Land use patterns of Kenyan small towns: A Case study of Meru and Embu towns
Urbanization in Kenya has been associated with numerous problems such as mass migrations from rural areas to urban areas, lack of proper housing for ever increasing urban population, unemployment, lack of social facilities and pollution. While all the above problems have been given much attention, little attention has been given to the pattern of ensuing land use in these urban areas. This study therefore set out to examine the land use patterns in two small but rapidly growing towns of Embu and Meru in the Eastern Province of Kenya. Land use patterns in these two towns could not be legitimately defined according to systematic zones because they were characterized by too many cases of land use conflicts. Land uses looked haphazard, especially in the outskirts of the town centres. For instance, the Central Business Districts of the two towns were characterized by mixtures of different land uses, such as commercial versus residential, and commercial versus industrial. In Embu town there was an Asian residential estate at the centre of Central Business area. In Meru the same problem was inherent. In the Central Business area·of Meru was a milk processing plant. Similarly, industries in Meru town were growing in the midst of residential areas. The above observations contradicted the generalized neo-classical models of urban land use patterns; meaning that land use patterns in these towns could not be further explained by these celebrated neo-classical theories. In conducting the study, first a personal observation survey was carried out in the two towns to . examine the existing land uses and appreciate the settlement patterns. Furthermore, four sets of questionnaires were administered, three to plot/land owners of different kinds of land uses and the other to the planning authorities. These helped in coming up with the factors that caused the existing land use patterns in the towns. From the study, it was found that a coherent and consistent land use pattern could not be defined in these towns. The land use patterns in these two towns could not be defin~d as resembling any land use patterns explained by the neo-cla~sical theories, but light imprints of some of the theories were traceable. Existing land use patterns in both towns were found to be a consequence of many factors which included. economic, social values, government intervention and policy, political pressure, poor development control, - scarcity of public land and private land ownership.