Kisumu is the third largest town in Western Kenya and is situated on the eastern banks of Lake Victoria. It has been a friendship town of Cheltenham since 1985. Kisumu is also twinned with Roanoke in Virginia in the USA, Entebbe in Uganda and Mwanza in Tanzania.
The town of Kisumu has a population of around 150,000 people and was pronounced a city in 2001, commemorating the centenary of the first train to reach Kisumu. A further 250,000 live in the surrounding district, which encompasses the renowned Kakamega Forest and the legendary ‘Rock of the First Wife’ known as ‘Kitmikayi’.
Lying on the equator, Kisumu’s climate is hot all year (83°F). There are rainy seasons between March and June and in November. Kisumu is a railway terminal and lake port with a local 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. 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 widely understood. There is a significant community of ‘Asian Kenyans’.
Local industries in Kisumu include the Kenya Brewery and the Coke Bottling Factory. The town is also famous for designing and making school and church uniforms. Fishing is a major industry. Fish, tea, coffee, cotton and sugar cane are exported. Maize is grown for local consumption. It boasts several markets of which Kibuye market is the largest in East Africa. It is renowned for its local Jua Kali artisans who fashion all manner of equipment and other products from recycling.
The activities of the friendship link are overseen by the voluntary organisation, Friends of Kisumu, part of the Cheltenham based Rendezvous Society. Visits by members of the Rendezvous Society and officers from 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. Annual youth conferences for youth of student age occur as part of the ‘Global Footsteps’ programme, run by this educational charity, in conjunction with its European counterparts.