Small urban centres have been viewed as fulfilling a number of urban functions, while on the other hand, as fulfilling some rural functions. They are believed to be capable of coordinating development activities in the rural areas through a set of social, economic and administrative linkages. To this end, most countries, have adopted strategies consisting of development of planned network of designated growth centres at different levels throughout the country so as to initiate impulses of development and improve the quality of life in rural areas.

This study is hinged on the premise that small urban centres are incapable of stimulating development in the areas where they are located. Special programmes for small urban centres fail to address the social and economic aspects of development. For instance, the provision of accessible urban centre, will not address the lack of land or lack of capital or necessary resources to enable development to take place. In addition, most small urban centres have weak economic bases, inadequate urban services and infrastructure facilities, land tenure problems and low market capacity.

In order to get a clearer picture of the stated assumption and be able to make generalization, the study used Awasi Urban Centre (AUC) as a case study and examined the effect of growth of the centre on the social, economic and administrative development of the centre and its peripheral umlands. The study relied on social and economic variables, such as business activities within the centre and the umlands, agricultural activities, other non-farm activities and provision of basic services such as schools, hospitals, water and the necessary infrastructure. Even though the study found out that there is considerable potential role of Awasi as a small urban centre, in regional development, its capacity to trigger this much desired development is greatly influenced by its internal characteristics and that of the surrounding umlands including the natural resource base, infrastructure, land ownership patterns, social and economic activities at the local levels.

 The study also found out that the institutions responsible for rural – urban development planning are very ineffective and are a more serious constraint to development of small urban centres and their umlands than is often recognized. The over involvement of the central authority in development planning and implementation has so far compromised the local contribution to the whole process. This perhaps explains the confusion surrounding the role of small urban centres in the development process. This study, therefore, gave a number of recommendations aimed at improving the delivery capacity of Awasi centre, which is basically applicable to all small urban centres in Kenya. This include among other factors; need for reorientation of present institutional framework to unify the technical government roles with local citizen participation, need to stimulate agricultural production, provision of basic services and infrastructure facilities and strengthening of the economic base of the centre so as to improve on the trade activities and employment opportunities.

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