Kisumu is the third largest city in Western Kenya and is situated on the eastern banks of Lake Victoria. It has been a friendship town of Cheltenham since 1985. Kisumu also has sister city links with Roanoke in Virginia and Boulder, Colorado in the USA.
Kisumu is the capital city of Kisumu County and has a population of just under 400,000 people and was pronounced a city in 2001, commemorating the centenary of the first train to reach Kisumu. A further 750,000 live in the surrounding district, which encompasses the renowned Kakamega Forest and the legendary ‘Rock of the First Wife’ known as ‘Kit Mikayi’. The world renowned safari attraction, the Maasai Mara National Game Preserve is just four hours away by car.
Lying on the equator, Kisumu’s climate is hot all year (around 23 degrees C). There are rainy seasons between February and May and in November. Kisumu is multi-ethnic with the Luo tribe predominating. Although Luo is the commonest local language, Swahili is spoken throughout Kenya and English is also an official language. Kisumu is a railway terminal and important lake port with an international airport. It has a range of educational, industrial, agricultural, medical and social facilities and like Cheltenham has a young university which emerged from a Teacher Training College.
Currently, Kisumu is one of the fastest growing cities in Kenya with its thriving rich sugar and rice irrigation industries and is the epicentre for business in Kenya. Although Kisumu has modernised over the years, it still maintains the old town feel and the culture is still very ingrained.
Kisumu and Cheltenham have been Friendship Towns since 1985 and the activities are predominantly overseen by the Cheltenham based charity Global Footsteps (previously the Rendezvous Society). Visits by members of Global Footsteps and Officers of the Kisumu Town Council have led to the exchange of youth and adult groups, mainly focusing on environmental projects and resulting in ongoing school links with Gloucestershire schools. Balcarras School students did an exchange visit to St Aloy Gem Secondary School in Kisumu. Global Footsteps have been raising awareness and understanding of sustainability and have worked with the ANIGA women’s initiative on the ‘Period Project’ with sanitary products being purchased for Kenayn school girls.
More recently to re-invigorate the twinning friendship links between the two towns, an online meeting with representatives from Kisumu took place during the covid lockdown period to establish how we might development collaborative projects. Education, training and young people were established as common areas of interest and this aligned with the Twinning Association’s fundraising appeal for a well to provide clean water at a school in Kisumu.