Life in Bungoma

Bungoma is a town in Western Province of Kenya, bordered by Uganda in the west. Bungoma town was established as a trading centre in the early 20th century. The town is the headquarters of Kenya's Bungoma District. Bungoma town has a population of  876,500. Being in a region that practices wife inheritance, Bungoma has seen a large growth of reported HIV/AIDS cases in the last 20 years. The area is also the centre of the Bukusu circumcision rites, which occur every even year, in August and December.


The economy of Bungoma district is mainly agricultural, centering on the sugar cane and maize industries. The area experiences high rainfall throughout the year, and is home to several large rivers, which are used for small-scale irrigation.


The Bukusu have produced many prominent people that have served in the Kenyan public life among them the late Hon Wamalwa Kijana (former vice president), the late Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga (head of the Catholic Church in Kenya), the late Elijah Masinde (founder of Dini ya Musambwa), Sudi Namachanja (chief during colonial days), Luka Namulala (community fore teller), among others. Among the women that have stood out include Dinah Khayota (former women leader), Justice Ruth Nekoye and lawyer Nancy Barasa among others. More recently Bishop Eliud Wabukala of Bungoma was elected Archbishop of Kenya.

Politically, over the last 17 years or so the community have been members of Ford-Kenya, the party formerly headed by Wamalwa Kijana. Through this party the community has been able to express and participate in national politics. More recently community members now have MPs drawn from ODMPNU and Ford-Kenya. In recent years, the larger Bungoma District has been subdivided into four Districts, Bungoma East (with headquarters at Webuye), Bungoma North (Mukuyuni), Bungoma West (Chwele) and Bungoma South (Bungoma town). The total Population of the 4 Districts is currently estimated to be 1.4 million people. This large population coupled with rural unemployment has started to put pressure on land and other natural resources.

Several Universities have also opened campuses in the area. These include Moi University (working with SACRED training Institute, www.sti.or.ke), Masinde Muliro University and Kenyatta University among others.

A majority of residents of Bungoma belong to the Bukusu ethnic group. They are friendly farming people who have lived in the area south of Mt. Elgon for many hundred years. Living only a few miles north of the equator on the East African plateau (at 4-5000 ft above sealevel), they have a good annual rainfall. Early in the century they lived on millet, cassava and small livestock, but now raise mostly maize, beans and cabbage for food and grow sugarcane for cash - plus the typical livestock of peasant farmers: cattle, goats and chickens.