Bungoma Town Guide
Bungoma Town is a town in Bugoma county, Western Province of Kenya, near the Kenya and Uganda border. Bungoma town was established as a trading centre in the early 20th century. The town is the headquarters of Kenya ‘s Bungoma County.
There are no Industries within the municipality of Bungoma. However, some of the Industrial centers are found near Bungoma are at Nzoia with the Nzoia Sugar Factory and at Webuye the Pan Paper mills.
History of Bungoma Town
Bungoma Town’s history dates back to the construction of the Kenya Uganda Railway in the 1920s. The recent growth is attributed to its location in the Western Sugar belt with both Nzoia and Mumias sugar factories. Only a short drive away as is the Pan African Paper Mills factory at Webuye.
The origin of the name Bungoma has two versions. One, that the site was inhabited by a Kalenjin sub tribe called “Bangot” and two, that it was a meeting place by the Bukusu elders who used drums “engoma’’ to summon people to meetings- consequently, it was referred to as the place of drums by the local Bukusu hence the name Bungoma.
The oldest building in the town was a chief’s office erected around 1140. Besides, it is near here that the Lumboka war against the British by the Bukusu was waged in 1892 culminating in the deaths of many locals at Chetambe hills near Webuye about 25 km away. At the time, the colonial District Commissioner was based in Mumias.
In 1956, Bungoma became the headquarters of Elgon Nyanza district and then granted Urban Centre status with 31 sq km and eight wards in 1964 shortly after independence. It then became a Town Council in 1973 before being elevated to a Municipality in 1980. Seventeen years later in 1997, the number of wards was increased to eight with a total land area rising from 31 sq km to 57 sq km. These wards are Namasanda, Siritany, Musikoma, Sinoko, Khalaba, Mjini, Stadium and Sio. The Council has eight elected and two nominated councilors.
During the 1999 population census, Bungoma town had a population of 60,279, which has since more than doubled beyond 120,000 today because of the huge influx from rural areas coupled with a high population growth rate of over 7% per year.
Located 450 km from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, on the Great North road to Kampala in Uganda at an altitude of 1,385 m or 4,547 feet above sea level, Bungoma has become alluring to investors because of availability of land for development most of which is freehold.
Challenges Facing Bungoma Town
- Drainage and Sewerage works: Due to lack of planning, the existing drainage and sewerage works only serves a section of the Municipality. It is envisaged that as the Council moves to implement a newly designed master plan for Bungoma, current, sewerage problems would be tackled and these require huge injections of cash.
- Garbage collection and disposal: The council is on course with plans to refurbish its garbage collection vehicle and bring about attitude change among staff to rid the Municipality of problems related to garbage collection and disposal that are accompanied by flooding during rainy seasons.
- Street Lighting: Already, the municipal council has embarked on an ambitious but expensive programme to repair streetlights in the central business district and undertake the installation of lights in the major suburbs to enhance security at night. These will not only be essential for public security, they will also make it brighter, beautiful and enthralling. However, funds are being sought to spearhead the street lighting of the entire built up area.
- Employment: Owing to its emergence as an administrative, regional business and commercial centre, Bungoma has began pulling in college and school leavers looking for employment in the informal and formal sectors. The optic fibre cable linking the town to the rest of East Africa and the world will see it transformed into an internet hub no doubt creating opportunities in the information technology sector that is set for a major boom. To curb the pull towards crime by these individual, MCB is looking for partnerships to avail job opportunities for these job seekers to earn income legitimately and in essence prevent them from falling prey to criminal activity.
- Hawking: To fully deal with the hawking menace, alternative sites are being identified by the council in specific areas away from thoroughfares for use by the itinerant traders roaming the streets and sidewalks. Enforcement officers will now have the unenviable task of enforcing the law and making sure the pedestrian traffic jams are over
- Law enforcement: There is one police station and two-patrol bases-Ndengelwa and Musikoma whose officers oversee law and order with support from the District Commissioner, Bungoma South, District Officer Kanduyi division (provincial administration) in whose ambit are administration policemen. The High Court, Chief, Senior principal magistrate’s court and several lower courts in Bungoma Town with support advocates affiliated to the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) dispense justice here.
- Roads and bus park: Within town, these are poorly maintained hence in a state of disrepair but plans are afoot to carry out necessary repairs to major roads and those leading to the residential areas for easy access. Besides, the main bus park from where passengers to and from other urban centres board and disembark put up four decades ago is in dire need of upgrading. Those linking Bungoma to Kakamega, Kisumu, Eldoret, Webuye, Kitale, Kimilili, are all weather roads in fair condition. A new one through Sikata-Bokoli-Kimilili, at a cost of nearly sh1 billion is under construction and projected to be operational in 2008.
- Housing: Like any other fast growing towns in the third world, Bungoma is no exception to the rapid population growth courtesy of rural urban migration patterns hence the growing demand for additional housing units. With no immediate large scale, publicly funded housing schemes, the population has largely been reliant on the private sector investments in the housing sub-sector. Nevertheless, slum dwellings have emerged in certain parts of the town prompting an ambitious project to upgrade them to acceptable levels but funding has remained a key hindrance.
- Recreation: The Municipal Council of Bungoma is encouraging the private sector partnerships to invest in recreation facilities that are considered a must in any modern city. The Masinde Muliro Stadium complex- a football pitch, volleyball court and athletics track is poised for a major refurbishment to cost millions of shillings in order to offer sports and recreation services to the residents according to the new master plan. On the other hand, private sector players are setting up leisure facilities among them amusement parks, gyms, and picnic sites like the Buteyo Miti Park-an indigenous trees forest undertaking which has attracted international recognition and interest from environmentalists.
- Rehabilitation of Street Children and the Destitute: Like anywhere else, street children, beggars and the destitute are a problem in Bungoma. Whenever begging that this cadre of people engage in fails, there is a tendency to engage in crime and illicit activities in a bid to get sufficient incomes to sustain themselves in the urban environment. As research has shown such deviant behaviour registers a boom in street crime and health complications with a rise in HIV Aids complications thus straining health and medical services on offer.
Bungoma Town Climate
The average annual rainfall in Bungoma Town ranges between 1250 mm to 1800 mm.Blessed with favourable climatic conditions, (long rains between March and July and short rains between August and October),Bungoma’s climate is favourable for farming.
Economic Activities in Bungoma Town
The major economic activity in Bungoma town is farming and business supported by the Kenya-Uganda railway which passes through the town. A majority of residents of Bungoma belong to the Bukusu tribe who are known as ‘Mulembe people’ which means they are peaceful people.
Blessed with favourable climatic conditions, (long rains between March and July and short rains between August and October) that support a large variety of agro produce, cottage industries adding value to such produce are another option. Dairy farming is one of the key economic activities revolving around agro- production making processing of milk and manufacture of milk products a venture worth spending money on. Milk supply outstrips the capacity of the Kitinda Farmers Cooperative society dairy plant.
Investors heading west are most likely able to find Bungoma as the viable investment destination given its rapid development into the region’s leading commercial centre. As a district capital of the greater Bungoma, it attracted leading banks to set up base thus making it a financial center as well. Today, all major banking institutions have branches here easing financial transactions for business operations and guaranteeing them access to credit whenever necessary.
Barclays Bank Kenya Commercial Bank, National Bank of Kenya, Equity Bank, Family Bank, Post Bank are among those running branches at Bungoma that offer forex services.
The Internet, e-mail, telephone and fax guaranteeing business operators access to the rest of the world at the touch of a button link the town to the rest of the world.
Bungoma has a developed airstrip which handles chartered small aircraft and helicopters flying in visitors, but is also only an hour and a half away from both the Eldoret International and Kisumu airports by road that handle regular local flights to the Kenyan capital-Nairobi from where passengers can connect international flights.
Land set aside for a new airstrip is available and a partnership with local entrepreneurs could yield a new one to ease air links with other cities in the Great Lakes region. Still one can access the planned Tororo International Airport in Eastern Uganda from Bungoma in less than one hour by road.
Its location along the Kenya –Uganda railway line and the Great North Road linking the East African Capitals, the port of Mombasa and the rest of Africa ease any investor’s bulky goods transportation woes.
A multi- million Silo Complex and conventional stores owned by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) with storage capacity of 830,000 metric tones in the rich agricultural hinterland make the town potential centre for flour milling, rice milling, as viable investment options.
Another area worth venturing into is the processing of banana wine, tomatoes given the high production of both crops in the district and neighbouring Mt Elgon district .For those keen on the tourism sector, the Mt Elgon national park has big game and bird life where as the Mt Elgon crater, extinct many years ago is an attractive feature for those plying the western circuit now emerging from a slump as is the majestic Webuye falls near the Pan African Paper Mills factory, just 20 minutes drive from Bungoma Town. The water falls’ potential to generate hydro-electric power is yet to be exploited and for those with financial capacity, this is one sure investment which cannot go wrong given the rising demand for electricity in Kenya.
Investment opportunities are also teeming in the sugar industry-generation of hydro-electric power, at Nzoia Sugar factory where by-products, molasses, and bagasse await exploitation. Indeed sugar production has exceeded the crushing capacity of the factory that a new partnership is being sought to enable it crash excess cane now standing at 350, 000 metric tones a year.
Cotton ginning with the planned revival of cotton growing in Bungoma West and Bungoma South districts along with the manufacture of animal feeds are others awaiting exploitation from astute investors.
Booming population guarantees availability of cheap labour- a key factor of production that ensures low cost production and high returns on investment portfolios for those investing in Bungoma where availability of water and electric power are guaranteed all year round.
Manufacture of paper based packaging materials is a venture worth considering with the Pan African Paper Mills factory in Webuye only a stone’s throw away. Nevertheless, agro forestry initiatives, dairying, poultry and pig farming, oil palm growing are projects around Bungoma that may attract large-scale investments fast.
Accommodations and Hotels in Bungoma Town
Bungoma Silent Resort
Bamboo Village Guest House
Court Yard Hotel
The County Comfort Hotel
Bungoma Countryside Hotel
Tourist Hotel Bungoma
Green Meadows Lodge
Town Lodge Tororo
Education Institutions in Bungoma Town
Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) has started a campus at Sangalo Institute on the outskirts of Bungoma Town from where high level training and research programmes are poised to take off. Already, Moi University is partnering with Sacred Africa and is offering advanced courses at Siritanyi Wycliffee Centre where the Anglican Church of Kenya also runs theology courses. With the establishment last year of Kibabii Diploma Teachers Training College whose construction will take sh 1.7 billion, two private teacher-training colleges and the government run Mabanga Farmers Training Centre, Bungoma is emerging as a top educational centre.
Postal Services: Posta Kenya, a state parastatal offers postal services both local and international. Private service providers, Group Four Securicor-G4S, Roy Parcel Services, DHL do, however, offer door-to-door parcel delivery services.
Telecommunication Services: Telkom Kenya another state corporation that previously offered fixed telephone services has entered the mobile telephone range where Safaricom is a market leader followed by Airtel.
All these mobile telephony service providers cover all parts of Kenya. Internet services are available at a number of leading cyber cafes in town.
Radio and TV
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), the country’s leading national and official radio station is widely listened to by Bungoma residents. This is in addition to local FM stations that broadcast in English, Kiswahili and local dialects that are operated by private organizations and have popular listenership . British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other foreign radio stations also cover the area. Though KBC is the national and official TV station, the independent channel Kenya Television Network (KTN), which is privately run, is the most popular among town residents. Other leading TV stations with a wide following include Citizen TV and NTV. Sayari TV channel is mostly favoured by Christians.
Visitors Guide to Bungoma Town
Bungoma Town is the leading business and commercial centre in Western Province and was until recently the administrative capital of the larger Bungoma district covering a total area of 2,069sq kilometers. In 2007, the district was split into four – namely, Bungoma North, Bungoma South, Bungoma West and Bungoma East.
For a visitor from away the African continent, the town is easily accessible by both air , rail and road from the capital city of Nairobi some 450 km away where Kenya’s leading airport-Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is located. Local flights are available from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to Eldoret and Kisumu cities both of which are only an hour’s drive away. For those coming in by sea, once their vessels dock at the port of Mombasa famously dubbed as the gateway to East Africa, they may have several travel options-fly to Nairobi and proceed to either Kisumu by air, enjoy the undulating landscape, flora and fauna with a railway ride all the way or by road.
Other entry points into Kenya through Malaba and Busia along its western border with Uganda enables one to obtain a visa at the immigration offices there and then a quick drive will take you to this town with very hospitable people. Kiswahili and English are the official languages widely spoken here.
Other entry points into Kenya by road include: Lokichoggio on the border with Sudan from where one can drive through the Arid North West, admire the Jade sea (Lake Turkana through Ortum, Kapenguria, Kitale and then Bungoma on a day long trip worth the while with the beautiful landscape flora and fauna.
For visitors coming in from Ethiopia, an immigrations office exists at the Moyale border post , a 560 km journey from the north to Isiolo- then westwards through Nyeri, Nyahururu, Nakuru , Eldoret and then you are there after a fabulous two day trip full of adventure that gives Kenya the edge as a land of contrasts.
From Tanzania are three options:- through Lunga Lunga at the Coast, Mombasa then Nairobi, Namanga, Kajiado, Nairobi before going westwards via Nakuru or through Isebania-Migori-Kisumu, Kakamega then Mumias before arriving at Bungoma.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Although theatre and cinemas are non-existent, there exist clubs and hotels that offer both live and disco music .G2 along the Great North Road, GF and Kipepeo in the central business district and Happy Moments Cafe along Mumias road are favourites among local travelers who also while away the time enjoying pay TV channels Super sport and GTV that beam popular foreign soccer and local league matches live.
Places of Worship in Bungoma Town
Majority of Bungoma Town residents subscribe to the Christian faith. Among the leading churches in town include the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), Seventh Day Adventist (SDA), Friends Church, Pentecostal Assemblies of God, Faith Church, Bethseda church and Maranatha among others.
Muslims too have four mosques in town which include the main Jamia mosque in town, Mjini, Mawingo and Musikoma that serve as their main places of worship.