Residents in limestone-rich West Pokot are rushing to divide their land hoping for compensation from the government as Cemtech, an Indian cement company, prepares to set up a processing plant in the region.
The company is to invest Sh6.4bn to build a cement factory, an investment that is expected to change socioeconomic lives of the Pokot community.
More than 1,700 residents will benefit from direct employment at the plant with 5,000 more likely to get indirect jobs linked to the setup of the plant which targets production of 1.2Mt of cement, said chief executive Jajesh Rawal.
But with the subdivision of land, construction of the plant faces delays as was the case in prior projects such as titanium mining in Kwale District in Coast province where land issues brought to halt a project that would have benefited both the government and locals.
Ortum and Sebit residents are sub-dividing land where the minerals are located, initially classified as trust land.
Other areas where the limestone deposits are found include Batei, Sebit, Parua, and Marich in Pokot Central and in Kiwawa, Kasei and Alale locations in Pokot North district.
Locals are awaiting title deeds so that they can benefit from the cement factory.
Cemtech Group won the bid to construct a cement factory after Kavee Quarries was stopped from excavating the mineral after it failed to honour its pledge to put up a factory in the area.
The company was mining the natural resource before transporting the raw materials to Tororo in Uganda for processing.
It used to remit KES1.2m annual as royalties to Pokot County council, offering employment to more than 200 locals, donating KES200,000 annually for bursaries among other corporate social responsibilities.
According to the District development officer, Ms Gladys Kinyua, the construction of the factory will transform the livelihood of the local community by providing income improving their living standards.
The setting up of the cement plant is set to receive a boost following plans by the government to build a railway between Nakuru through Kabarnet to Marich in West Pokot to open up Kerio Valley region.