Discerning Opportunities

Prateek Trivedi

Modern development can take many forms including technological advancement, economic development or improved technical expertise. The most visible form of development, however is the construction of buildings and shops. In Samburu County in Kenya, for example, many view construction as the first step to financial prosperity and many have secured plots of land in order to hastily begin building, particularly along the recently-tarmacced main road towards Ethiopia. As existing towns expand, these ghostly clusters of half-finished concrete buildings mark the beginnings of what could quite soon be a devastating urban sprawl. 

The Isiolo-Moyale road has been under construction for a few years, with the Samburu section from Isiolo to Merille completed in 2010. The region has experienced a surge of development and and while there may not be a great deal of land suitable for farming, the northern part of Kenya is of growing interest to industrial entities, particularly those in the mining and energy sectors.

In addition to construction, there is the distinct possibility of mining operations being expanded into areas that have so far remained in a natural state, particularly with the increasing prevalence of rare earth metals in consumer products. As China comes to terms with the severe environmental damage that has resulted from its provision of as much as 97% of the world's rare earth metal demand, other nations have been realizing plans to end their dependence on Chinese supply, which has considerable implications for the environment.




It is a common opinion that the northern rangelands are barren and therefore ripe for exploitation, however they hold a great deal of natural wealth and can support far more than they appear to. The individualistic trend of the modern society has had a detrimental effect on the land and I would argue that for any positive development to occur on a significant scale, communities must operate with a heightened civic intelligence, discerning between opportunities that will bring net benefit in the longer term. 


In the case of communally-owned lands, there should be strong organization and established processes to discern between the development opportunities that are brought to their respective area and rather than being distracted by the promise of immediate financial gain, an opportunity should be set against defined principles and assessed objectively. 


Development opportunities are most often defined monetarily and are only marginally influenced by the communities that they will affect. In order to discern between positive and negative opportunities, we must define the principles on which we intend to develop, against which we may analyze a particular case. Principles could include environmental preservation, cultural preservation and equitable distribution of wealth but would be specific to a particular area and its features.