The development of the urban fringes is an inevitable consequence of urbanization given that as cities continue to grow, urban activities spread outwards in waves towards the rural areas. The rural-urban fringes of cities thus, are the exit points for residents relocating from major urban built areas, and entry points for rural migrants into the towns. Firstly, rural-urban fringes are determined by two major factors; that is, administrative boundaries and the differences in the intensity of built up areas and the farmland. Secondly, policy and legal guidelines exhibit inadequacies in handling the dynamism of the fringes and thus the failure by planning agencies in managing the impending growth. Thirdly, prospective land developers, businesses and communities fail to anticipate the results of development because they lack information on potential or approved development plans. This research paper applies urban development theories to explain the drivers of growth at the rural-urban fringes. In this regard, the study draws heavily from a paper by Alonso and Wingo’s explanations on the spatial structure in terms of how the market allocates space to users according to supply and demand; von Thunen’s agricultural land use model whose building blocks are economic rent, distance from the centre and individual decision making explains how the urban structure is influenced by the locational behavior of households in the city. A sample of 134 respondents, drawn from the five (5) neighborhoods located within the Nairobi-Kiambu development corridor informed the research. This was further informed by the rather heterogeneous nature of the neighborhoods in terms of physical characteristics, livelihoods and historical evolution. Observation, questionnaires, focus group discussions and interviews were the main methods applied in the collection of primary data. A synopsis of the findings reveals that, contrary to conclusions in studies carried out elsewhere in Africa that periphery development accommodates low income residents, the Nairobi-Kiambu corridor presents an area interspersed with low and high income households; households locate at the fringes so as to take advantage of relaxed regulations and therefore engage in land use practices that are allowable.
The purpose of the research paper is to inform readers and other researchers on the dynamics of fringe development of a city in an African country. The paper provides insights into causes and effects of rural land conversion into urban land uses. The research is based on a most vibrant development corridor of the city of Nairobi.
Key words: rural-urban fringe, drivers of growth, development corridor, land,