A few months ago, Mary Wambui Karimi, a resident of Kirinyaga County in Kenya, did not ever look forward with eagerness to arrive at her place of work each waking day.
Although the local market is the only place where she could make ends meet, her place of work was not bearable especially during the rains and the dry spell when dust becomes the order of the day.
Karimi, a trader at the Kiamutugu fresh produce market in Gichugu constituency, dreaded the rainy season. Getting to the market place was a daunting task besides the constant headache of laying out her wares in the mud in open space.
The businesswoman, who just like other traders in the expansive market had gotten used to the ritual year in year out, is now breathing a sigh of relief following the construction of a modern facility where she now carries out her business.
With paved roads and pavements, traders at the fresh produce market now have a decent premise to carry out their business following the completion of the market renovations by the Kirinyaga County government.
The Kiamutugu market is among five fresh produce holdings which have been completed in the past year to assist traders in the agricultural rich county.
Kirinyaga County being an area endowed with good arable soil and a favourable weather, has been among the top producers of bananas, avocados, and paw-paws among other horticultural products.
But despite the abundance of the fast-moving produce, lack of decent outlets has been hindering businesses for hundreds of farmers and traders.
The markets that have received the much-needed facelift include Kiamutugu, Makutano, Wang’uru and Kibingoti, which are spread across the agricultural rich county
A total of Ksh50 million (US$476,191) has been used to revamp the markets with dealers in agricultural produce now able to place orders directly with farmers.
Since her election, Governor Anne Waiguru made modernisation of fresh produce markets a priority due to the suffering of the traders.
After settling down from the gruesome electioneering period, Ms Waiguru made extensive tours of the county and identified the sorry state that open air markets were in due to years of neglect.
She came up with a master plan to have all the markets given a facelift but earmarked five only to begin with due to budgetary constraints.
“Having seen first-hand the sorry state of the public markets in this county, I felt our women who form the bulk of the informal traders required decent places to carry out their business and immediately embarked on the journey,” Waiguru said.
The governor also said she had witnessed the bad state of the roads by which farm produce that forms the bulk of commodities of trade at these markets are transported.
“I noticed during my tour that even the oxen and donkey-carts, which farmers use to transport their produce to the market strain to get to their destinations due to the bad roads in the area but we have started to improve them to all weather condition ,”she said.
Some commodities would even go to waste after the women failed to get means of transport for their goods to the market due to the bad roads, according to Karimi
At Wanguru market, in Mwea where Joyce Wakuthii has been running a cereals business for many years, the facility has also received a face lift.
Wakuthii recalled how her commodities would often get destroyed by whirl winds during the dry spell since she had to conduct her business in the open-air market.
“But at the moment I do not have to mind about the winds and the accompanying dust nor do I have to care about rains since my business is now sheltered, “she said.
Makutano market which is located at the outlying area of the county is the hottest point and whose market is also the most vibrant.
Traders here have been contending with dusty conditions which in the long run ended up soiling their produce.
Abigael Wambui has been running a hair salon business which she almost abandoned due to the dust since the market had no concrete slabs.
“Although my business is within the open market my customers have always shied away due to the unfriendly environment caused by the harsh weather condition of Mwea but after the modernisation, business at the salon has started picking up,” she said.
At Kagio and Kutus the new outlook of the modernized market has changed the business turnover for the better according to the beneficiaries.
“As you can see, my stall at the improved market where I sell fresh fruits has become a bee hive of activities by attracting more customers who earlier did not dare eat my fruits due to the filth on the mud floor,” said Julian Muchira, a fruit vendor.
Waiguru says she is fully committed to providing transformative leadership that will impact positively on the rural community.
The county during the last financial year acquired road improvement equipment worth over Ksh250 million (US$2.5 million) which has been used for the improvement of many of the access roads in the rural areas.
“If I could leave a lasting impression on the lives of a few people especially the down trodden women, then that will be a reminder that I was there for them when they needed me most,” Waiguru said while promising more developments.