The improvement of Ontulili Market has kicked off with the installation of two floodlights in Katheri and Makutano Shopping Centres. The two centres, which are just half a kilometre apart, are the catchment area for SymbioCity Kenya in Meru County. With the help of a long-term vision and integrated solutions, Ontulili town hopes to bring life to its market that never really took off.

A future Ontulili market and surrounding area as visualised by the town’s Urban Sustainability Review.

Members of a farmers’ cooperative society set up Ontulili Market in 2007, to increase wholesale trade of fresh produce from the area. However, the activities never took off as planned, and instead the market has been crumbling slowly. In fact, the market didn’t even have a name until a year ago, when the SCK project begun. “Not long ago, our businesses had stalled. We couldn’t even sell our produce, and just threw it away. The market felt like a ghost centre,” confirms Paul Kinoti, the project area chairman.

Paul Kinoti, Ontulili Market project chairman next to one of the better-maintained shops.

Ontulili Market sits on an acre piece of land, a few metres from Nanyuki Highway. Some of the initially 166 attractive looking wooden stalls are now ramshackle sheds. While just a handful of the stalls are used for business, a few are residential, while some have been vandalised and torn apart. The population is served by one small toilet block. A heap of garbage sits at a corner of the market centre. It is apparent that the area has not had any planned activity in a while. Kinoti, who is among the farmers who set up the market is confident that soon there will be a turn-around.

Willingess to pay for waste collection and more
When the market was established 11 years ago, there was no clear vision, neither was the plan properly sold to the community, he states. This is the difference that SymbioCity Kenya brings.

“Now we have a vision, to have a well-planned, managed and economically sustainable town. We also have a clear leadership structure and strategy, complete with a monitoring and evaluation mechanism,” he adds enthusiastically. Most important, according to Kinoti, is that the community is aware of the project and embraces it fully.

“They are aware that when upgraded, they will have to pay rates to the County government, for services such as an ablution block, garbage collection, sewage and water, and they are fine with it,” he states, adding that this will improve sustainability.

Synergies with public transport system
Apart from the market centre, a bus stop is also to be set up by the highway. “Transport is a major traffic puller, and we’re confident that the market will be vibrant in no time,” he says. In the neighbourhood are several residential houses and businesses such as hardware shops, cyber cafes, butcheries and grocery shops. “There is hope. Traders who migrated will be back when they see what is happening!”

Upcoming shops in the neighbourhood of Ontulili Market.

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