Kericho County is one of the 47 County Governments in the country established under the New Constitution. It is located to the South West of the country within the highlands West of The Great Rift Valley.
The County which is located approximately 250 km from Nairobi is the country’s leading producer of tea and home to the largest tea plantations. Kericho is also home to Kenya's biggest water catchment area, the Mau Forest Complex.
It borders Uasin Gichu County to the North, Baringo County to North East, Nandi County to the North West, Nakuru County to the East, and Bomet County to the South. It also borders Nyamira to the South West, Kisii County to the South and south West and Kisumu County to the West.
The County is home to the Kipsigis people, who are a part of the Kalenjin community. The Kipsigis are rated some of the most hospital and courteous people in the country. The Kipsigis just like their Kalenjin counterparts are well known to be good in Athletics.
Kericho Town is the headquarters of Kericho County. The county has a total population of 758,339 persons as per the 2009 national population census.
The origin of the town’s name has not been established. One theory is that it was home to the region’s first public hospital, built by the British at the dawn of the 20th century. Medicine in the local Kipsigis language is referred to as “Kerichek”.
The name Kericho is a corruption of the Kipsigis word “Kericheek”. So the story goes that when the white settlers asked, “who inhabit here?” they were told that the land belonged to “Kaap Kericheek” one of the Kipsigis clans.
The white man found the clan’s name a mouthful of a tongue-twister, and just named the place Kericho. And to date Kericho has been the name of the Major town in this region bearing the same name and, lately, County.
Another school of taught states that the town was orininally home of a medicine man named Kipkerich while an other theory says the town was named after a Maasai Chief, Ole Kericho, who was killed during the 18th century by the Abagusii.
Kericho County occupies a total land area of more than 2,439 square Kms. It has four constituencies namely- Kipkelion, Ainamoi, Belgut and Buret.
They are represented in parliament by :-
Hon. Limo - Kipkelion East
Hon. Jackson Rop - Kipkelion West
Hon. Keter Erick - Belgut
Hon. Leonard Sang - Buret
Hon. Benjamin Langat - Ainamoi
Hon. Justice Kemei - Soin Sigowet
It has six local authorities- Kericho Municipal Council, Kipsigis County Council, Bureti County Council, Kipkelion Town Council, Litein Town Council and Londiani Town council.
The Kipsigis County Council which used to cover the former larger Kericho District was once regarded as the richest in the country at around Independence and for many years through the 80s, the area was a force to reckon with.
However, as years went by, the area started dwindling economically and an apparent under-utilization of the resources and man-power was witnessed.
With the emergence of County Governments, unlike other counties in the country which will have to struggle to generate revenue, Kericho County is set to have a head start- thanks to its well established infrastructure, man power and its high potential in agriculture.
The County which is now in place is being headed by the following :-
Governor - Hon. Paul Kiprono Chepkwony
Deputy Governor - Hon. Susan Kikwai
Senator - Hon. Charles Keter
Women Rep - Hon. Hellen Chepkwony
Administratively, the county has 15 (Fifteen) divisions namely Belgut, Kabianga, Sigowet, Ainamoi, Soin, Chilchila, Soget, Kunyak, Chepseon, Kamasian, Londiani, Kipkelion, Roret, Cheborge and Buret which are further divided into 85 Locations and 193 Sub-Locations.
Most of the economic activities within Kericho town and its environs revolve around Agriculture. With a high altitude and virtually adequate rainfall, it is the country's leading tea growing zone with a high concentration of tea factories.
The change in altitude and factors cause temperature to vary from 20O within the highlands to 28O along the border with Kisumu County at Nyando district. The mean annual rainfall varies from 1800mm around Kericho town and the whole forest area from 1400mm to 1800mm.
The wettest months are April and May while the January and February are the driest. There is no real break between short and long rains.
The County ranks highly among the highest potential agricultural Counties in the country. Out of the total land area of 2,439 sq. Km, 2,195 sq. Km (90% total land area) is cultivable land. The County can be classified into three zones, viz a viz, high, medium and low potential zones.
The high potential zone occupies about 52.2 % of the county area and covers most of the Northern parts of the County (Kipkelion) and the central sections of (Belgut, Ainamoi and Buret).
The North area is suitable for growing wheat, horticulture and Floriculture, pyrethrum and maize and dairy farming, while the central section is mainly a tea zone, and pineapples besides growing pyrethrum, maize and keeping dairy cattle and the newly introduced Stevia crop.
The medium potential zone measures about 27 % of the total county area and covers the North-Western parts of Kipkelion constituency covering the rocky highlands below Tinderet forest and bordering Kisumu County in Nyando at Fort-Ternan.
This area is suitable for growing coffee and maize and for both beef and dairy farming. Towards the South, the zone stretches along the Western sections of Belgut and Ainamoi where maize, Stevia, horticultural crops and sugar cane area grown.
It is also home to a number of multi-national tea companies operating in the area including Unilever Kenya Tea, Williamson Tea and James Finlays Ltd, the leading producer and exporter of instant tea in the world and Kenya Tea Packers limited (Ketepa).
Kericho County has a comparatively good transport network. Road is the main mode of transport to and around the region. There are three main highways which cut across the county leading to Kericho town, the Nakuru-Kericho, the Kisumu-Kericho and the Kericho-Sotik-Kisii highways.
The Mau Summit- Kericho-Kisumu highway which cut across the county is part of the 1,200 km Northern corridor road, which is critical to the country’s economy as it is the link to the agriculturally rich region.
The Northern corridor road is considered the country’s main economic artery that connects the port of Mombasa with the neighbouring Uganda and the Great Lake region. Kericho town also has direct bus (matatu) links to Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kisii and Bomet towns.
Rail transport is available from Kipkelion, Londiani and Fort-Ternan stations, all are agricultural hubs within the county. Air transport is also available through chartered light aircraft from Wilson Airport, Nairobi and Kisumu and Eldoret International Airports.
The main airstrip is Kerenga Aerodrome, located 6 Kms from Kericho town. Currently it is being upgraded and expanded to accommodate large planes. There is also Marinyin airstrip, situated 10kms from Kericho town. The private airstrip is owned and managed by James Finlays.
Communication and Media
Kericho town has a good communication infrastructure. It is home to one of the only two satellite earth stations- Chagaik Satellite Earth Station, the other one being the main Longonot Earth Station (the only available international link for Kenya).
It is also served by a fibre optic cable and covered by the fixed line operator Telkom Kenya and the four mobile operators Yu, Safaricom, Airtel and Orange who offer voice and data services.
The County is served by all major local TV stations namely KBC, KTN, K-24, NTV, Citizen TV, Family TV, STV and Sayare. All FM station broadcasting from Nairobi are also available including Radio Maisha, Capital, Easy, Kiss, Classic, Family, Hope, BBC, Citizen, KBC among others.
Local stations include Kass FM, Chamgei FM, KBC Kisumu, Radio Injili 103.7 FM, Sayare TV and Radio, Light and Life 107.3 FM, Sema Radio and The Just FM.
It also provides a good investment destination owing to good transport network, good communication facilities, and big market within and around the district, affordable well educated labour, excellent Security and adequate water supply.
Several banking and micro finance institutions have also been established in Kericho town and other major towns within the country namely Litein and Londiani, perhaps in anticipation of increased trade.
They include, Barclays, Standard Chartered as), Kenya Commercial Bank, Co-operative Bank, Equity, K-Rep, Diamond Trust and Trans National and a host of micro finance institutions and Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (Saccos) namely Kenya Women Finance Trust, Ndege Chai Sacco, the giant Kipsigis Teachers Sacco and Kericho Farmers Sacco among others.
The region also boasts of large commercial enterprises and hardware shops and supermarkets spread across all the major urban centres within the county namely- Tuskys, Ukwala and Stagematt and several mini supermarkets.
The town has not been left out in the tourism sector and it boasts of one tourist class hotel-Tea Hotel and several guest houses with lodging facilities. These cater for the growing number of tourists who go through the western circuit.
Kericho town experiences an acute shortage of commercial and residential houses. Most of the residential and industrial plots are yet to be developed, a challenge the new county government will have to address.
However, the construction of magnificent commercial and residential houses and government buildings within Kericho town and its environs are coming up at a very fast rate that former visitors to the town might not recognise the town.
Kericho County has two well equipped hospitals – Kericho District Hospital with its ultra modern casualty wing which was built last year by the Chinese government. It is fitted with state-of-the art facilities to handle any cases emergencies.
Others are Kapkatet District Hospital and Litein Mission hospital which are both situated in Buret constituency and Unilever Kenya Tea owned Central hospital, Chemogodany owned by James Finlays Tea.
The County is also home to the US military based Walter Reed Project HIV Program Kericho / Henry Jackson Foundation for Medical Research International (HJF MRI) which carries out HIV AIDS vaccine and therapeutic research studies and support HIV prevention, care and treatment programs in southern Rift Valley.
Others major health facilities include privately owned Siloam hospital, Kericho nursing home, St. Leonard’s and Green View Nursing home. Public hospitals include Sigowet District Hospital and Londiani District hospital which provide health care services to the public.
Besides, Kericho County has several public and private Primary and Secondary schools, middle- level- colleges and universities which are spread across the four constituencies forming the county.
These learning institutions include Kabianga University College, a constituent of Moi University, which is in Belgut constituency, Moi University-Kericho satellite campus situated at Kericho Teachers Training College offering degree courses while Kericho Teachers Training College is offering P1 courses.
Others are Kenya Highlands Bible College in Kericho town, which has been elevated into an Evangelical University, Kenya Forestry College located in Kipkelion, Kenya Medical Training College in Buret constituency and other several colleges offering courses in collaboration of other universities, Kenya Institute of Management, Kericho Institute of Professional Studies, Eland College - Kabarak University and Eland Schools are jointly running Diploma and Bridging courses being offered at Eland.
Niskam Saint Puran Singh Institute (NSPSI) located behind the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) Gurdwara and Kericho Technical Institute.
Kericho residents are mostly Christians. The most widespread church is the Africa Gospel Church which has affiliations with The World Gospel Mission of the USA. The church has the biggest church in the district in the town (Immanuel AGC) and heart centers at Cheptenye, Chepkutung, Keongo, Kipkelion, Londiani, Kabianga, Buret and Kaptebeswet.
The other churches present in the district include AIC, Catholic Church, Anglican Church, SDA, Full Gospel and a host of Independent churches.
Kericho is also home to Africa's largest Gurudwara or Sikh place of worship. It is a monument, dedicated to the memory of "Baba Puran Singh Ji of Kericho" who was the founder of the international charitable organization, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha which promotes the spirit and practice of selfless service ("nishkam sewa") in the name of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh faith.
The site has been gazetted by the Government of Kenya as a place of spiritual significance. Kericho also holds the Muslim faith with at least two mosques. There is also a Hindu population.