Early History

In the 1880‘s the inland areas of Kenya comprised of both nomadic and sedentary pastoral forms of production.

In 1910, Mr. J. Murray surveyed the Laikipia area in preparation for European settlement – an area previously occupied on a nomadic basis by the Laikipiakil – oshon (subclan) of the Maasai.

In 1911 an agreement was made with the Maasai in which they moved to the south – the Narok area.

It is in line with the growing European settlement in this area that Nanyuki was officially gazetted as a township in November 1920.

The designation of the town came as part of the Soldier Settlement Scheme that began in 1919, in an effort to increase European settlement in Kenya. The rail line reached Nanyuki in 1930 leading to the change in district headquarters from Rumuruti to Nanyuki in 1931.

Nanyuki derives its name from the Maasai phrase Engare Nanyuikie, which means ‘The River of Blood.‘ This is attributed to the red color of the river during rainy seasons as a result of soil erosion.

Since Independence in 1963: In the early days of Independence, Nanyuki remained a relatively quiet trading center and supply town for the many different ranching, and agricultural efforts in the surrounding area.

Nanyuki Towns Growth

Nanyuki has grown tremendously since the colonial days and is now a center for farms, ranches, game parks and conservancies.

It is also the main base for the Kenya Air Force, has a Kenya Army Barracks, and is also a training area for the British Army.

The biggest activities in Nanyuki area today are wildlife conservation, ranching, horticulture, and the town serves as a major launch site for climbing Mt. Kenya.

2013 saw the first formal changes of Laikipia as a County under the new Kenya Constitution 2010, with Nanyuki as its capital. (Rumuruti is again proposed a new County capital).

Many different ethnic groups resettled in the area as part of the emerging commerce of the area, making Nanyuki among one of the most cosmopolitan towns in Kenya. It’s this mixture of people, ethnic groups and cultures that gives Nanyuki and Laikipia its uniqueness.

The Town Plan

As part of devolution, Nanyuki was one of the first towns to receive assistance with town planning from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. The Plan can be accessed here 

Nanyuki soon to become a municipality.

The Urban Areas and Cities (Amendment) Act 2017 which was assented to by the President on 12th March 2019 paves way for creation of more cities in Kenya by lowering the population threshold required for an urban area to be declared a city.

Under the new law, the number of the resident population required for a city has been reduced by half from 500,000 to 250,000 people. The same law also allows a county to declare an urban area a municipality if it has a resident population of at least 50,000 residents, while for an area to be declared a town it has to have at least a population of 10,000 residents and a market center would only require 2,000 residents.

This new law and Nanyuki’s new status as a result of the last census (72,813) will mean that Nanyuki will soon have a municipal council/local authority and improved city governance.