Taita Taveta County Profile

Taita Taveta County

County Code: 006

Current Governor: Andrew Mwadime

Current Senator: Johnes Mwashushe Mwaruma

Taita Taveta County, which was formerly the Taita Taveta District, is a coastal county in Kenya stretching 200km to the northwest of Mombasa County and 360km from Nairobi City. As one of the 6 coastal counties, Taita Taveta is a port city an entry point to Tanzania. The county is known for mining, agriculture, and tourism. Taita Taveta County is one of the 6 members of the Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani regional economic bloc. Some of the major towns of the county include Voi, Taveta, Mwatate and Wundanyi.

Geography

Taita-Taveta County covers an area of 17,083.9 km2, of which 62% or 11,100 km2 is within Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. The remaining 5,876 km2 consists of small scale farms, ranches, sisal estates, water bodies (such as Lakes Chala and Jipe in Taveta and Mzima springs), and the hilltop forests.

 

The lowland areas of the county outside the national parks are farms, ranches, estates, and wildlife sanctuaries which receive an average of 440 mm of rain per annum whereas the highlands receive up to 1900 mm. Altitudes range from 500 meters above sea level to almost 2300 m at the highest point in the county of Vuria Peak. The county has approximately 25 ranches in cattle grazing. The three operating sisal estates in the county are Teita Sisal Estate, Voi Sisal Estate and Taveta Sisal Estate. Many ranches have ventured into wildlife tourism and conservation. The Taita Hills and Saltlick Lodges sanctuary are among the well-known tourism attractions in Taita Taveta.

There are 48 forests which have survived on hill tops in Taita Taveta County of which 28 are gazetted and are under government protection and management. They range in size from small 500 square metre patches with a few remnant trees to modestly vast 2 square kilometer indigenous and exotic forest mountains. These forests are part of the unique Eastern Arc range of forests found mostly in eastern Tanzania with the Taita Hills forming the only Kenyan portion of that forest type.

Demographics

Taita Taveta County has a total population of 340,671 people according to the 2019 census. Among this population, 50.2%% of them are male (194,494) with the other 49.8% (189,946) being female. Population densities per km2 in the county range between 3 (in rural areas) to more than 800 persons in urban areas. The population distribution in the county is influenced by cultural heritage, rainfall and terrain. Majority of Taita Taveta’s population belong to the Taita tribe. What is known as the Taita tribe actually consists of three separate but closely-related tribes: Wadawida (or Taita), Wasaghala (Sagalla) and Wataveta (Taveta). Most of the people in Taita Taveta, especially in the eastern region, are Muslims. Those further away of the coast are Christians.

Culture & Language

The culture of the people of Taita Taveta is primarily dominated by singing and dancing. The Taita people have always enjoyed expressing themselves through music. They had many interesting forms of traditional dance, the most fascinating of which was the pepo spirit-possession dance called ‘Mwazindika’. This dance was for exorcism and celebrating life. Members of the Taita community are talented musicians.

The Taita speak ‘Kidawida’ and belong to the coastal Bantu lingustic group. They live around the Taita Hills and mostly depend on agriculture. They are known for their many dialects and contribution to Kenyan music. One of the most well-known ‘Taitas’ was the composer Fadhili Williams, who wrote the popular love song ‘Malaika’ in the late 1950s.

The Taita believed in one supreme God, Mulungu, and ancestral spirits (Milimu), whom they called upon in times of calamity and misfortune. Evidence of their worship and sacrificial remains has been found in caves in Taita Hills.

Traditionally there were six clans among the Taita, each with a numerical name derived from the claimed order of arrival in the Taita Hills.

The main language spoken in Taita Taveta County is the Taita language (Kidawida, Kitaita). This language has evolved into a rich language that incorporates numerous shared words from neighboring communities such as Chagga, Pare, Maasai, Mijikenda, and others with whom the Taita people have coexisted.

The Taita people have various dialects within their community. The Mbololo Taita have their own dialect, while the Bura Taita have another. The Dawidas encompass several dialects, including Wusi, Kidaya, Mghange, Chawia, Mwanda, Kishamba, Werugha, Wumingu, and Wundanyi. Kisaghalla and Kasighau represent relatively independent dialects. When visiting other Taita Massifs, speakers of these dialects would refer to their destination as “going to Dawida.”

Political Administration

The political administration units of Taita Taveta includes four constituencies and 20 wards.

  • Taveta Sub County/Constituency consists of Chala, Mahoo, Bomani, Mboghoni, and Mata wards.
  • Wundayi Sub County/Constituency consists of Wundanyi/Mbale, Werugha, Wumingu/Kishushe, and Mwanda/Mgange wards.
  • Mwatate Sub County/Constituency has 5 wards: Ronge, Mwatate, Bura, Chawia, Wusi/Kishamba
  • Voi Sub County/Constituency has 6 wards: Mbololo, Kaloleni, Sagala, Marungu, Kasigau, and Ngolia

Political Leadership

The current governor of Taita Taveta County is Andrew Mwadime, and the Deputy Governor is Christine Kilalo. He succeeded the second governor of the county, Hon. Granton Samboja. Samboja who served between 2017 and 2022 was deputized by Majala Mlagui. Granton Samboja is the owner of a radio station, and a former presenter of Radio Citizen. He succeeded John Mruttu, the first governor of Taita Taveta County.

Johnes Mwashushe Mwaruma, of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party, is the current senator of Taita Taveta County. He has been a senator for two terms since 2017, after the first senator of Taita Taveta County, Danson Mwazo Mwakulegwa, who won the 2013 elections on an ODM ticket.

The woman representative of Taita Taveta County is Lydia Haika Mnene Mizighi of Jubilee Party. She joined the National Assembly in 2017 through the Jubilee ticket and retained the seat in the 2022 general elections. The first woman representative of Taita Taveta County is Joyce Wanjala Lay, who was elected in 2013.

  2013-2017 2017-2022 2022-2027
Governor John Mruttu Granton Samboja Andrew Mwadime
Deputy Governor H.E. Hon. Mary Ndiga Kibuka Majala Mlagui Christine Kilalo
Senator Danson Mwazo Mwakulegwa Johnes Mwashushe Mwaruma Johnes Mwashushe Mwaruma
Woman Representative Joyce Wanjala Lay Lydia Haika Mnene Mizighi Lydia Haika Mnene Mizighi

Members of Taita Taveta County Assembly

There is only one elected woman against 19 men in the County Assembly of Taita Taveta. The following is the full list of all elected MCAs in Taita Taveta County.

Taveta Sub County

  • Bomeni Ward: Hon. Crispus Tondoo
  • Mata Ward: Hon. Isaac Matolo
  • Mahoo Ward: Hon. Daniel Kimuyu
  • Mboghoni Ward: Hon Halifa Taraya
  • Chala Ward: Hon. Anthony Kinyili

Wundanyi Sub County/Constituency

  • Wundanyi-Mbale Ward: Hon. Jimmy Mwamidi
  • Werugha Ward: Hon Genard Mwandau
  • Mwanda-Mghange Ward: Hon. Anselm Mwadime
  • Wumingu-Kishushe Ward: Hon. Newton Kifuso

Mwatate Sub County/Constituency

  • Ronge Ward: Hon. Dorcas Mlughu
  • Chawia Ward: Hon. Joseph Mabishi
  • Bura Ward: Hon. Anthony Mng’ambwa
  • Mwatate Ward: Hon. Joseph Mwalegha
  • Wusi-Kishamba Ward: Hon. Duncan Wangama

Voi Sub County/Constituency

  • Kasighau Ward: Hon. Amos Makalo
  • Sagalla Ward: Hon. Brayson Mwambi
  • Marungu Ward: Hon. Stephen Nzai
  • Kaloleni Ward: Hon. Azhar Din
  • Ngolia Ward: Hon. Jones Solomon
  • Mbololo Ward: Hon. Lawrence Mzugha

Economic Activities

Rain-fed subsistence agriculture is the main economic activity in Taita Taveta County, with farmers growing maize, beans, sorghum, cowpeas, pigeon peas, green grams and vegetables for their own consumption and selling the surplus. Livestock farming is either on communal or government ranches, or by small-scale farmers rearing animals in their homesteads or bomas in the plains (kireti). Agricultural labour is provided by the farmers’ families and hired full-time or part-time labourers.

The county of Taita Taveta is also known for mining, fishing, and tourism. The major tourist attractions in the county include Lake Jipe, Lake Chala, Kisigau Mountain, Taita Hills, Shomoto Hill, Aruba Dam, Mudanda Rock, Yatta Plateau, Lugard Falls, Tsavo National Reserve, Shetani Lava Flow, Mzima Springs.

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