ALL ABOUT KISII
Kisii is one of the six districts of Nyanza Province in SW Kenya, and is divided into five local authorities and eleven administrative
districts. The district is mostly hilly and is dissected by rivers flowing west into Lake Victoria, notably the Kuja and Mogusi. Lack of infrastructure like electricity, telecommunications and good roads inhibit the
full exploitation of resources. The hilly nature of the district leads to serious soil erosion and makes road communication
difficult, especially in the rainy season when many roads (only 10% of which are tarmacked) become impassable.
Kisii district lies on a highland equatorial climate, and as such it receives rain
almost throughout the year, although there are two rainy seasons (March to May and October to November). Average rainfall
is over 1500mm and is quite reliable, helping to support cash crops (coffee, tea, pyrethrum) and subsistence crops (maize,
beans, millet, potatoes). Temperatures can range from 10ºC to 30ºC.
According to the 1979 census Kisii district had a population of 588 000, but by 1996
the annual population growth rate of 3.6% meant that the population is now well over 1 200 000 (19% of whom live in urban
areas). This makes Kisii district one of the most densely populated in Kenya, with around 50% of the population being below the age of 15 years. The cause of high population
growth is believed to be cultural practices of having many children for security in old age, leading to low use of family
planning methods (acceptance is 60-65%). In most areas the sex ratio is disproportionate due to labour migration to other
districts and cities.
Health facilities are inadquate, unevenly distributed and lacking in essential medicines.
There are two hospitals - the government-run facility in Kisii Town and the Mission Hospital in Tabaka - but the bed occupancy rate is 160.3%. The major diseases in Kisii are malaria, anaemia, pneumonia, meningitis,
tuberculosis, measles and gastroenteritis. The first AIDS cases in Kenya were recognised
in 1984 (1987 in Kisii district), but it is now believed that 1 in every 18 adults is infected with the HIV virus in all areas.
Over 70% of AIDS cases are aged 20-49 years, the most economically active age group and also the best educated and skilled.
Infant mortality has been declining for several years and the acceptance of immunisation programs is increasing, but a large
proportion of children are believed stunted due to poor nutrition. Water is easily available from rivers, wells, springs,
roof catchments and boreholes, although the only treated water supply is found in Kisii Municipality.
Due to the high population density, almost all land in Kisii district is put to maximum
agricultural use. Land is subdivided within families, meaning that plots are becoming ever-smaller and the average farm is
only 1.5 hectares in area. Intensive farming in hilly regions has increased the rate of soil degradation and erosion, while
the application of farm chemicals has polluted surface and groundwater sources. More then 90% of rural household energy needs
come from wood, but the district is no longer self-reliant and other sources such as biogas are being encouraged.
Tea and coffee processing and soda bottling constitute Kisii district's manufacturing
industry, but retail and wholesale businesses exist in market centres despite the lack of cooling facilities for preserving
perishables. The annual growth rate in paid employment is 3.5%, but this is barely keeping up with the current population
growth rate. There are many societies such as Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) concentrated in Kisii Town
according to members' occupations or primary cash crop as well. The informal sector is involved in repair, metal fabrication,
furniture making and the sale of secondhand clothes, while the soapstone which is found in the area of Tabaka provides a reasonable
resource for the carving industry.
Income is unevenly distributed, with an average income per capita of Ksh. 2000 (approx.
£20), although most appear to earn Ksh. 1000-1500. Many live below the poverty line, but actual figures are available for
urban areas only.
In 1993 there were 679 primary schools and 134 secondary schools in the district,
and enrolment is increasing. Most schools in Kisii district lack science laboratories and many teachers are not fully trained,
reducing the ability of pupils to complete their education. Female enrolment in secondary school is good at 45%, while adult
literacy is 56% (high in relation to much of Kenya). However, given that
fees for secondary school are in excess of Ksh. 5000 per year it is not hard to see that for most children, primary education
is all they will ever be able to look forward to.