Socio-economic effects of rural electrification in Tala division, Machakos county, Kenya
The Government has invested in rural communities with a sole aim of improving the social and economic lives of those living in the rural areas. This is through programmes and projects such as rural electrification. These projects are expensive both in design and implementation. One of these areas that has been earmarked by the government is Tala Division of Machakos County. But do these projects always deliver expected outcomes? The purpose of this study was to establish the socio-economic effects of the rural electrification programme in Tala Division of Machakos County in Lower Eastern Kenya. The objectives of the study were to establish the distribution patterns of electricity in Tala Division, the uses at the community and household level of electricity, the social as well as the economic effects of rural electrification at both the household and community levels. The study adopted a descriptive design of the implementation. The target population was 4,780 households connected in 43 villages in the division through the programme. The stratified randomized sampling design was used. The total numbers of questionnaires dispatched were 473, of which 391 were returned making the response rate 83.3%. The data was analyzed quantitatively using statistical package for social sciences and presented through tables showing frequencies, percentages, means and t-scores. The changes in the responses have also been checked to establish whether the differences are significant enough. From the findings, majority of the households are headed by men at 81.8%, with 62.9% of the household heads being within the age bracket of 31 to 50 years .it is evident that over 93% of the electricity connections are within a radius of two kilometers from the main electricity grid as well as the tarmac roads. The households mostly use electricity for domestic appliances with lighting being 100% while few community facilities are connected with shops at 79% connection. The households felt that they are developed and rural electrification has had positive improvement in their lives but that there is need to either improve infrastructure in order to connect more villages or to review the guidelines on rural electrification. The study further shows that rural electrification is not sufficient to have increased disposable incomes but these infrastructural developments should accompany other initiatives such as provision of funds that would enable members of the communities to invest and make use of available electricity for production purposes to realize economic benefits from the connectivity. From the study, rural communities and households with easy access to tarmac road are connected faster to the grid. Most rural households spent less than one thousand shillings on electricity bills monthly which explains the basic electrical appliances used by the households. It is recommended from the study that the government should review the regulations governing the rural electrification in line with infrastructure development. In addition, the full economic benefits of rural electrification should be exploited in order to have meaningful development. Rural electrification is one of the ingredients of development, hence should be embraced by the government to enhance economic growth. The study is useful to the Kenya government. It provides the required data that is necessary for planning purposes and justification for funding such projects. It is also important to researchers and academicians interested in the subject of rural electrification.