By Viola Kosome
The beehive of activities at the newly-established market could make one think that it has been serving residents of Kondele and Manyatta slums for ages.
From traders selling cereals to others selling second-hand clothes plus a host of other goods synonymous with open-air markets, the place is rapidly transforming the economy of two slums in Kisumu.
But beyond its ordinary look, it has a rich history emerging from the pandemic and a story of resilience in the face of an unprecedented crisis.
The market dubbed Corona, which was a few months ago an idle space located a few metres away from Kondele Flyover, has become a source of livelihood for several families that were hit hard by the effects of the pandemic.
The market has provided a new lease of life to several traders who have been struggling to find a place to ply their trade after they were evicted from the region’s largest open-air market, Kibuye.
Traders were fed up with the endless cat and mouse games with county askaris who were keen to keep them out of the town as part of the efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 pandemic and they decided to shift to the open field.
Not even the blistering sun or the huge cloud of dust from vehicles passing nearby have stood in the way of the dedicated traders who continue to defy odds to continue eking out a living amidst the pandemic.
Women who have been dwelling in Kondele and Manyatta slums and have been struggling to find a space to sell their goods also found a space in the new market.
Mary Ogembo, an elderly woman who claims she had nowhere to go after the closure of Kibuye, said the new market provided a much-needed respite.
“If we did not come up with this market, most of us would be suffering because of the hard economic times. We had nowhere to sell our goods,” she said.
A few years ago, she suffered a similar fate when they were kicked out of Oile market to pave way for the creation of the park.
Although business has not picked up as it was before the pandemic, the traders said they at least have a place they can earn some little money instead of staying at home.
“I used to get about Sh10,000 everyday but nowadays I barely make Sh3,000, but I am happy with the amount I am making because some people do not have a place to trade,” she said.
For Matthew Owino, a second-hand clothes dealer, the creation of the market at the height of the pandemic was good for traders who had been moved out of Kibuye market.
“Some traders were transferred to an open place next to the stadium, but it is overcrowded. It is also far away from the informal settlements that form the bulk of customers for fast moving goods,” said Owino.
Traders are optimistic that Corona Market will survive beyond the pandemic.
“Even after Corona, the market will remain and the name too because it is a symbol of resilience and the fight for survival at a time when several lives were destroyed by the pandemic,” said Eunice Ochola, a cereals trader.
Although the market is still defying odds and helping thousands of residents of Kisumu, the county and national government are already working on plans to resettle them.
On top of the plan is the modernisation of Kibuye market at a cost of Sh315 million through a donor-funded programme while the national government is also constructing Uhuru Business Park.
Grace Atieno, who hails from Manyatta slums applauded Governor Anyang Nyong’o for fast tracking the construction of Kibuye market into an ultra-modern one.
“I know some people are opposing change, but I think the governor should proceed with transforming Kibuye so that we can be accommodated together with those whose structures were demolished at the decade-old Lwang’ni beach,”she said.
Another trader, Mary Amollo requested the governor to build for them shades at Corona Market so that they can stop operating in the sun, pending the completion of the modernisation process at Kibuye Market.
Acting city manager, Abala Wanga said they opted to close down Kibuye due to the sanitation problems, which threatened to contribute to the spread of Covid-19.
He said the traders were relocated to various temporary places such Kosawo and stadium while others were accommodated at Chichwa stalls.