Tharaka Nithi County, spanning 2609 km² and home to a population of 393,177 residents, is blessed with fertile lands due to its abundant rainfall. However, this blessing also comes with the challenge of maintaining clear roads and drainage systems, as fallen tree logs often obstruct them, rendering them impassable.
In response to this ongoing issue, the Tharaka Nithi County Government has taken proactive measures through the Tharaka Nithi Road Marshal initiative, which involves the community in road maintenance. Specifically, the Department of Roads collaborates with residents to clear roads, especially after rainfalls, and to unclog drainage systems. Annually, the County allocates more than Ksh200 million to road maintenance, a costly endeavor.
Recognizing that this problem is recurrent due to the County's geographical location, mountainous-hilly-valley terrain, which experiences heavy rainfall, the County devised a strategy to train local youth in various road maintenance techniques, including log removal and drainage clearance. This initiative has significantly reduced the number of complaints to County offices regarding blocked roads.
Now, residents contact their respective road marshal leaders in each area, who coordinate efforts to keep the roads clean. To ensure consistent cleanliness, road marshals are required to work twice a week, regardless of the weather conditions. To further motivate their involvement, the County provides each road marshal with a stipend of Ksh 3,000 as an incentive for their efforts.
Implementation of the practice
The implementation of this practice began with the Tharaka Nithi County Government's efforts to engage the public in September 2021, seeking input on ways to address community needs. Among the various concerns raised during this public participation, road maintenance and drainage issues emerged as the most pressing. Tharaka Nithi County comprises 15 wards, each interconnected by roads leading to schools, towns, markets and facilitating trade between sub-counties. While not all roads were tarmacked, they all faced similar challenges during rainy seasons.
In April 2023, the County Government initiated a comprehensive training program for local youth on drainage cleaning and road maintenance. This training was conducted across all sub-counties, with the aim of empowering these road marshals to become environmental stewards within their communities. The County provided essential equipment, such as wheelbarrows, safety gear, cleaning tools, and brooms to enable road marshals to carry out their responsibilities effectively.
In July 2023, the County officially launched the Road Marshal initiative, establishing a database comprising 700 trained road marshals. To sustain this initiative, the County allocates a monthly budget of Ksh2.5 million, ensuring that resources are available to support the program. Additionally, the County outlined its road maintenance strategy in compliance with the Tharaka Nithi County Assessment Act of 2021, ensuring consistency in road upkeep across the entire County.
To further ensure the long-term viability of this initiative, Tharaka Nithi County has incorporated it into the County Integrated Development Plan, emphasizing its commitment to ongoing road maintenance and environmental stewardship.
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