Having lived in a manyatta for 40 years, Katoliki Nasiangumi was excited at the thought of moving into a big, modern house.
Her family was among 150 households that were relocated by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) to pave the way for the construction of a 280-megawatt power plant.
The firm had discovered that they were sitting on a huge geothermal reservoir at Ololongonot Village in Olkaria, Naivasha, and decided to move them elsewhere to give way for exploitation of the resource.
“I have never lived in a stone house before,” she said on Thursday as she packed her belongings, surrounded by her 12 children.
“All my life I have been surrounded by these small manyattas and I do not know how it feels to be inside a stone house.”
Although she was excited, she was anxious for she was about to begin a new life different from what she had been used to for decades.
“My kitchen has been a small mud-walled and grass-thatched structure and I normally cook with fire wood,” she said. “I do not even know how to switch on a light bulb.”
The transition is expected to be a culture shock for Nasiangumi and her fellow villagers, for they will have to abandon their nomadic Maasai life for a more settled existence in their new permanent houses built on 1,700 acres of Kedong Ranch, outside the Olkaria Power Generating Plant.
Maasai community chairman Maenga ole Kisotu said the social change could prove to be a big challenge to the families as many had got accustomed to the manyatta lifestyle.
“We told them what to expect,” he said. “We now wish that they will not do funny things in their houses like cooking with fire wood on the floor or keeping their animals inside the house.”
The company had built sheds, locally known as kraals, for the animals, he added. He advised the families against ruining the houses.
“We hope that the Maasai will respect the fact that they were chosen among the few to get the houses.”
KenGen Chief Executive Officer Albert Mugo said the relocation was successful because the community supported.
“We want to thank the stake holders for their engagement and consensus building. This has helped us to complete the exercise.
“The compensation covers land, disturbance allowances, the cost of replacing business-generating structures and the loss of rental income for landlords,” he said.
Each of the families was moving into a three-room house built on a one-acre plot. The houses are complete, with a kitchenette, a toilet and latrine, and each was built at a cost of Sh2.5 million.
Some families bought new furniture and bedding for their new houses.
“We did not want to carry old and worn out things in our new houses, hence we decided to buy new furniture,” said Nasiangumi.
The new settlement has social amenities including a school, a dispensary and a communal meeting hall. It also has three churches. For their livestock, a cattle dip was constructed for the families.
Some said they would abandon the nomadic lifestyle for modern education. “We are now ready to have our children go to school.
“KenGen has given us a school that is complete with teachers and a modern library,” said Naomi Masienga.
She said their children had been given a chance to compete with learners in other parts of the country.
The community will jointly own a title deed for the houses.
KenGen is expected to commission the 280-megawatt plant by the end of the year.
Source: Daily Nation Monday, August 24, 2014