Laikipia County which means treeless plain in the Maasai language is one of the 14 counties within the Rift Valley region and one of the 47 counties in the Republic of Kenya. It is a cosmopolitan county with two major urban centers: Nanyuki to the southeast and Nyahururu to the southwest. Its capital is Rumuruti. It borders Samburu County to the North, Isiolo County to the North East, Meru County to the East, Nyeri County to the South East, Nyandarua County, and Nakuru County to the South West and Baringo County to the West. It covers an area of 9,462 km2 and is ranked as the the15th largest county in the country by land size.
The county is occupied by a heterogeneous mixture of peoples from almost every part of Kenya; however, the majority of the population is made up of Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Turkana, Meru, Samburu, Boran, etc. The rest of the population is made up of the pastoral Mukogodo, Maasai, and Dorobo. A small percentage of the non-African population is Asian traders and a remnant of white settlers who are mostly ranchers.
According to the 2019 KNBS Housing and Population Census, the total population for the county stands at 518,560 people of which 18 are intersex, 259,440 are males and 259,102 are females.
The county has the highest life expectancy in Kenya at 71 years, five more years than the national average of 67 years, and is leading in universal health coverage with the highest number of people registered on the National Health Insurance Fund scheme leading with 54%
Physical features and natural environment
Laikipia has expansive views, stretching across a vast and wild plateau to the north and west from Nanyuki. It was ranked 47 in New York Times 52 places to visit globally in 2017. Snow-capped Mount Kenya is a core element of the Laikipia experience, visible from most parts of the region on a clear day. Laikipia also boasts spectacular views into the Great Rift Valley and from the magnificent escarpments which descend into the wilds of northern Kenya. The river systems of the Ewaso Nyiro and Ewaso Narok are a core physical feature, providing excellent tourism product potential.
The county is richly endowed with wildlife, which is widely distributed in the semi-arid lands extending to Aberdares, Samburu, Meru, and Mt. Kenya wildlife corridors/ ecosystems. It has the greatest number of wildlife outside of the gazetted protected areas in the country. It is home to all the Big Five’ – elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, and leopard. It also offers different camping activities like bird watching, canopying, and zip-lining in the Ngare Ndare, Marmanet, and Rumuruti forests
The county receives over 86,000 visitors (tourists) annually and generates annual gross revenue of over kshs 1.5 billion. With ongoing local and international branding and marketing initiatives the number of visitors is projected to increase by a minimum of 14 percent annually in the next three years.
Laikipia tourism generates approx. 2.5 % of the total national tourism revenue for Kenya annually. The tourism sector in Laikipia contributes to the wider social and infrastructure development in the region by investing approximately 72 million Kenya shillings annually. Through direct and indirect employment about 6,500 people are dependent on tourism.
County Government consists of two arms, namely the County Assembly (the legislative arm of government) and the County Executive. The functions of County Governments as contained in the Fourth Schedule (Constitution 2010) include: – Finance and Economic planning; Roads, Public Works and Transport; Health and Sanitation; Education and ICT; Agriculture and Irrigation; Livestock, Fisheries and Veterinary Services; Trade, Industry and Cooperative Development; Land, Housing, Physical Planning and Urban Development; Water Development, Environment, and Natural Resources and Tourism, Culture, Sports and Social Development. Laikipia is divided into three sub-counties which also serve as the county’s constituencies and political units mainly: Laikipia East, Laikipia West, and Laikipia North. The units are further divided into 15 wards across the county.