The 47 Counties of Kenya
Kenya in a Nutshell
Kenya is geographically located at the Horn of Africa region in the far eastern end of African, with a total surface area of 582,646 km2 of which 11,230 km2 is water. It fronts two major world water bodies – Indian Ocean to the south east and Lake Victoria to the west. Kenya is uniquely dissected into two almost equal parts, horizontally and vertically. Horizontally, it is divided by the Rift Valley, which straddles the county from north to south and vertically by the Equator which runs from east to west. The population is Kenya, based on the 2014 census, was about 45 million people. The economy of the Counties of Kenya is principally agriculture based.
About 80% of Kenya’s terrestrial land is classified as Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) characterized by low amounts of rainfall – ranging from 150 to 750 mm annually. Rainfall is erratic and poorly distributed both spatially and temporally, making agricultural production in the ASALs a great challenge. Generally speaking, temperatures are high in many of the ASAL places, easily rising above 30’C and which consequently affects moisture levels and limits agricultural production potential. The high potential areas cover only about 20% of Kenya, yet they carry about 75–80% of the population, causing extensive pressure on land use for agriculture.
Boundaries of the Counties of Kenya
The original 40 boundaries of Kenya, marking districts and provinces, were first defined in the 1963 Independence Constitution and they were largely based on ethnic boundaries, affirmed by political positions taken at the Lancaster House Conferences. Before the British Rule of East Africa, the people of Kenya had lived more or less homogeneously; each tribe living in one general area. The pastoralists communities, like Maasai, who traversed expansive areas, interacted cordially with other communities. Occasionally, small wars would break out among the communities – especially between the pastroralist communities – but peace generally prevailed.
During the British Era, the Royal Boundaries Commission believed that it was prudent to keep rival tribes within their own administrative and political boundaries for the sake of peace, and thus the 40 Districts [9 Provinces] were created – Ustawi Info
Refining the Boundaries
In 1968, Central Nyanza and South Nyanza districts, in Nyanza Province, were replaced by Homabay, Kisumu and Siaya Districts – which brought the number of districts to 41. Between 1969 to 1989, six new districts were created. In Eastern province, Makueni District split from Machakos and Tharaka Nithi District split from Meru. In Nyanza Province, Migori District split from Homabay while Nyamira District split from Kisii. In Rift Valley Province, Bomet District split from Kericho and in Western Province, Vihiga District split from Kakamega. Some territory was transferred from Turkana District, in Rift Valley Province, to form West Pokot District – bringing the number to the districts to 47. In 2010, the 47 Districts were replaced by the 47 Counties of Kenya in accordance to the August 05, referendum adopted by 67% of Kenyans, thereafter promulgated on August 27, 2010. Rather interestingly, almost all the Counties of Kenya are named after their main towns which also serves as administrative headquarters.
Geography of the Counties of Kenya
Peneplained landscapes characterize a huge part of Kenya, and in general East Africa. Vast wide-open plains of flat country, which account for almost 50% of the land in Kenya – including the famed Masai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park – continue unbroken for hundreds of kilometres, into distant horizons. All the large counties of Kenya, which are also the least populated, lie within this brutal and inhospitable semi-arid landscape. They include Baringo, Garissa, Mandera, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kitui, Laikipia, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir and West Pokot. In the extremity, the semi-arid country gives way to treacherous arid wildernesses epitomized by the Chalbi Desert, in Marsabit, which is one of few examples of true desert in East Africa. Chalbi Desert is devoid of any surface water and rivers.
Most of the heavily populated counties of Kenya are located away from these arid and semi-arid zones and confined to an area of about 20% of Kenya. Almost 70% of the Kenya’s population live in the constellation of small counties in the Central and Western. In Central Kenya, Kiambu, Nairobi, Nyeri, Meru, Embu, Kirinyaga and Muranga. In Western Kenya, Bomet, Bungoma, Kericho, Kakamega, Trans Nzioa, Uasin Gishu, Migori and Siaya. Other regions with a sizeable population lie the Rift Valley Region, where the plateaus have been interrupted by smaller mountains whose creation is associated with the formation of the Rift Valley.
The Rift Valley System in Kenya, with its enormously steep inward-facing escarpment and relatively flat floors and lakes is so widely written about as to warrant no introduction here. By the same token, the Great Rift Valley Systems of Lakes, inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya, are prominent in Narok, Kajiado, Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo and Turkana. Lastly is the coastal landscape of Kenya which comprises of Taita Taveta, Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi and Lamu which collectively share the 512 km coastline of Kenya.
Area in km2 of the Counties of Kenya