Overview of Kirinyaga County
Sitting at the foothills of Mount Kenya, some 112km from Nairobi, Kirinyaga County covers 1479.09 square kilometres.
Kirinyaga borders Embu to the east, Machakos to the south, Murang’a to south west and Nyeri to the west.
The county is named after Mount Kenya, which was originally known as Kirinyaga, meaning the crest of whiteness, synonymous with its snow-capped peaks.
Apparently, the British settlers could not pronounce the name ‘Kirinyaga’, resulting to calling it Mt. Kenya.
Kirinyaga County Government
Kirinyaga County comprises of four constituencies: Mwea, Gichugu, Ndia and Kirinyaga Central. The countys' current top leaders are Joseph Ndathi (Governor), Joseph Keter (County Commissioner), Daniel Karaba (Senator) and Winnie Karimi Njuguna (Women Representative).
Other leaders representing the four constituencies in the National Assembly are Njogu Barua (MP-Gichugu), Peter Gitau (MP-Mwea), Stephen Muriuki Ngare (MP-Ndia) and Joseph Gachoki (MP-Kirinyaga Central).
People of Kirinyaga County
According to National Bureau of Statistics 2009 report, 528,054 people live in Kirinyaga county (51% - female and 49% - male). Most of them are Kikuyus who practice small scale farming in the area. Although any crop can be grown here, the most prevalent are tea, coffee, rice, maize, beans, bananas and various types of fruits and vegetables.
Religion and Culture
Majority of people living in Kirinyaga county are Christians either of Roman Catholic faith or Protestant. Some of the most prominent churches found in the county include Roman Catholic, A.C.K, P.C.E.A and Evangelical churches. There are a few Muslims in major towns of Kerugoya and Wang’uru.
Unlike in the old days when only men and boys would work in the farms or graze livestock in the fields, today both men and women work together in the fields. Children usually assist their parents with their duties during holidays or school breaks as a way of learning responsibility and working skills.
Set in a coffee producing zone, Kerugoya is the largest urban center in the county and an important commercial centre for farmers, ideally for banking services and farm input supplies. Kerugoya is located some 125 km north of Nairobi along Embu-Nyeri road being home to about 40,000 people.
Located some 117 km north of Nairobi, Mwea is one of the fastest growing towns in Kirinyaga. Mwea irrigation scheme produces over 50% of all rice in Kenya, making the town an important commercial centre. The town is jam-packed with numerous rice stores and several rice mills, making it abuzz with economic activities all year round.
Located approximately 11 km from Kerugoya town, Kutus town has not been growing as fast, perhaps due to its proximity to Kerugoya. The town is however expected to rise tremendously having been proposed as the capital for Kirinyaga County.
Kirinyaga Technical Institute located at the heart of the town has also been upgraded to a university - Kirinyaga University College - and is seen as another factor towards Kutus’ economic evolution.
Climate and Weather
Set directly below Mount Kenya, Kirinyaga is one of the wettest counties. With annual temperatures ranging between 12 °C and 26 °C or an average of 20 °C and annual precipitation of about 1250mm. Kirinyaga enjoys two rainy seasons - the long rains (March-May) and short rains (October-December).
Agriculture is Kirinyaga’s main economic activity, with over 70% of residents being small scale farmers. Others are business people, teachers, civil servants working in government institutions and those who work for the various tea, coffee and rice factories. The county’s leading farming industries include coffee, tea, rice, horticulture, dairy farming, maize and beans. Fish farming is being practiced lately with many farmers now creating space for fish ponds.
The urban centers are well served by government hospitals, health centers and dispensaries. There are several private and mission health facilities in different towns. The most notable include Kerugoya District Hospital (Kerugoya town), Kianyaga Sub-District Hospital (Kianyaga town) and Kimbimbi Sub-District Hospital (Mwea). Some of the mission hospitals include Mwea mission near Wanguru town and managed by the Catholic Church, A.C.K Mt. Kenya hospital located along Kerugoya-Karatina road and Hope Medical Clinic along Sagana-Karatina road.
The county’s education sector is well served by over 300 primary schools and over 100 secondary schools.
Popular secondary schools in Kirinyaga County include Kianyaga boys’, Kerugoya boys’, Kerugoya girls’, Kabare girls’ (Kutus), Karoti girls’ and Ngiriambu Girls’ near Kianyaga town.
Institutions of higher education in the county include Kirinyaga University College (formerly Kirinyaga Technical institute).
Other notable tertiary institutions include Ahiti Ndomba Veterinary Training Institute (Kutus), Kaitheri Technical institute (Kerugoya) and Kimweas youth polytechnic (Kianyaga).
Some of the notable people from Kirinyaga County include the longest serving head of civil service Geoffrey Kareithi, former Central Bank Governor Philip Ndegwa, former renowned spy man James Kanyotu and former justice minister and 2013 presidential candidate Martha Karua.
Places of Interest
Kirinyaga county has a few touring sights, the most undisputed being Mount Kenya.
The mountain presents rare experiences such as mountain climbing, national park tours with wildlife such as bushbucks, black fronted duiker, elephants, waterbucks, elands, tree hyrax and white tailed mongoose among others and over 130 bird species.
Other spots of interest include Mau Mau caves along the banks of Nyamindi River and within the forest, the natural bridge popularly referred to as God’s bridge and various mineral springs with bubbling carbonated water are found in the upper side of Kianyaga town.
Traveling to Kirinyaga County
The fastest and the most convenient route to travel from Nairobi to Kirinyaga is Makutano-Mwea road. Makutano, meaning junction, is where the county begins and is the meeting point of Nyeri, Machakos and Murang’a counties. It takes about 1.5 hours by road to drive this 110 km road from Nairobi to Kirinyaga.
Public transport that serves different parts of the county is found at Tea Room bus terminus in Nairobi.
There are many hotels, lounges and guest houses in major towns. Roswam Hotel in Kerugoya offers the best accommodation in the county and is suitable for all types of visitors. Others include The Grand Oak Hotel, Kirinyaga Safari Lodge and Shamrock Hotel along Karatina-Sagana road as well as Castle Forest Lounge located at Kamweti gate. The lounge is popular for picnics, camping and is a good stopover during mountain climbing.
There are various banks and microfinance institutions in all major towns within the county. Among them is Barclays bank, K.C.B, Family Bank, Equity and Cooperative banks. Smaller towns are well served with SACCOs aimed at providing farmers with banking services closer to their homes. Banking services available in other towns include Kutus (Co-operative bank), Wanguru- Mwea (Equity) and (K.C.B) in Kianyaga.
All major towns are well served with shops, mini-super markents and open air markets. Some of the biggest stores include Magunandu (Kerugoya town), Kerugoya Supermarket and Guest Supermarket in Wang’uru (Mwea).
TOP of the Kirinyaga County