Taita Taveta

taita taveta

Size and Location

Taita Taveta County covers a total surface area of 17,084 kmand accounts for 2.94% of Kenya’s total surface area. It borders Tana River, Kitui and Makueni Counties to the north, Kwale and Kilifi Counties to the east, Kajiado County to the northwest and the Republic of Tanzania to the south and southwest.

Headquarters and major towns

The County’s capital is Wundanyi town which has a population of 62,404. Other major towns include:

  • Taveta,
  • Voi, 
  • Mwatate. 

Geography and Climate

The altitude of the county varies between 481m above sea level in the lowlands to 2,200m above sea level for highlands, giving two distinct climatic characteristics, with the hills experiencing lower temperatures (as low as 18.2°C) compared to the lower zones with an average temperature of 24.6°C. The average temperature in the county is 23° C.

The county is divided into three major topographical zones. These are the upper zone, lower zone and volcanic foothills. The upper zone is suitable for horticultural farming. Precious gemstones are found and mined in the lower plain, while the volcanic foothills, covering Taveta Division have potential for underground water and springs emanating from Mt. Kilimanjaro.

There are 48 forests which have survived on hilltops in the county of which 28 are gazetted and are under government protection and management. They range in size from small 500 m2 with a few remnant trees to modestly 2 km2 indigenous and exotic mountain forests. These forests are part of a unique Eastern Arch range of forests which are found mostly in Eastern Tanzania with the Taita Hills forming the only Kenyan Eastern Arc forest type in East Africa.

The Taita Hills forest holds a unique biodiversity with 13 taxa of plants and 9 taxa of animals found only in there and nowhere else in the world. In addition, 22 plant species found in the Taita Hills forests are typical of the Eastern arc forests. Some of the endemic plant species include the African violet - Saintpaulia teitensis are found only in the Taita Hills.

The major rivers in the district are Tsavo, Voi and Lumi. Small springs and streams in the county include Njukini, Sainte, Njoro kubwa, Kitobo, Maji Wadeni, Humas Springs and Lemonya Springs.

There are two lakes, Jipe and Challa, both found in Taveta. Lake Challa is a crater lake with little economic exploitation, while Lake Jipe is slightly exploited through small-scale irrigation and fishing. Both lakes are served by springs emanating from Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The People of Taita Taveta County

Based on the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, the county had a population of 284,657 which accounted for 0.7% of the total Kenyan population.

The Taita people (the Wataita or Wadawida) are a Kenyan ethnic group located in the Taita-Taveta County. They speak Taita (Kidawida) which belongs to the Bantu group of languages. Historians believe that the Taitas migrated from Central Africa alongside other Bantu tribes, arriving in present-day Kenya from the south through Shungwaya before finally settling in the fertile Taita hills.

The Taita people migrated to Kenya through Tanzania. They migrated to Kenya in five groups each settling at different places of the present Taita Taveta County in Kenya. While settling in these areas the Taita speaking people interacted with other communities or tribes particularly the Taveta, the Pare of Tanzania, the Borana, the Wakamba and the Maasai.

There are subgroups or subtribes of Taita. They can be divided into Wadawida who traditionally lived around the Dawida, the Wasagalla who lived around the Sagalla, and the Wakasighau who lived around the Kasighau massif of the Taita Hills. The Sagalla people speak Kisagalla which is much closer to the Kigiriama or Mijikenda (nine coastal tribes who speak almost the same language). The Kasighau are closer to the Pare and Chagga of Tanzania but are still considered Taita speaking people.

The Watuweta inhabit mainly the lands between Tsavo National Park and the Tanzanian border, up to the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and borders the Masai of Loitoktok to the north.

Their traditional history reveals that refuge groups comprising of the Pare, Shambaa, Kamba, Taita, Chaga and Arusha fleeing from the famines and conflicts of their respective home areas settled in the Taveta forests in the 16th century. By the 19th century, this heterogeneous group had developed a distinctive common culture and evolved land-holding clans and central institutions which unified the migrants into a single people. There was also widespread intermarriage between the clans and the adoption of a common language by all these clans which greatly assisted in welding them into a cohesive tribe. The role of culture, common central institutions, language and intermarriage in nation-building are clearly demonstrated by the Taveta people.

Location: Located in the Coastal region of Kenya, it borders Makueni, Kitui and Tana River counties to the North, Kilifi and Kwale Counties to the East, the Republic of Tanzania to the South and South-west, and Kajiado County to the North West. 

Area (Km 2): 17,084.1 Km 2

Climate/Weather: The county experiences an annual mean rainfall of 650mm per annum with temperatures averaging 23°C.

Road Network: Bitumen Surface (151.8 Km), Gravel Surface (138.2 Km), Earth Surface (663 Km)

Taita Taveta County

  • Taveta
  • Wundanyi
  • Mwatate
  • Voi

Population: 284,657 (Male - 51.1%, Female - 48.9%)

Population Density: 17 people per Km 2

National Percentage: 0.7 %

Annual Growth Rate: 1.74%

Age Distribution: 0-14 years (37.7%), 15-64 years (56.9 %), 65+ years (5.4 %)

Number of Households: 71,060


Being an agricultural society, most Taitas/Taveras practice agriculture as their main economic activity. Horticultural production has recently become an important economic pursuit in the Taita hills.

The county experiences two rain seasons the long rains between the months of March and May and the short rains between November and December. The rainfall distribution is uneven in the county, with the highlands receiving higher rainfall than the lowland areas. This, coupled with cooler temperatures, makes the highlands have more potential for the production of horticultural crops, maize and beans.

The lowland areas, which are mainly arid and semi-arid, are only suitable for planting crops with short maturing periods like sorghum, cowpeas, green grams, cashew nuts, sunflower, millet and dry land hybrid maize varieties.

Livestock and Sisal Estates

Also, these arid and semi-arid areas are suitable for a variety of economic activities such as ranching and sisal growing. The county has approximately 25 ranches. The main-land use in ranches is cattle grazing. Taitas also rear dairy cattle and produce milk which is sold in Mombasa.  

The three operating sisal estates of the district are the Teita Sisal Estate, Voi Sisal Estate and Taveta Sisal Estate. Some ranches e.g. Lumo in Mwaktau also engage in wildlife tourism and conservation.

Tourism and Conservation

Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, home to various types of wild animals, occupy a large portion of the lowlands. The presence of these National Parks has improved the welfare of the people, particularly those engaged in tourism activities.


Gemstone mining is primarily done in the drier parts of Taita land, where large deposits of precious stones such as ruby, tanzanite and garnet can be found. Significant iron ore deposits have recently been discovered and mining has commenced in the Kishushe area of Wundanyi.

taita taveta economic status

  • Number of Institutions (2007): Primary (206), Secondary (53)
  • Primary:
  • Teacher to Pupil Ratio: 1:40 (Public Schools)
  • Secondary:
  • Teacher to Pupil Ratio: 1:25 (Public Schools)
  • Tertiary: Over 20 Institutions

taita taveta education


Taita Taveta County has recently seen great developments in its mineral mining sector after traces of iron ore were discovered in 1992. Asbestos, chalk, limestone, gemstones, construction stones and sand are also among the regions minerals portfolio.

The resources being poured into the region by mining companies have the potential of pioneering further developments in health centres, schools, power networks and water 


  • Low sisal prices
  • Lack of proper safety standards in the mining industry
  • Drought.
  • Health Facilities: District Hospitals (3), Sub-District Hospitals (1), Dispensaries (47), HeaIth Centres (9), Medical Clinics (11), Nursing Homes (None), Maternity Homes (None)
  • Hospitals: Moi District Hospital in Voi, Wesu and Taveta District Hospitals

taita taveta health

  • Doctor to Population Ratio: 1:41,000
  • Infant mortally Rates: 14/1000
  • Under Five Mortality Rates: 93/ 1000
  • Prevalent Diseases: Malaria, Upper Respiratory Transmitted Infections, Diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence in the county in comparison to other coastal counties is as shown below:

taita taveta HIV


Table 1 Transport, Energy and Water in Taita Taveta County:

Access to Infrastructure

Taita Taveta



Improved water (% households 2009)




Improved sanitation(% households 2009)




Electricity (% households 2009)




Paved roads (as % of total roads)




Good/fair roads (as % of total roads)




Source- Kenya: County Fact Sheets

Of the total roads in Taita Taveta: Bitumen surface- 151.8km, gravel surface- 120km and earth surface- 1,695.5km

Taita Taveta-County-Fact-Sheets_Dec-2011_055


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