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Feature: Living in The Fast Lane: Analysis of Garissa County Achievements

By:  Yussuf Ali Korow:

After four years in office, everyone is asking: Is Governor Nathif Jama leading Garissa County to heaven or is the County in a fast lane to hell?

The fast pace with which Garissa County set to work puzzled and delighted many Kenyans specially the residents Garissa county,  Within a few days of operation, there was a budget and a functioning County Assembly ready to vet top employees of the County. Governor Nathif Jama, coming from the high profile post of the united Arab Emirate’s banking system and his introduction of the first Islamic banking system in kenya,  first community bank , had brought with him the vigor, excitement and Public Relations techniques he had gathered over the years. The County residents– and Kenya in general – was ablaze with peels and peels of grand, futuristic projects.

But what exactly is the reality on the ground? Is Garissa county a success story.

There is no doubt that Garissa County and its Governor Nathif  have set the pace for counties recently when the county was rank top most counties in Kenya to have improved health care services.  Garissa County is not only better known, there are many of those living outside it that are sure it is the loveliest place to live in. And for the county, combination of things among them an influx of skilled residents with high purchasing power has worked to its advantage making the county to progress with the inception of devolution.

Garissa being the headquarter of northern region when it was bypassed by road  from Mandera, Wajir and Garissa and everything administered right from the dilapidated government departmental offices that was worth not existing,  Garissa was dying on its feet before the constitutional changes that have led to its resurgence. But its vibrancy and visibility are things it owes only to its Governor. His enthusiasm for the County – and especially Garissa town – can only be parceled by very few.

Yet again, enthusiasm isn’t all. Residents want to see improvement to their living conditions. They want answers to the question: What have we actually achieved? Has it all been a lot of smoke without fire?

No one can pretend, of course, that the answer is easy to find. As one political analyst put it, analyzing modern governments needs an Aristotle – an Aristotle who can distinguish the essentials from the artificial. We will not assume to be Aristotle, so we will proceed from the simple assumption that a government – whether national or county – is a creation of people to advance their welfare. The key phrase here is “to advance their welfare.”

And from this we can derive five essentials of this “welfare” through which we can get an idea of what Nathif jama governorship has done for Garissa county residents  in the past four  years.

1.  Health and Sanitation.

This is the first essential that can be derived from our classification. Garissa is a County with a wide variation in climate and physical conditions.  Jama’s administrations played a critical role in health care transformation and in this regard, Garissa is leading innovative efforts to improve the quality of health care while reducing its cost.

Health is a fully devolved function and Garissa have given it all the attention and importance it deserves. For instance, the  biggest budget allocations every year go to healthcare with the ultimate aim being to ensure that as many of the citizens of the County and in all parts of the County access efficient and quality healthcare services.

I have happen to peruse the county health database, according to the county, Garissa have constructed 25 maternity wards and 16 dispensaries in some of the hardest-to-reach parts of the County in addition to two fully equipped operating theaters at Balambala and Modogashe.

They have dealt with the huge staffing deficit that has historically haunted the sector by recruiting more than 480 mixed cadre health care workers. Following this increased level of staffing numbers, the county have been able to post well trained medical officers and clinical officers to all our facilities in the sub-counties including nurses trained in anaesthesia to operationalise the 2 new theaters at Balambala and Modogashe.

Special training have been provided to staff in essential/critical areas. For instance, 198 health workers have been trained on emergency obstetric and newborn care & 220 health care workers on referral strategy.

A number of  maternal shelters have been established and operationalised at Garissa and Masalani. Both are 2 high volume CEMONC facilities and, as an example, almost 137 mothers from hard to reach areas in the County have successfully been managed at the Garissa shelter with 120 Live births.

Still on health, Prior to devolution, there was a haphazard referral system that had no planning, organization and budgeting. They  have since developed a functional and robust referral system that is second to none. With 16 fully equipped ambulances and a command centre for emergency referrals, 3900 referrals cases have so far been made successfully by the unit of which 1,000 were obstetric cases.

In Garissa,  compared to what use to happen before devolution , All health facilities offer comprehensive care on HIV/AIDS including PMTCT services.

Healthcare community units have been increased from 26 in 2013 to 86 currently.

There has been instituted enhanced awareness and strengthened demand for skilled delivery through weekly live calls in radio talk shows in local FMs. Also regular forums are held on Maternal Newborn & Child Health attended by all related stakeholders.

However access to health services has remained the key deliverable of devolution in  Governor jama’s Government , Health care services have been expanded simultaneously across the sub counties as each health facilities focused on expanding its local capacities. The result has been a reduction in child mortality rates, and increase in access to specialized treatment, and expansion of centres with specialized healthcare equipment that is a great achievement that my administration delivered.

And its bid to improve health service delivery and to save more lives especially among children and women, the county government has embarked opening up one level four hospital each of the seven sub counties.

Taking everything into account,  health care services is firmly on the path to transforming Garissa into the medical hub of the region by pursuing its mission of providing quality, accessible, and affordable health care services in an innovative and culturally acceptable way to the people of Garissa County and the neighboring counties.

2.  Early Childhood Education (ECD)

I followed up the transformation of education from the county education data.   There is  no doubt,  In Jama’S quest to lift up the standards of education in the county. In the last four years ,  jama have invested heavenly in the establishment of Early childhood development centers  cross the county

Noting that ECD is the foundation of education , Garissa county governments have refurbished  educational institutions, improving teaching and excellence and building a knowledge-based ECD centers in the  county. Prior to devolution, the situation of ECDE system at Garissa County was extremely wanting both in terms of infrastructure and availability of teachers.

ECDE classrooms were literally non-existent in the entire county and the students were subjected to study under trees or in poor makeshift structures mainly made of wooden straws with grass thatch roofing. The County government upon coming into being constructed more than 130 fully equipped modern ECDE centers in all parts of the County and employed more than 300 ECDE teachers for the different centers in the county.

3.  Youth Polytechnics and Empowerment Programmes

According to Governor jama’,  In an Exclusive interview  He said,   his administration has  started the journey to impart knowledge to every citizen because no meaningful development can be achieved without education. In particular the  youth he said should be more talented and skillful.  Garissa realize that the development of technical, industrial, vocational and entrepreneurship training (TIVET) is fundamental to the county’s efforts to lower levels of poverty and to create opportunities for out of-school youth.

Therefore, they  have revived and reactivated youth polytechnics and waived all fees to the trainees. The move has encouraged more youth to enrol and seek the necessary skills. For example Garissa Youth Polytechnic has had a lower number of 30 students per semester but the enrolment figure has drastically gone-up to 600 student It is very impressive and encouraging.

Garissa in the last four years have establish youth polytechnics in all other main towns including Masalani, Bura, Dadaab and Madogashe.  They have seen a good number of  young people in technical skills as they fully participated in productive activities. In just the first three years , The county have as well  improve learning standards in  polytechnics by equipping them with modern learning equipment.

Jama’s administration in  the last  four years  have invested in construction and uplifting the youth polytechnics in order to nurture the skills of young people and prepare them for the job market.

During the interview,  Governor Jama said , Garissa people  needed masons; metal workers; water, electrical and mechanical engineers; quantity surveyors; laboratory technicians; urban planners; and many more and we will continue to invest in construction and rehabilitation of youth polytechnics.

He said,  For example, in Garissa youth polytechnics , the county added and constructed five classes and managed to provide a very outstanding facelift ,both fencing and equipping with the necessary equipments and all the workshops in all the polytechnics have been refurbished and equipped.  Garissa  have seen enrollment to youth polytechnics increase substantially. I believe that its through devolution that the  youth are   capable of becoming future incubators for skilled manpower.

4.  Infrastructure

Lets check , the Garissa before and after devolution in the aspect of  Infrastructure: Transport, roads,  Housing and Public Works:

The county over the last four years has executed various projects: To this end, the County Government has graded over 350 of rural roads including, Garissa – Masalani,  Garissa – Mbalambala  Dadaab – Liboi,  Garissa – Dadaab and  Masalani – Hulugho.

This is on top of upgrading all the roads in all the sub- county headquarters. Through consultations with the national government the county have undertaken  the tarmac of Garissa – Modogashe road. This cooperation has also seen the county being awarded 100 Km of the 10,000 Km already done by the Jubilee Government.

In Garissa , More than 50 urban, rural, inter-town and farm roads were improved from poor sand status to good muram status.  This also included proper storm water drainage, such as the creation of culverts, for all the main roads.

The exercise involved the contracting of more than 25 different local construction companies while it also created employment for a large number of youth in different parts of the county.

Proper rehabilitation of  Kismayu  road. This road is a major route and its continuous well-being is critical not only for the county but also for the entire northern Kenya region. The rehabilitation of the road was also part of a wider effort to clean and beautify the town.

5.  Livestock and pastoral economy in the county.

Pastoralism is the main activity of the inhabitants of the county with livestock production being the primary source of income for the majority of households. About 80 per cent of the county’s population live in the rural parts and practice pastoralism as their main economic activity.

Some of the notable  achievements over the last four  years in Governor jama administration in the sector that is observed from far and wide includes, -Completion of Masalani slaughterhouse
-Complete rehabilitation of Garissa medium tannery
3-Undertaking a wide range of livestock extension services across the sub counties in Garissa.

6.  Agriculture, irrigation and fisheries;

Pastoralists are being encouraged to take up agro-pastoralism, which lessens the dependence on livestock farming as a sole means of support. As a result, there continues to be increasing levels of interest in crop production from the population of the county both men and women. Most of the farming activities occur along the river Tana even though rain fed farming (dryland farming) is also practiced in a number of places within the county.

Crop production has achieved tremendous improvement under the county government. For instance, the department has undertaken a comprehensive program to encourage and support the youth of the county and women to turn to active farming. Incentives include;   free distribution of certified seeds. and  Up to 25 farming  groups benefited water pumps  from the donation overseen by Governor Nathif Jama recently.

When  I recently visited , one of the beneficiaries of Lagdera  Farm , In Sankuri  Location, Mbalambala sub county rises as a green oasis in dry and dusty Garissa county. Set on 250.0 acres, the farm supports 70 small-holder farmers, each with a plot measuring between two and half acre. The farmers grow a selection of maize, chili peppers, onions, capsicum and fruits in rows and on small portions of their land, alongside vegetables for home consumption this was a result of the modern water pumps the farmers received in early this year. Thanks to devolution

With support from some development partners, the department initiated a program to clear and make ready 200 acres (10 farms) of prime agricultural land along the River Tana for farmers in Saka Ward, Balambala constituency.

Greenhouse farming is highly encouraged by the county  and now is a  reality and a common phenomenon in Garissa farms. encourages farmers to grow varying products. Over the past 2 years, a number of successful open agricultural days were undertaken in which various agriculture related activities were undertaken to support the farming community.

In another progressive milestones within Governor Jama’s administration is the establishment of state of fire engines and center in Garissa, the multi-million county projects that was launched  early this year together with President Uhuru Kenyatta will avert  future fire disasters in the county. Already since the Establishment of fire command center in the county , according to county fire statistics database,  almost 80 percent of the damage was managed from the numerous  fire incidents reported in Garissa.

Governor during the interview promised to establish disaster rescue management center in all sub counties within this year.

This is what mean, a complete sense of transformation, Breaking from the past mystery of a burning houses without any response, but with the current state of art fire station in Garissa, the effort will never be wasted, averting fire disasters with the best quick time possible, that is a true meaning of  the fruit of devolution- When we utter a word of progress, that is what we pronounce at the end.

In Summary:

The county has also revived youth polytechnics and waived all fees for the trainees. It intends to establish more polytechnics to meet the demand for vocational training.

The governor invited investors in the county’s game reserves and national park to bolster the tourism sector. He cited Arawale Game Reserve – home to the endangered hirola antelope – as proof of the tourism potential in the county.

The county government has also moved to empower women by supporting their groups and setting up small industries to boost their income sources.

Before the end of this starting financial year, Governor Jama promised to commission a number of projects. Something he termed it, legacy projects.

The biggest challenge in building a modern, vibrant and progressive community lies in the answer given by Governor Nathif jama to these questions.

Now as we conclude,  the Answer to our starting questions , whether ,  Governor Nathif Jama has lead Garissa County to heaven or is the County in a fast lane to hell? Though the answer is so vibrant, it’s upon the readers and the general residents of Garissa to answer.

Do you have something to add to this story? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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