by Robert Manyara
NANDI, Kenya, June 7 (Xinhua) -- You will be stranded if by any chance you keep waiting for a public service vehicle to ferry you from Kenya's Rift Valley town of Kapsabet to University of Eastern Africa, Baraton.
There is a 13 km stretch between the university and the agricultural-rich town in the county of Nandi. All that is needed is a motorcycle to cruise through the dusty and bumpy Namgoi route.
"Youths have found jobs in transporting students with the motorcycles from Kapsabet to Baraton," Duncan Singoei, a 26-year-old local resident, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Surrounded by farms with potential for high productivity, Kapsabet town presents itself as a center for busy exchanges in agricultural produce.
However, erratic weather patterns and emerging crop diseases have resulted in crop failures, leaving households with little or none to consume and sell.
A change in productivity is pushing some to explore alternative means of survival: motorcycle taxis known locally as boda boda business.
"I did not know how to ride a motorcycle but when I lost an acre of maize to a strange disease in 2012, my life was changed," Singoei said.
"I gave up on farming and used all my savings to buy a motorbike. A friend trained me on how to manage it. In two months, I was on the roads and I am not regretting," he said.
Singoei has now become a veteran in the motorcycle taxi business, being one of the more than 60 riders plying the Namgoi route.
Absence of public service vehicles (minibuses), commonly known as matatus in Kenya, operating on the road serves as an advantage to the business.
On average, Singoei takes home a gross amount of 18 U.S. dollars each day. "During the day, we charge one dollar. Between 6 pm and 7.30 pm, the charges rise to 1.5 dollars and 2.5 dollars after 8 pm because the road is bad and it's challenging to drive at night," he said.
Boda boda business was a mystery to Kenyans in villages until early 2000s when it emerged to be a source of employment for the jobless and idle youth.
Now, it has grown to be a lucrative venture both in the rural and urban areas with Motorcycle Assembly Association of Kenya indicating that by May 2015, there were at least half a million operators in the country ferrying 14.4 million Kenyans daily.
According to the operators, the monetary value is drawing a daily total of 4 million dollars to the government kitty.
Mobility of the motorcycles turns them into attractive modes of transport to villages, transporting agricultural produce from interior farms or maneuvering traffic jam in busy cities and towns.
For youths in the country struggling with over 50 percent joblessness among the young generation, boda boda business is a game changer in that it also helps prevent recruitment into terror groups, drug abuse and poverty.
"Life becomes useless when you have nothing to do with yourself," said another rider who only identified himself as Suge.
Suge, formerly an alcohol addict who failed to complete his high school studies since his sponsor pulled out of his education bankrolling agreement, said the income has helped him change his life.
"I got into alcohol due to stress. I wanted to study and become a doctor but that was not to be. Anyway, I am changed now," he said while looking absent-minded perhaps recoiling the harsh memories in his life.
"I am helping my younger siblings to complete school. We are five and I am the eldest. I am doing my best to educate them so that they can take care of me when I am old," he said as he prepared to drive away his customer.
A common wish of the two riders is for the national government to offer more grants to individual youths from poor families to start businesses of interest.
This way, they argued could divert the attention of youth from criminal activities and drug abuse.