Kiambu County in zoning plan to protect agriculture

Lack of policies to control change of land use approvals has seen massive real estate developments, to the detriment of coffee cultivation

captureThe Kiambu County Government has embarked on a zoning plan to safeguard agriculture, its longtime economic backbone.

As a result, it will not approve the construction of real estate and other commercial developments in certain parts of the county, where gated communities and rental apartments have been replacing tea and coffee plantations at a high rate.

Deputy Governor Gerald Githinji says the county has drawn up a special plan and mapped out commercial and agricultural areas to protect agriculture from the lucrative real estate sector.

Mr Githinji, who is also the county executive committee member for trade and tourism, says the plan defines urban, peri-urban and agricultural areas across the county, adding that it will now be impossible for investors to get approvals for change of user for land reserved for agriculture.

“We have witnessed unplanned development, whereby investors scramble for any available space, including coffee farms, to put up real estate developments.

But with the special plan, we will have a balance, which will enable us to safeguard agriculture, especially coffee, which is being wiped out by real estate,” he said.

He however, said those who had successfully applied for change of user before the zoning begins will be allowed to proceed with their development.

The county, which is regarded as Nairobi’s dormitory town, has in the recent past seen massive development as investors rush to make the most of the growing demand for homes and other commercial properties there.

Many coffee farmers — both large and small — have either sold their land or partnered with investors to put up gated communities, leading to a reduction in the production of the crop, which has been the region’s main income earner.

Among the projects that have replaced coffee farms is Tatu City, a multi-million-dollar satellite town sitting on a 1,00o-hectare piece of land; Migaa Estate along the Kiambu-Kwa-maiko Road, which sits on 774 acres: Eden Vile near the Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology, which occupies about 150 acres of what was a coffee plantation and part of which is under maize.

Small farm holders have also subdivided their farms into plots which they have either sold, or are using to build rental flats.

This has seen massive development in areas that were previously shunned by investors.

Lack of policies to control the approvals has been blamed for the massive change of use with land officials saying that they have been receiving numerous applications daily.

Stakeholders in the coffee sector have raised the alarm that the production of the crop had declined, thanks to the booming housing sector.

Last year, Mr Naushad Merali who is the head of the Kiambu-based Sasini Ltd, decried the reduction in coffee production in the recent past, partly as a result of real estate.

“If coffee is diminishing in areas like Kiambu where real estate has taken over, we should move to others parts of the country where land is available and encourage the inhabit¬ants to grow coffee so that we can increase productivity; he said.

Meanwhile, a consortium of Egyptian inves-tors is putting up a Shz.5 billion private hotel and sports facility in the County.

The hotel, known as Wadi Degla Club, is being constructed by Wadi Degla Investment, a subsidiary of the Cairo-based Wadi Degla Group of Companies.

It is located near Paradise Lost gardens, off Kiambu Road.

The hotel which is among the company’s other multi-billion investment projects in the country, is its first such venture in East Africa as it seeks to increase its operations in the sub-Saharan region.

Mr Mel Samy, the company’s president, said the facility would be ready for use next year.

The facility will have shopping, leisure and restaurants and food outlets. and health facili-ties such as spas, saunas and gyms. It will also have business facilities.





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