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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Sipili: from grass to grace

By Simon Njoro

Sipili trading centre started in seventies. It began as a shopping centre where people came to buy items that were not produced in their farms. Later, some began to exchange their farm produce in the centre. Buying and selling began to gain pace and a trading centre was born. It was later renamed Cotton City before reverting to its original name, Sipili. The name originates from the Maasai word ‘sipil’ meaning ‘tip of a spear’. The netizens argue that it was called Sipili because the Maasai warriors used to make spears in the area before the colonial period.

When the whites came they drove out the original inhabitants, and converted their land into ranches. Area assistant-chief Mr.Kimaiyo attests to this: “my father left Elgeyo-Marakwet in 1920s to work as a herdsman in the white ranches. But later did not see the need of going back to the ancestral land. When independence time came, the settler sold the land to Hon. G.G Kariuki. He in turn sub-divided the land and sold it in form of shares to different people. This area is inhabited by people from different communities. ”

The old structures in Sipili being phased out
 When Sipili became a home of different people, life for the new inhabitants was not a bed of roses after all. Fate appeared to have selected the economically weak in the society and pile them here. People had to start development projects from the scratch. However, they lacked the financial muscle. The newly inhabited place began to take a snail-pace in growth. One mini-bus called ‘Gachuru’ was the only reliable mode of transport. Let alone the pathetic state of the road to-date. According to Mr. Ndichu an old resident of the vicinity, it was very difficult to access learning institutions. “Lariak Primary School was the only one available. It was not a school as such but just a field. No blackboard, no chalk, many pupils but only four teachers. The teacher used to write on dust and the pupils follow suit,” says Mr. Ndichu.

Many other issues ganged up against this old centre. Among them include: poor road network, poor farming methods, lack of market for farm produce, perennial tribal attacks and cattle rustling, wild life invasion just to name a few.

 Today people in the area are full of thanks to the various groups who have come to the area and initiated development projects to aid them out of the quagmire. Shops are innumerable, services uncountable, and lifestyle has improved in leaps and bounds. Sipili is now a host of people from diverse academic, cultural, religious and social backgrounds.

The old Sipili has slowly paved way to the new town. Buildings constructed using timbers are currently being pulled down to give room to permanent storey buildings.

Sipili serves as an administrative town for the division. Government offices are littered in this once-humble set up. A random survey by Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) in the Divisional headquarters finds people queuing to apply for Identity cards and birth certificates. Farmers also made a visit to agricultural offices to get information. The centre has a Government Health Centre and a number of private clinics. Security has also been beefed up in the area. Police lines have been set with special units like the Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) have very strong presence to curb livestock theft.
Storey buildings coming up in Sipili centre

In spite of the good fortunes visiting Sipili, the centre still lingers with other challenges. The most profound one is lack of piped water. It is served with borehole water carted by donkeys. This poses health risks to the consumers because the handling is wanting. Waste management is also below the bar. People dispose wastes anywhere without caring for the environment.

 The new Liquor and Alcoholics Act has been received with mixed reactions in the area. To the proprietors, it is good riddance since they can make the local brew in the centre. No need to be concerned about the irritating smell of busaa hovering in the centre. Moral decadence has been given way by the cheap liquor. Young men and ladies are now misusing the liberty of law.

Arid lands Information Network (ALIN) has tremendously made an input in the growth of the centre. The provision of ICT and library services has boosted the technological and knowledge level. People can freely interact with the rest of the world using the services offered in the centre. Marketing of farm produce has been eased by the use of sokopepe service offered by ALIN. This is an online marketing service that helps farmers to find the right market for their produce
Indeed sipil ‘the tip of the spear’ has become the spear of growth.
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