dispersed plots were taken up and developed.
The next two developments in Kibwezi, were the coming of the Consolata Roman Catholic Mission and their Sisters of Mercy convent in 1974 and the AMREF health facility built in 1977. Yet, Kibwezi stagnated as before. The migrants who came into the district as a result of the series of droughts of the 1960s were too poor to make any impact on the development of the little centre; Nevertheless, more administrative officers of various kinds and at various levels were needed to cope adequately with these thousands of landless and hungry people.
Since 1981, when the Kibwezi Division Integrated Women's Rural Development Programme was started and commensurate with the women's activities, the Government has recognized the need to send more staff in various departments and at a higher administrative level than before. Kibwezi now has a district officer and an assistant district officer; a range management officer and several assistant officers: a forester: three education officers and three adult education officers; three land adjudication officers; and social services and co-operatives officers who deal with the various women's groups' registration and legal status. There are agriculture and water officers; health officers are not of as high a level as might be expected, because of the presence of the fully professionally staffed facility run by AMREF: all other administrative services are currently supplied by the Machakos District Centre, extension officers being sent to Kibwezi for brief periods, as and when needed.
The Machakos Integrated Rural Development Programme (MIDP) has also been helpful. This organization, started in 1979 and sponsored by the European Economic Community, has put Kibwezi on its plan of action and has assisted it for the last four years. It trains people in agricultural matters, soil and water conservation, terracing and the building of water storage dams. It supplies tools and seeds on loan, being repaid by the recipient farmers after harvest. It also helps improve the farming infrastructure to raise productivity and, through that, the people's standard of living. MIDP has supplied window timber frames for the refinery, but these were of unseasoned wood and should be replaced as soon as possible.