Siaya District is one of the 12 districts that comprise Nyanza Province. It is bordered by Busia District to the North, Vihiga and Butere-Mumias Districts to the North-East, Bondo District to the South, and Kisumu District to the South-East. The total area of the district is approximately 1520 km2. The District lies between latitude 0° 26’ to 0° 18’ north and longitude 33° 58’ east and 34° 33’ west.
Siaya District is divided into seven administrative divisions: Yala, Wagai, Karemo, Ugunja, Boro, Uranga, and Ukwala. The largest division is Ukwala with an area of 319 km2, followed by Karemo with an area of 235.1 km2, while Boro is the smallest division with a total area of 180.1 km2. Click here to see a map of the district.
There are five local authorities in the district with a total of 56 electoral wards distributed as follows: Siaya County Council (29 wards), Siaya Municipal Council (7 wards), Ugunja Town Council (7 wards), Ukwala Town Council (7 wards), and Yala Town Council (6 wards).
The projected population in the year 2002 showed 493,326 people in Siaya District, with 226,682 males and 266,644 females.
Population Distribution of Siaya district by division in 2001
Source: District Statistics Office, Siaya, 2001
Poverty in Siaya District
Though there are many development initiatives in the area, poverty is still a major challenge. Most families live on less than a dollar a day. Poverty hits hardest in areas facing low rainfall levels and poor soil fertility, such as the lower parts of Boro, lower Ukwala, Uranga and Karemo divisions.
Poverty was not always a problem. Community elders talk of times when there was plenty of milk and food. Cattle herds were big and their manure made for fertile soil. There are many factors that have caused poverty to spread during the last 20 years.
As the local population grew and new land use systems shifted ownership from common to individual, problems began. There was growing pressure on natural resources such as trees (for firewood and building). Deforestation led to erosion and desertification and a decrease in soil fertility. Lack of trees also reduced rainfall and caused rivers and streams to dry up. Soil infertility and other causes led to low crop production and lower animal production.
At the same time, expenses for such things as education and healthcare rose dramatically as Kenya’s economy grew. In the past, people could not have imagined needing one cow to pay for one year’s worth of school fees for one child, let alone the five cows that are necessary these days.
Geology of Siaya District
The District has three major geo-morphological areas: dissected uplands, moderate lowlands and the Yala swamp. These have different relief, soils and land use. The altitude of the district rises from 1140m above sea level in the eastern part to 1400m in the western part. The few hills found in the district include Mbaga, Odiado, Akala, Regea, and Nyambare. Rivers Nzoia and Yala traverse the district and pour their waters into Lake Victoria through the Yala Swamp.
These physical features have a bearing on the development potential of the district. High altitude areas forming Yala, Ukwala and Ugunja Divisions have higher rainfall and are therefore suitable for agriculture and livestock keeping. Rivers Nzoia, Yala and Lake Kanyaboli have great potential for irrigation. The low altitude areas of Boro, Uranga and Wagai receive less rainfall and are suitable for the growing of cotton.
The geology of the area is composed of exposed rocks. These rocks include basalts, desites and rylites. They bear coarse and fine aggregates used in locally based construction.
Climate of Siaya district
Siaya district has two rainy seasons. The geography of the land influences distribution and amount of rainfall. The district is drier in the western part towards Bondo district and is wetter towards the higher altitudes in the eastern part. On the highlands the rainfall ranges between 800-2000mm per annum. The lower areas receive between 800-1600mm.
The long rains fall between March and June, with a peak in April and May. Short rains do not last as long and typically fall from late September to November. In the past the pattern was consistent but now it can be unpredictable, having negative impact on farming.
Temperatures also vary with altitude. The mean minimum temperature is 15°C while the mean maximum temperature is 30°C. The humidity is relatively high with mean evaporation being between 1800mm to 2000mm in a year.
The District is located under ecological zones LM1 to LM3, with a small area under UM1.
Agriculture activities in Siaya district
Many crops are grown in Siaya district. There are a small amounts of cotton, coffee, sugarcane and tobacco cash crops. Green vegetables such as kale and indigenous greens grow with partial irrigation. Farmers use kitchen water, spring water and intricate systems of trenches for catching rainwater to irrigate, mostly by hand.
Bananas, sweet potatoes and cassava do well when fed by rain and are grown widely as security crops that will withstand drought and feed families during famines. These can also be sold for income, especially bananas.
Local breeds make up most of the livestock in Siaya district. Farmers crossbreed cattle and poultry to raise the quality of the local breeds. In the past there was enough land for cows to graze freely in fields and most families had large herds of more than 20 heads. Now, cows are tied up to graze in small grassy areas or kept at home for zero-grazing. The average family in Siaya District has only around 3 cows. Most compounds that you visit will have a flock of free-range chickens.