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May 1-15, 2011

ISSUE 039

A bimonthly newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service

It is a sorry state for the Kenyan worker

Kenyans going about their daily businesses. The Kenyan worker is suffering from low salary and high costs of goods pushed up by high inflation rates. Picture: Reject Correspondent

By MUSA RADOLI Kenyans are being pushed deeper into destitution as the economy is gripped by inflation that is threatening to jump into the double digit figure. The situation has been made worse by the spiralling oil prices that have pushed the cost of petrol and kerosene to unaffordable levels. This has triggered a multiplier effect in almost all sectors of the economy with the most affected being consumer products. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), this pushed up the cost of living by nearly 40 per cent in less than six months. The situation is compounded by the stagnated wages. As at the end of March, statistics showed that inflation had risen to 9.19 per cent up from 6.2 per cent. This is the dog’s life that Kenyan workers are facing. With no signs of improvement. The worker’s daily life is going from bad to worse. Yet this is the sector that holds majority of the Kenyan pop-

“Domestic workers earn extremely low wages with no form of social security and are often exposed to sexual harassment, physical violence and abuse.” — Francis Atwoli, Secretary General, COTU

ulation. As at the end of last year, the Ministry of Labour estimated that the country had 17.94 million workers spread out in various sectors with agriculture taking the largest chunk of either direct or indirect workers, a majority in the un-skilled segment. According to the Ministry of Labour, the lowest urban wage is supposed to be KSh7,578 per month and the lowest agricultural minimum for un-skilled employees is supposed to be KSh2,536 per month, excluding house allowance. However, according to the Secretary General Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU), Mr Francis Atwoli most employers have not honoured these requirements and are subjecting workers to extremely low wages. He says they have also abused legal stipulations which have adversely reduced the workers’ purchasing power to extreme levels.

Out of the estimated 17.94 million workers, 75 per cent are working in the agricultural sector, especially the large scale plantations.

Exploitation

“It is here that I have represented them as a unionist for decades and the situation is bad. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy. Why should workers in the sector be given a paltry minimum wage of KSh2,538?” poses Atwoli. Apart from corporate firms exploiting workers, the other area where Kenyans are hit by illegal employment practices are in domestic service, private security firms, construction industry, media industry and Export Processing Zones (EPZs) as well as widespread child labour among others. Taking on the domestic workers the COTU boss says: “International Labour Organisation (ILO) Continued on page 2

Cost of living too high for common man By MUSA RADOLI According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the spiralling inflation has pushed up the cost of living by nearly 40 per cent in less than six months. The situation is compounded by the stagnated wages. As at the end of March, statistics showed that inflation had risen to 9.19 per cent up from 6.2 per cent. The numbers have been generated using data collected from selected retail outlets in 25 data collection zones located in 13 urban centers. The retail prices data was collected during the second and third weeks of March. The Food and Non Alcoholic drinks’ index went up by 3.92 percent between the months of February 2011 and March 2011. This was attributed to cost increases recorded in respect of food products such as potatoes, sukuma wiki, maize flour, beef, bread, cabbages and maize grain. The transport index rose by 2.36 percent, mainly due to increased costs of petrol and bus/matatu fares. The prices of these items went up by 4.42 and 9.20 percent, respectively, between the months of February and March 2011. The report documents that the housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels’ index went up by 1.56 percent in the period under review mainly on account of continued increases in the prices of electricity and house rent. The main contributor to the higher cost of electricity was the increase in the amount charged to offset fuel cost adjustments from KSh4.67 per Kwh in February 2011 to KSh5.73 per Kwh in March 2011. Comparison of prices for March 2011 and same month previous year show that prices have increased over the period. The statistics presented the average prices of selected commodities obtained from the 13 urban centers from across the country.

Drought forcing farmers to sell land and migrate to urban centres. See story on Page 18 on Reject online at

www.mediadiversityafrica.org

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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Labour laws are only valid on paper By MUSA RADOLI

The Labour Laws 2007 establishes the Labour Institutions Act 2007, The Employment Act 2007, The Labour Relations Act 2007, The Working injury Benefits Act 2007 and The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2007. All these provide blanket coverage of the interest of workers in the country. The Labour Institutions Act 2007 establishes and strengthens institutions which deal with labour administration and management of labour relations; such as the National Labour Board, the National Labour Court, Wages Councils and Employment Agencies. The National Labour Court will be decentralized to the Districts and Provinces. The Employment Act 2007, strengthens minimum terms and conditions of employment, prohibits forced and child labour, sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of disability or HIV/Aids status. It reads: “Provides for insurance scheme to benefit redundant employees, converts “casual employment” to “term contract”, Raises age for definition of a “child” from 16 to 18 years. This harmonises this definition with that in the Children’s Act, provides for 21 days’ annual leave for all employees; three (3)

months’ maternity leave for female and 2 weeks paternity leave for male employees. The law also safeguards workers’ dues in the event of employer’s insolvency. It ensures that workers whose employers do not contribute to provident funds do not lose their benefits for years worked. It also protects migrant workers who are in Kenya legally. They enjoy the same protection as indigenous workers.

Work provisions

The law says that The Labour Relations Act 2007, promotes protection of freedom of association for both employees and employers, streamlines registration of workers’ and employers’ organizations; promotes democratic practice in lawful collective groups; asserts individual and collective group rights; streamlines pre-Industrial Court trade dispute resolution machinery and gives specific time-frames for dispute disposal. It also minimizes room for interference with workers’ right to go on strike by setting out clear guidelines on protected strikes and lock-outs and provides for alternative dispute resolution machinery. The law goes on to state that: “The Work Inju-

ry Benefits Act 2007 modernizes legislation and brings it up to date with the current circumstances and realities; eliminates the “ambulance chasing” phenomenon; extends insurance cover and ensures adequate compensation for injury and work-related diseases regardless of employer’s solvency, National Labour Court arbitrates compensation disputes, and disallows subsequent common law claims. On the other hand the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2007, secures safety and health in all workplaces; It requires entrepreneurs to set achievable safety targets for their enterprises; promotes reporting of work-place accidents, dangerous occurrences and ill health with a view to finding out their causes and preventing similar occurrences in future. It also promotes creation of a safety culture at workplaces through education and training in occupational safety and health. The biggest irony is that all this is on paper and not in practice within a majority of the private and public sector institutions. Consequently, majority of the country’s workers are slowly but surely being driven into abject poverty and dire destitution with the ever rising inflation and drastically eroded purchasing power.

Odourless state leaves workers dejected By AGGREY BUCHUNJU It was perhaps a blessing in disguise when the odour engulfed Webuye town and its environs had a reprieve from the stench free state during the run-up to the referendum last year. This came after two odourless years following the closure of Pan Paper Mills, the giant paper milling industry in East and Central Africa. Local businessmen, factory workers and even commercial sex workers breathed a sigh of relief when smoke resurfaced from the factory boilers. They were happy because their only source of livelihood, situated along the Great North Road seemed to be on the path to recovery. The factory is very important to the local people in terms of socioeconomic development, the bad smell associated with the industry notwithstanding. “Although the factory pollutes the air, we cannot do without it because it creates employment for our people and market for the farm produce,” says Mrs Dinah Wattima, a civic leader in Webuye Municipality. However, this was only to be for a short time as the town has gone quiet and odourless again.

Factory revival

It all began when President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga while on the campaign trail for the new Constitution sent strong indications that the factory would be revived. “My Government is committed to reviving Pan Paper Mills very soon,” Kibaki said while luring area residents to vote in favour of the new law. Indeed one week after the visit, the Treasury released KSh500 million to the factory to facilitate its re-opening. Initially operations at the factory had stopped when the Kenya Power and Lighting Company disconnected electricity supply. KPLC’s move to disconnect power supply was necessitated by the company’s failure to pay bills totalling to millions of shillings. The KSh500 million released by the Government was, therefore, meant to clear the KPLC’s bills in order to facilitate the re-opening of the factory. It is however important to note that

The main entrance at the Webuye Pan Paper Mills that was closed two years ago leading to unemployment and business losses. Picture: Aggrey Buchunju at the time of closure, over two years ago, the factory was indebted to the tune of KSh8 billion. The KSh500 million grant from the Government was therefore, a drop in the ocean. However, the rumbling of the machines and the thick smelling black smoke lasted a very short time because no sooner had the referendum ended than the factory shut down once again. Former workers of the factory have been reduced to beggars as most of them can no longer sustain their families. One of the workers in the electrical department Mr John Okumu says his two secondary school children have dropped out of school due to lack of fees. Okumu laments: “I have been denied a bursary by the Constituency Development Fund office on grounds that I am employed yet I have never received salary for over two years now.” He suggests: “If the Government is not ready to revive the factory it should pay workers their terminal benefits instead of raising their hopes unnecessarily.”

Former Webuye MP Joash Wamang’oli admits that the amount the government gave was not enough to enable the factory get back on track. Wamang’oli urges the Government to intervene before the company collapses completely adding that he will mobilise residents and workers to demonstrate. “As a local leader, I am going to mobilise people to demonstrate if the Government will not release enough funds to the factory to facilitate its full operation,” he says. The re-closure of the factory has placed the local elected political leaders on the receiving end.

False promises

Some MPs now admit that they have been betrayed by the Government’s false promises about the reopening of the factory. “The Government must be categorical about the fate of Pan Paper Mills,” says Alfred Khang’ati, Kanduyi MP and an assistant minister in the office of the PM. Ironically Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya was recently quoted in

a section of the press saying that the KSh500 million injected into the factory last year was ‘a waste of funds’. Oparanya was categorical that the re-opening of the factory is impossible since the machines are obsolete and wasteful. The closure of the factory has not only affected the lives of 1,500 direct employees and 30,000 indirect employees. I has also impacted on the growth of Webuye town. Business in the town and its adjacent shopping centres has gone down as vegetable vendors and among other businesses contemplate re-locating. A grocer at Sango market within Webuye Municipality Mrs Jane Nakhumicha says her sales have drastically dropped since the factory was closed. “I used to clear my stock within two days and make profits. I am now incurring loses because the sales are down and the products are perishables,” she says. It has also emerged out that commercial sex workers have re-located en masse to Bukembe market and Bungoma town to attract sugar cane farmers.

Sorry state as common worker is reduced to servitude Continued from page 1 Governing Body of which Kenya is a member in March 2008 session proposed that the promotion of decent work among domestic workers should be placed on the International Labour Conference Agenda in 2010.” The domestic work was to be put on the agenda so that the conference could develop appropriate guidelines for policies and practice concerning domestic work all over the world.

Dignity

Atwoli argues that millions of women and girls turn to domestic work as one of the few options available to them in order to provide for themselves and their families. “Instead of guaranteeing their ability to work with dignity and free of violence, employers have systematically denied them key labour protection extended to other workers,” observes Atwoli. He adds: “Poverty and poor quality of education, broken families and violence at home are some reasons why girls migrate from the villages to come and work as domestic workers in urban areas.” Atwoli observes: “Abuse against domestic workers happens in private homes and is hidden from the public eye. The long list of abuses committed by employers and labour agencies include physical, psychological, sexual, forced confinement in the workplace, non-payment of wages as well as excessive working hours, no rest days and forced labour.” So far the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotel, Educational Institutions, Hospitals, and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA) — the union that covers domestic workers in the country, to which many are denied membership by employers — in collaboration with Solidarity Centre and other government agencies have embarked on programmes aimed at organising and uniting the domestic workers to fight for their rights.

Vulnerability

Reiterates Atwoli: “You will all agree with me that domestic workers are among the most vulnerable employees. Domestic work is mainly performed by women and children. Migrant workers from the rural areas form a large part of these workers.” Atwoli says domestic workers earn extremely low wages with no form of social security and are often exposed to sexual harassment, physical violence and abuse. “We must protect this segment of workers who perform a vital role in society yet are rarely acknowledged,” he reiterates. “We acknowledge that as social partners we are faced with challenges as we deal with domestic workers as majority of them are not organised. They are hard to reach as they dwell in private homes and most of them are unaware of their rights,” observes Atwoli. He adds: “These challenges can be overcome if social partners increase inspections and intensify labour rights awareness amongst the general populace.”


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Dejection and despair hits fishermen By NICK ODHIAMBO When Elly Orega, a fisherman was charged before the beach tribunal at Mbita Beach for stealing a pot full of hot food on Takawiri Island in Suba District, he was not taken to the police. He was cautioned and counselled by the Beach Management Unit (BMU) officials. Orega and others had gone fishing in the night but when they came back the following morning, they had not caught even a single fish. So, when he reached the beach, Orega found food in a hot pot by the beach and stole it. However, he was arrested and taken before the tribunal where he admitted that he stole because he lacked food to take to his family. According to the Mbita BMU Chairman, Mr John Long’o Dawo, Orega’s case is just one of the many in the Lake Victoria area that is his office has been handling since the population of fish in the lake started dwindling in 2006. “He was very frank and we advised him to avoid getting involved in such crimes. He said that he would never repeat such a thing. He is back in the lake under supervision,” Long’o says.

Reduced fish stock

He observes: “Since 2006, there has been no fish from this lake. This has resulted in my office handling up to five cases of theft every week. A good number of youths have been involved in criminal activities to eke out a living since the population of the fish in the lake has gone down.” Recently, two fishermen in Mbita town were lynched after they were accused of having been involved in many theft cases in the town. “They were suspected robbers who went into criminal activities because they gained very little from the lake. When the residents got wind of the situation, they were killed,” Long’o explains. Conflict over fishing areas due to the decreasing population of fish in the lake is also very common where fishermen end up fighting and even killing each other. Earlier in the month, colleagues killed two fishermen at Usau Beach in Mbita District over a fishing area. Their bodies were then tied together and dumped in the water to conceal the evidence, according to the police. “We managed to arrest six suspects who were arraigned in court,” confirmed Mr Joseph Kimutai Koech, Mbita Deputy OCPD. With the length of 410 kilometres, spreading to Tanzania and Uganda, Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. This is the source of the great River Nile that has extended to Egypt. Even though Egyptians are benefiting from River Nile, which they use for irrigation purposes to produce world class cotton, the river’s source, Lake Victoria, is a source of despair and hunger to fishermen and people living along it. The in-land lake has been facing problems of fish species extinction. The pride that used

to fill every fisherman’s lip, walking along the beaches with buckets full of fish has faded with the extinction of fish species and the receding lake. Lake Victoria, which was the main source of the once revered Nile Perch, producing species that could match the height of an average adult man, has reduced to what locals call a pond of fingerlings. Every fisherman and even the East African states used to be proud of Nile perch as their major fish species in the lake, giving them a lot of food and income. East African countries would get a total of $250 Million per year from the export of Nile Perch, the species that was introduced into the lake in 1950s. The declining population of other fish species in the Lake Fishermen on Lake Victoria attending to their nets. Depleted fish stocks have left the fishing has also been contributed to the community dejected with many turning to criminal activities. Picture: Reject Correspondent presence of Nile Perch in the lake, as it turned catastrophic to and income they have. “Sometimes you go to Suba District Fisheries Officer Mr Michael other species. the lake and come out with nothing or with Omondi says the receding of the lake has made As a predator, Nile Perch pushed other spewhat cannot sustain you. This is why some of us it difficult for the fishermen to catch fish unless cies to the edge of extinction as it fed on many use small nets to catch any kind of fish and even they go deeper into waters. He says any species different fish found within the lake. However, poison the fish out of desperation,” says Joseph like to swim in the deep-waters. according to the recent statistics released by Onyango, a fisherman in Suba. “This is why you find many fishermen going Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation, overfishIt is on this basis that the youth are also ento the Ugandan side where they end up being ing has also reduced the population of Nile gaging in criminal activities after getting notharrested. They are looking for fish in the deeper Perch in the lake. ing from the Lake. The Government is now areas,” Omondi explains. Statistics indicate that the number of fishcreating awareness on alternative sources of The main cause for shrinking of the lake is ing people has jumped from 56,000 in 2000 to income and food. In Mbita and Suba districts, deforestation that has led to low water levels in 98,000 in 2006 interfering with the fish populathe Government has started funding youths to the rivers serving the lake. tion in the lake. start poultry and vegetable farming. However, Omondi also links lack of fish in Over fishing has led to each fishing boat the lake to over fishing. He says there are more bringing only 80 kilogrammes as from 2008 people who have gone into the lake and this has from the 300 kilogrammes in 2005. Again, the They are also advised to go into bodaboda affected the fish population, forcing the fisheraverage size of the fish caught has reduced to businesses instead of fishing so as to give fish men to use undersize nets that catch all kinds of a mere 25 centimetres from 50 centimetres in time to grow. “We are trying to tell them to fish including eggs. 2007. This has led to poverty, forcing many of leave fishing but this cannot work well. We have “In my opinion, the main reason why fish the fishermen to either fight over fishing space to find them alternative sources of income to is not in the lake is overfishing. Most fishermen or pursue alternative sources of income. avoid cases of insecurity,” explains Omondi. are using fishing gear that has not been recomLake Victoria used to be the main source of The Lake Victoria Environmental Managemended. This has led lack of fish in the lake food and income to many people along its rement Programme (LAVEMP) is beginning its because they are not given the opportunity to gion. It has been seen as a saviour to youths of second phase in helping young fishermen find grow,” he says. different educational levels, including Univeralternative sources of income so that crime casSome also use poison, which they spread on sity graduates who have no jobs. es can reduce. the lake waters to kill all kinds of fish, which However, some of these young fishermen “However, this is not enough. We want dethey later hand pick and sell. who have a lot of responsibilities at home somevelopment partners and non-government orHowever, the fishermen defended themtimes turn to robbery since fishing is no longer ganisations to come and help us because the selves saying fishing is their only source of food promising. population of fishermen in the lake is high,” observes Omondi. The Constituency Development Funds committee in the area is also joining hands to help the situation by setting aside funds to help start fishponds for the youth. According to the CDF Chairman, Mr Samuel Kaoga, they have so far constructed 203 fishponds in the district — Joseph Onyango, fisherman at a cost of KSh8.1 million.

Advise

“Sometimes you go to the lake and come out with nothing or with what cannot sustain you. This is why some of us use small nets to catch any kind of fish and even poison the fish out of desperation.”

Tribulations of plantation workers By RYAN MATHENGE A former employee in a coffee plantation in Thika, Peter Kaguru, recalls how they were subjected to poor working conditions. He recalled how many of the employees fell sick owing to inhaling poisonous chemicals being sprayed in coffee estates. Kaguru says housing was a major problem as they lived in houses constructed with iron sheets which became too cold at night exposing many of the workers and their families to severe cold and pneumonia. Kaguru who managed to escape the pathetic working conditions was saved by his children who bought him land. “Once my two children completed their university education, I quit as they bought a piece of land for the family,” he explained.

Kaguru’s story depicts the case of plantation employees who are regarded as slaves owing to poor pay and pathetic working conditions. Young parents have been forced to work with their children exposing them to chemicals used in plantations at tender age. Apart from parents being with their children, many put in very long hours of work that normally exceeds the stipulated eight hours. The way casual workers are transported to and from work is still an issue of concern. Overloaded trucks are the order of the day as men and women are strapped inside the closed vehicles that stop at Kabati market in Kandara district. However, the scenario has since changed with the enactment of the new Constitution. Murang’a County Labour Officer, Mr Joseph Chigiti says they now have to visit employees

in many of the plantations. Before enactment of the new law, labour offices witnessed many cases where employees engaged employers in heated debates over issues ranging from non-payment of salaries to poor working conditions. Speaking to the Reject on phone, Chigiti said complaints of poor working conditions when raised are addressed immediately. “Once a report of oppression is received, this office swings into action summoning the concerned parties,” he explained. The Labour office has been conducting random inspection of the estates to investigate if there are any underage children employed.   “The government outlawed child employment and those caught will not be spared,” explained Chigiti.    In the tea sector, employees have been de-

manding more money from their employers. They are currently being paid between KSh5 and KSh7 for a kilogramme of tea delivered to the processing factories. Nancy Nyambura, a mother of three who lives in Githambo area of Kahuro says those engaged in tea plucking are the most oppressed as they are forced to work during even when it is raining. “Many sleep in the open waiting collection trucks. The trend has seen many getting common cold and pneumonia. We urge the buying centres committees to come to our rescue and ensure that by 6pm all the green leaves are collected,” said Nyambura. A director at Kanyenya-ini tea factory in Kangema who declined to be named said many of the tea pluckers have been on strike demanding that their interests be given attention.


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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

It is no longer business as usual as women get down to work

Day care centres offer support to mothers who would otherwise be housewives By RUTH OMUKHANGO A visit to the Amica Hair Salon at Lang’ata Shopping Centre, one is greeted by joyful faces of beautiful hardworking women full in life and humour. Behind the enthusiasm it is impossible to tell the burden of care that these women have to go through before reporting to work at 8.00 am. One characteristic about these women is that they are mothers and reside in the Southlands Slum in Lang’ata Estate and have to contend with the challenges of taking care of their families both socially and economically. However, because they make it to work in the morning, they have to ensure that everything back home is in order which includes preparing and taking their young ones to the nearest day care centres for the day.

Daily chores

Milka Awesa is the sole proprietor of this salon and her routine day begins 4.00 am. She has to prepare her children who include a 14-yearold daughter who goes to Anjali Community School in Kibera as well as her one-year-old baby who spends most of the day in a day-care centre next to her house. Awesa, 33, does not have to worry about her daughter since she is old enough to prepare herself. However, the critical part is preparations for the baby which include cooking porridge and food as well as packing clothes and diapers. “This is most hectic time for me because besides cooking, I have to bathe the baby as early as 6.00 am before dropping him at the centre by 6.30 am,” says Awesa. She adds: “Then I come back to complete my daily chores before leaving the house.” Unlike those in full-time employment whose working scheduled is clearly defined, Awesa’s schedule in unpredictable due to the nature of her work. The earliest she can get back home is at 8.00 pm on a normal day but it is worse during weekends and public holidays since this is their peak time. “During weekends and holidays, we have to open the salon as early as 7.00 am because we have customers arriving early before it gets busy. We also have to leave very late because we have to ensure that all the customers are served before we close, and this is usually at 9.00 pm,” says enthusiastic Awesa. Due to her work schedule, the responsibility of taking care of the baby in the evening is also borne by her daughter who takes over from the centre. She has to pass by the care centre on her way home from school to pick her brother and take care of him besides preparing dinner. This has also put a strain on the girl who is already over-burdened by her school assignments which have to be submitted the following morning. She confesses that many times, she feels that she has absconded her responsibility as a mother to merely providing for shelter and food: “I am always busy and rarely at home during the day. I have not been able to monitor the progress of my children. I fear for my daughter because she is a candidate and will soon be sitting for her exams,” observes Awesi. Without any other option, Awesi also has to battle with her son’s health especially cold and flu that do not heal because of his low body immunity. Like many other women, Awesi and her colleagues are grappling with the rapid social change that is going on in many countries, Kenya included. This has led to changes in family structure and an increased number of working mothers and hence the need for increased services for the care of preschool children while parents are away from home. The concept of day care is not new especially in many cultures where supplementary care was almost routine for either the very privileged, who could afford to pay for the services, or for the under privileged, who had to improvise

Mothers who cannot afford being jobless take their children to centres like the Bethuel Outreach where they are taken care of during the day. Such facilities have made many women opt for employment or business without worrying about ayahs. Pictures: Reject Correspondent. child care to enable mothers contribute to the economic life of the family. What is relatively new however, is the extent to which such care is now needed by all families, not just the very rich and the poor. This concept is more structured and supported by governments in developed countries such as Europe, America and Australia but has remained a self-initiative for women in developing countries such as Kenya. The irony is that while the rich and the middle class income women manage to deal with their families by employing house helps to take care of their children, the low income women have to find an alternative solution. They are not sitting at home for the mere fact that they cannot afford house helps. They are finding alternative methods of dealing with the challenges. They have to grapple with balancing their finances and finding a reliable and convenient place for their children to spend the day. The charges at the day care centres range from KSh20 to KSh70 per day.

Day care centres

“Mothers feel secure once they know that their children are in a safe place regardless of the environment.”

— Mary Adida, Bethel Outreach Children’s Centre

Most of these women in the slums depend on their meagre earnings from working as house helps, petty traders, hairdressers or waiters in restaurants. Since most of the women cannot afford to employ house helps to take care of their children, they opt for the day-care centres. For women like Awesa, day-care centres offer the solution to their problems. They are able to do a day’s job without worrying about their children’s safety and upkeep. According to Margaret Mbithe, a caretaker in one of the day care centres in Southlands, most women prefer the centres to house helps because they do not have to grapple with issues of paying higher salaries which they cannot afford. Worse still they are challenged by

space since most of them live in one-roomed houses that cannot comfortably accommodate the house help. Other issues include house girls abandoning children in the houses and leaving without notice. At 35, Mbithe, a mother of four offers day care services. She takes care of 14 children ranging from between three months to three years in a two roomed house and charges KSh50 per day. The sitting room that is equipped with playing materials for the children, two potties at a corner and the second room is equipped with double decker beds that are an indication of the activity that goes on in the house. Mbithe has also stocked pain killers in case any of the children develops fever and needs emergency treatment before getting to hospital. She also keeps a record of the mothers’ telephone numbers which she would use to inform them in the event that a child fell ill. She starts receiving the children as early as 6.00 am. She has to wake up early to prepare the house before they are dropped off. Some of the children are picked as late as 8.30 pm. “Since some of the mothers bring the children very early in the morning, we are forced to bathe and cook for them at an additional fee of KSh20 per day,” explains Mbithe. She adds: “However, mothers have to bring the food.” Continued on page 5


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Survival forces child mothers carry their babies to work By OMWA OMBARA A customer walks into a restaurant in Kisumu, only to bump into a cheeky child running up and down. The curious child moves closer, caresses the customer’s cheeks and pulls her hair. While the waiter serves the food, the child stares greedily as if expecting to share the meal. As the customer wonders what to do, the child wets himself and the emanating stench that follows is enough to kill one’s appetite. For a moment, one may mistake the child for another customer’s, but soon it is apparent that the child belongs to one of the waiters. The teenage mother who is a waiter dashes with the child to the kitchen and hushes him amid loud wails. “Hush! Don’t cry. Here is some porridge.” As the feeding goes on in the backroom, the customers are abandoned for a few Dorcas Achieng, 17, an orphan who was impregnated and dumped by the man minutes. She ties the child on her responsible has to go to work with her child. Here she serves a customer at the back, apologises to the customer restaurant where she works. Picture: Ajanga Khayesi. and continues with her duties. At a Guest House down Kibos Road, the receptionist issues Milka Kerubo, 16, is a housekeeper. Her used to sell fish at Oile Market had gone a receipt to a client. But a loud cry from employer has not allowed her to carry her back to school to pursue adult education. under the desk reveals a baby hidden in a child to work. Every morning she leaves The woman who agreed to take care of my carton. The mother’s love for the child is so her child with a neighbour who sells fish at child wanted me to pay her KSh3,000 a instinctive and uncompromising that she the local market. She needs the job to pay month which is equivalent to my salary. I forgets the client and comforts her baby rent and feed her family. Once in a while could not afford it!” she explains. first. She puts the baby back gently into the when the fish-woman is away, she sneaks At first, Achieng lived with a friend. She carton and resumes duty. the baby into her workplace in an illegal arwould lock up the baby in the house the rangement with her colleagues. whole day. After work, she would find the “When my employer asks whose baby is child miserable, sore and hungry. When she Today, these are common scenes across crying, we tell her the child belongs to one explained her situation to the employer, she the country. More and more child mothers of the guests. I have tried to get a maid but was allowed her to carry the child to work. are carrying their babies to work in an effort I cannot afford it. My salary is KSh2,000 Achieng is not the only lucky one. More to survive. Since the Government started and some maids ask for KSh3,000. Parents and more employers are allowing child implementing the free primary Education have become enlightened and will not almothers to carry their babies to work. Programme, yayas or baby sitters have run low their children to be ayahs. The elderly Philomena Wanjiru, 17 is a house-girl in ‘out of stock.’ mothers want cash per day. I am paid only Nairobi’s Lavington area. Wanjiru lives in Younger siblings who used to help raise at the end of the month,” laments Kerubo. Kawangware, two kilometres away from children are all in school and the long arm Although there are a few child-care cenher workplace. However, every morning at of the law will not spare any parent who detres in Kisumu that charge clients between 5.30am, baby tied to her back, she sets off. nies their child an education. Adult educaKSh500 and KSh3000 a month, this is a Her employer has agreed to let her bring her tion has not made matters any easier. luxury the child mothers cannot afford. child to work as long as the child does not Dorcas Achieng, 17, an orphan, says her Faith Mwende, 17, carries her child, disrupt her chores. boyfriend impregnated her but abandoned Baby Junior to her salon in Soweto’s Laini Wanjiru wraps her child warmly and her soon after she delivered. Saba in Nairobi. She spreads a warm blanplaces her on an old sack in the verandah as “I was a good student but I had to drop ket on the floor in one of the corners of the she continues with her work. out of school in Form Two after I got in the 10 by 10 room. “She is quite hardworking and serious family way!” “Mama Junior” as her clients popularly with her work,” says Mrs Mary Mungai, her Achieng who lived with her aunt in call her cannot afford a maid. She dropped employer. “I feel pity on her. My children, Kombewa, half an hour’s ride from Kisumu out of school but refuses to divulge details who are of the same age are in school. If I town was thrown out and she was forced to of her past. throw her out, I will have wasted her future. seek a job in the city. “I ensure Junior behaves well and does I want her to save her money and go back “I could not find a maid. My cousin who not interfere with my clients,” she asserts. to school.”

Working to survive

Day care centres offering support to mothers

Continued from page 4 Mbithe has standardized the meal times; she offers porridge at 10am, lunch at 12.30 pm and another serving of porridge at 4.00pm. Depending on their earnings, most women prefer to make their payments at the end of the week while some are pay at the end of the month. However, Mbithe quickly points out that there are also mothers who are unable to pay but are still accommodated for the sake of helping a sister. However, they are encouraged to pay as little as KSh20 to cater for meals. Having worked with children for one year now, Mbithe admits that taking care of children is not a business but a requires one to have a passion for them: “Children get bored very quickly. We have to change our

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

activities often in order to sustain their interests. Some of the activities include singing, playing and storytelling.”

Growing practice

These sentiments are also supported by Mary Adida who runs the largest day care centre in Kibera, the Bethel Outreach Children’s Centre in Gatwekera Village. Having started the day care centre in 2006, then in her own house, she has seen the centre grow from accommodating six children to 45 today. According to Adida, the need for child care has become important as mothers struggle to either supplement their husband’s income and for some, put food on the table every day. These factors have seen the Centre grow into a nursery school to a

primary school that accommodates 278 children. For Adida, day care centres play a critical role in the lives of the children especially those living in vulnerable conditions in the slum areas. The day care centres provide security for the children since they are protected from many social ills that go on in the slum. “Mothers feel secure once they know that their children are in a safe place regardless of the environment.” Adida hopes that the Government will take the initiative to support child development especially from Early Childhood Education in order to assist women with the opportunity to become effective workers as they contribute to the economy of this country.

Revolutionary arrangement eases task of baby care By OMWA OMBARA Kenyan employers are reported to have signed a commitment on September 9, 2010 to embrace better businesses practices for children by providing support for breastfeeding mothers at the workplace. About 30 employers, under the auspices of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), committed to comply with the statutory 14-week maternity leave under the Kenyan Employment Act and to review workplace policies on flexi time, including providing short breaks to for mothers express milk. This was in support women who are exclusively breast feeding. The Chief Executive Officer of KEPSA, Ms Caroline Kariuki signed the commitment on behalf of the Alliance. The “Better Business Practices for Children” is a joint initiative between UNICEF, the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance. UNICEF Representative, Ms Olivia Yambi said the initiative would ensure parents gave their children the best start in life.

Exclusive breast feeding

“Ensuring every child receives the best start in life, through exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months has several benefits for the baby, mother and country, said Yambi. She explained: “It will reduce child deaths by about 11,000 in a year thus optimizing the capacity of the future workforce of Kenya. It will also enhance workforce retention and boost workplace performance.” Yambi commended the private sector partners who signed the commitment noting that providing the right support to women to fulfil their mandate of breastfeeding their babies would result in happy families. The occasion was graced by the Sweden’s Ambassador to Kenya, Mrs Ann Dismorr, who talked about the benefits her country had reaped from giving mothers a year’s maternity leave to stay at home and breastfeed their children. Dismorr challenged Kenya to review its workplace policies to allow for flexible hours for mothers to be able to breastfeed their children. “It takes a village to raise a child. In the context of the workplace, women need to be supported to provide their children the best nutrition. This is a rights issue. We are talking about the right to survival and development.” Safaricom, the country’s leading mobile phone service provider, showcased its employment policies, which includes comprehensive maternity insurance cover, flexi working hours and state-of-the-art facilities for breast feeding.

Appeal

“We are asking other companies to provide these services for their employees and they will see the benefits,” said Ms Pauline Warui, Chief Customer Service Officer at Safaricom. At the Safaricom Call Centre complex on Mombasa Road in Nairobi, a group of attendants are keen on babies; not calls. The telecom firm allows breast feeding mothers to bring their babies to work. They are controlled close to where the mothers can reach them to bond and feed at intervals. “The idea was to create a conducive environment for our staff where they can continue to add value to the company at the same time playing their parental role fully,” said Michael Joseph, the immediate former Safaricom CEO when the centre was launched. He added: “Better parents make better employees and with the day-care centre, our employees can give their best to Safaricom without worrying about the quality of care given to the children as the care centre is managed by professionally trained child care givers.” While the Kenyan law provides for three months maternity leave, nutritionists say the time is not enough for useful and effective breastfeeding. Allowing mothers to bring their babies to work is aimed at ensuring they concentrate while working. A research officer at the Kenya Nutritionists and Dieticians Institute (KNDI), Samuel Maina says mothers need more time with the babies to ensure smooth breastfeeding. Mothers working in companies that have no provision for taking babies to the office rely on house helps to feed the infants. So far, this is the last resort.” Excerpts from Business Daily (Immaculate Karambu) and Unicef (Pamela Sittoni) websites


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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Pathetic working conditions in sisal estates By BENSON MWANGA

David Sanguli was once upon a time working in a sisal farm. However, in the course of duty, his arm was amputated by a factory machine. Many years later he has not been paid his dues. Sanguli says a case like his are some of the occupational hazards one is exposed to in the sisal farms. “Corrosive sisal acid, snake bites and being pricked by sisal spikes to the point of turning blind are some of the hazards we face,” observes Sanguli. The workers are exposed to work-related injuries as the nature of their work requires protective clothing which is lacking. They are also constantly harassed and sacked on flimsy grounds without terminal benefits. Recently, the police were called to secure lives and property after more than 40 workers mainly from the sisal cutting section demonstrated at the farm regarded as the largest in East and Central Africa. Three protesting workers were arrested and remanded at Wundanyi Police Station for allegedly causing disturbance at the company offices at night. However, no criminal charges were preferred against them.

Workers’ protest

“The loaders had a boycott and it became difficult for the lorry drivers to go without them because nobody could load the sisal leaves. We arrested the suspects for security reasons and our quick intervention saved the situation,” said Charles Kibett, Wundanyi OCS. A week later, the whole working force went on strike to demand the immediate removal of the entire management of the sisal estate accusing it of high handedness. The workers complained of overgrown grass that had been invaded by snakes and wanted it cleared before they could resume work. Sanguli claimed they were living in muddy hovels frequented with snakes, without basic sanitation like toilets and clean drinking water thus exposing them to diseases. The workers accused the local labour and provincial administration officials of colluding with the management to infringe on their rights. This is the situation that depicts the story of more than 10,000 workers in private farms in Taita and Taveta districts. It is a heart breaking one. The workers face harsh economic realities daily due to low wages for the slavery equivalent

work that they do. They are mainly employed in three major sisal plantations in the region Mwatate, Voi and Taveta all dating back to the colonial era. The Ministry of Labour has been blamed for neglecting the plight of the workers despite the deplorable conditions under which they worked. Families of the third generation Greek immigrants who have settled in the region own majority of the farms with a combined acreage of 200,000, which is about 18 percent of the total land area of about 17,000 square kilometres.

Challenges

“We have had enough tribulations. The barbaric management perturbs us,” the workers told Labour Minister John Munyes during a visit to Mwatate Sisal Estate. Munyes who inspected the expansive Taita Sisal Estate came face to face with the grim realities of the sisal plantation workers in Taita District. The minister was appalled by the low wages and persistent inhuman working conditions as well as poor housing and medical scheme facing the more than 5,000 workers at the farm. “The Government has not been sympathetic to our cause since our suffering has remained the same as before. We are being treated like slaves,” one of the workers lamented. “Workers plight remains unresolved even after the Munyes inspected the farm and promised to address pertinent issues affecting them,” said Peter Okello, a labourer at the farm. The Minister was stunned to learn that even expectant women are not given maternity leave including allowances while some gave birth while on duty. He directed the management to ensure that expectant women were given maternity leave and their husbands two weeks to assist them.

Oppressed

The minister put to task the management to explain why it was treating its workers like slaves. He ordered the management to improve the working conditions of its workers or it would face the full arm of the law. The Farm Managing Director, Mr Phillip Kyriaz says the management has already put up 266 new houses and 53 toilets for the workers. “We have been accused of committing heinous crimes to our workers but we are trying our level best to improve their welfare,” Kyriaz told the minister.

Workers at a sisal farm in Taveta. Those who work in these farms complain of inhumane working conditions. Inset: David Sanguli used to work in a sisal farm but was forced to leave after a machine severed his hand. Pictures: Benson Mwanga A committee formed by Munyes headed by the Labour Commissioner to look into the grave grievances raised by the workers is yet to present its report. Munyes said the current labour laws were below the International Labour Organisation standards and that under the new five laws enacted by Parliament, no employer would infringe on the workers’ rights. He said the government would ensure that the new laws were fully implemented to improve the lives and conditions of agricultural workers in the country. Under the new law, workman’s compensation and retirement benefits would be paid promptly. Mwatela said sisal workers were being treated in an inhumane way adding that he had concrete evidence that the sisal management was violating workers rights.

He noted that despite the enormous profit the company was making, workers were being paid a paltry KSh145 per day. The Kenya Plantations and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) said managements of the sisal estates continue violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that required them to improve the working conditions of the workers. “The sisal management must improve the working conditions of the workers, failure to that they will continue facing the wrath of the workers,” warned Richard Juma, Secretary Coast and Eastern Provinces KPAWU.

Beautiful flowers of unjust labour By GEORGE MURAGE For hundreds of workers in Naivasha and other areas where flowers are grown, the sight of a rose is a sign of suffering. This is the feeling across endless acres of greenhouses that stretch the shores of Lake Naivasha. Underneath white plastic panels, workers plant and water billions of roses and carnations that are all to be shipped abroad. However, despite the end product being beautiful, the flower sector has come under the microscope over the poor working conditions that workers are subjected to. The lakeside town boasts of 57 flower species and 70 percent of flowers exported come from Naivasha.

Tough conditions

Flower farmers have been accused of paying low wages as well as subjecting their workers to poor working conditions that include putting in long hours. Every year, fingers are pointed at the farms with complaints of poor working conditions, sexual harassment, low wages and casualization of labour. The farms have also been accused of polluting Lake Naivasha.

Clad in tattered pullovers to wade off the biting cold, workers stand for hours in humid grading rooms to make sure that they pack the right roses in the right manner. At the end of the month, they will walk home with meagre salaries not sure whether to pay the debt they owe mama mboga (vegetable vendor) or house rent. However, farm owners and members of the union say that working conditions for flower farm workers have improved over the years. These views are however disputed by the workers who feel that they are marginalised and under paid in an industry that rakes in millions of shillings. According to Simon Wambua (not his real name), majority of workers earn about KSh5,000 per month. This is peanuts compared to what the farms make in flower sales. “As a result many have been forced to stay in the slums which offer cheaper houses,” says Wambua, a father of three. He adds: “As long as I continue earning KSh5,000 per month, I will never see the positive side of this sector.” Wambua reiterates: “Let the farm owners reward us handsomely for

the job we do before they claim that things have changed.” Wambua’s sentiments are supported by Jane Wafula who says that many of the workers toil in the farms as they have no other source of livelihood. “To me the sign of the red rose is sign of blood. I would hate any man who tried to woo me using a rose,” Wafula intones.

Ununionised workers

Secretary Kenya Plantations and Agriculture Workers Union, Naivasha branch, Peter Otieno, admits that the sector has changed compared to five years ago. However, he is quick to add that more needs to be done. He says that 95 percent of the flower farms have barred the workers from joining the trade union movement further reducing their bargaining powers. “Though some of the main farms are doing well, they are sourcing from the small scale farms and as a result encouraging them to mistreat their employees,” observes Otieno. “As customers in Europe celebrate with our flowers, some workers are slowly dying as a result of coming into contact with chemicals,” he says. Other than freedom of association,

One of the workers wrapping flowers in one of the factories. Poor working conditions are some of the challenges they face. Picture: George Murage there are also cases of sexual abuse as well as poor housing and low wages. Though human rights activists have come out to champion the workers’ rights, a lot is yet to be done. Players in the industry feel that the activists and the media have unfairly given them a raw deal.

They argue that contrary to allegations in the press, there are still some rogue farmers who are giving the sector a bad image. According to the Kenya Flower Council Chief Executive Officer, Ms Jane Ngige, there has been a lot of improvement in the farm in the last


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Workers toil for unworthy pay By KIGONDU NDAVANO In the sweltering heat, they carry pails and pails of the crystal substance. Hardly do they take a break. With no protective gear to stop the crystals from burning their skin, they persevere because they have no alternative. Within this locality, this is the main source of employment and anyone who complains will most probably die of starvation. The workers here are dressed in tatters and even for a visitor the blur haze and the shapeless multi-coloured objects, workers moving from one point to another, paint an image of a busy camp. The large white salt crystal stretching more than 100 metres in front of them blurs their gaze momentarily as they use metal implements to break it into smaller pieces.

Protective gear

Their resilience is unbelievable. Majority of those collecting the salt crystals and packing them into baskets work in great haste. Some literally run with their loads on their poorly protected heads. When the small wet crystals dripping with salty water are packed into sisal baskets and placed on the heads of the workers, they are quickly delivered into a waiting wooden container. Majority of the workers have no gloves, no shoes and no sun glasses to protect their eyes from the bright reflection from the white salt. Lucy Kadzo Karisa, 35, a mother of three has

done this for the last 10 years. Her face looks aged. For shoes, she wears slippers made from tyres and uses torn polythene bags to protect her feet from the effects of highly concentrated salt crystals. “If I fail to come here and beg for casual work, my children will sleep hungry,” Karisa explains as she struggles to deliver a basket of wet salt into a waiting wooden container pulled by a tractor. She adds: “My health has deterioWorkers at the Kensalt Salt factory. The workers in Magarini claim they toil under rated and two years ago I miscarried. deplorable conditions with makeshift protective gear including head covers made from Since then my body has been weak with discarded plastics and mosquito nets. Picture: Kigondu Ndavano. persistent pains.” Asked why she cannot work in the Here the salt manufacturers pump sea waIn these salt manufacturing factories, the packaging department of KenSalt Manufacturter inland and store it in the ponds for months conditions in which the workers toil are huers where work is lighter, Karisa explains: “I allowing controlled evaporation and well meamid and unbearable. Yet the law in the chapter have tried my best to talk to the management sured salt levels before the last ponds where of Bill of Rights addresses the issue of human but what can I do when they refuse? I am a once certified that they have met the required dignity. In Article 28 it says: “Every person has mere casual worker, only visiting the salt mines health levels of sodium chloride, crystallization the inherent dignity and the right to have that when I am able to work.” is allowed. dignity respected and protected.” Karisa’s body has rashes that are more domiThe final stage of the crystallization is where Hundreds of workers, majority of them womnant on the face and neck. As she lifts the third slavery takes place. For a section of crystal coven, are for months made busy in these salt ponds basket of salt, her head gear drops exposing a ering about four tonnes of salt, workers are paid as several tractors carry the wooden five tonne clear shaven head that is also full of rashes. The KSh350. containers of salt to a mountain near the main head gear is a funny looking mixture of plasprocessing factories of each salt establishment. tics and discarded mosquito net, all meant to “Unbelievable, this is slavery of untold extent. protect the head from the effects of frequent John Kaingu who has worked at the factory Seriously how can Kenyans be treated to such exposure to salt. for six years laments that to break such a crysunbearable work conditions,” lamented Mr John Welcome to Magarini District in the coast of tal takes more than nine hours. “No lunch or Munyes, Labour Minister described the working Kenya where all the salt mines and manufacturdrinking water is provided,” explains Kaingu. conditions when he visited the Kensalt Manufacing factories are based. On arrival here, one is When workers fall ill or become exhausted turers establishment in Marereni. welcomed by hundreds of ponds of water proand need to rest, no shelter is provided. Most The new Constitution says in Article 30(1) tected from draining away by heaps of soils and would rather walk home and lose their income states that “A person shall not be held in slavery short cement walls. for the piece work done. or servitude.”

Lack of water

Healthy future beckons as NHIF broadens scope

Patients outside Machakos District hospital waiting to pay their bills. The new NHIF scheme is making it easier to access health care. Picture: Reject Correspondent

tant to take them to hospital or even give them time off to seek treatment. “We are not even allowed to suffer colds or coughs. They say we will infect their children yet it is the children who infect us. They come from school everyday with different types of infections,” says Jane Wairimu, 40 who also works as an ayah. Their only hope is the pharmacists who operate chemists in the slum. “They agree to give antibiotics and cough syrup in doses. If you cannot pay immediately, you can deposit your television set or sufurias and other utensils as down payment. When you have recovered you can pay your bill and get back your items,” Wairimu explains. Simon Malanga Wandera, 27, works as a grounds man at Tom Mboya Estate in Kisumu. Wandera who tends flowers and washes his employer’s two cars and two dogs earns KSh1,500 a month.

Terry Achieng, 20, works as a nanny in Karen Estate in Nairobi. She has been with her employer’s family for the last two years. She is now eligible to join NHIF but has never heard of the organisation. Achieng who is an orphan takes care of five children aged between 14 and three years. She says when she falls sick, she takes Panadol or chews some herbs which her aunt sends her from upcountry. She lives with her employer and has one child, who stays with a relative in the village. “I earn KSh3,000 and I cannot afford to save KSh160 a month. Two of my younger siblings are in secondary school and they rely on me for everything!” she told the Reject. A number of domestic workers from Kibera, Kawangware, Kangemi who trek to work every morning believe that NHIF belongs to the rich. They complain that illness is not a part of their job description and most employers are reluc-

“I have heard of a card called NHIF but it is only for wadosi (the rich),” he says confidently. Wandera who belongs to the Legio Maria sect told the Reject that whenever he falls ill, he goes to his priest who sprays him with holy water and prays for him. Among the illnesses he often suffers from are malaria and typhoid. Due to work related jealousy and competition, sometimes colleagues bewitch him, he says. “I don’t believe in hospitals. I do not intend to join any NHIF.” For many domestic workers who have no medical cover, the NHIF cover could be a solution. The cover is comprehensive and involves consultation, investigation, treatment and meals. Whereas the contribution is based on income, benefits are equitable. If admitted at the Kenyatta National Hospital, the patient is entitled to KSh432,000 a year. Out of 650 hospitals in the country, 350 offer comprehensive care.

By OMWA OMBARA Nothing is more painful to an ailing patient’s family than carrying the sick back home from hospital because there is no deposit for admission. Sometimes the patient dies while the family is still organising to raise funds, while in some cases the patient is admitted but detained when they have recovered due to lack of discharge fees. The burden of caring for families still lies with women and this includes health. In most hospitals it is not by coincidence that most mothers are in the queues with their children and husbands, or in the wards taking care of both male and female patients. A healthy woman is the pillar of a healthy nation. That is why the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) has embarked on an aggressive programme that targets mothers in the domestic workers’ sector. The programme covers male staff too.

Domestic workers

By contributing only KSh160 a month, mothers can now walk into any Government hospital with an NHIF card without worrying about paying a deposit. They can also stay in the hospital for four days without spending a penny. A circular released by the National Hospital Insurance Fund in April 2011 for all domestic workers to become members gives great hope to mothers and children in a country that still faces serious health concerns. Although the circular has caused panic among employees, NHIF General Manager (Benefits and Quality Assurance) Dr George Midiwo assures the public that the entire family stands to gain by joining this programme. “A mother can now take cover for the whole family — whether she is a single parent or mar-

ried. All her children can receive medical attention at the hospital with an NHIF card. And even if she is sacked or resigns she can continue contributions and ensure uninterrupted access to treatment,” Midiwo explains. The NHIF Manager Micro-insurance and Sponsored Programmes, Mr Richard Kelong Sigey clarifies that NHIF Act no 9 of 1998 requires that any Kenyan earning KSh1,000 and above must, according to Kenyan law, be a member of NHIF. “We are only trying to implement a law that has been in existence but which many Kenyans have ignored,” reiterates Sigey. “This is someone we entrust with our children and they have no insurance. If your maid, cook, gardener contracts a disease and she is not treated, the likelihood that your child could be infected are quite high. Yet at only KSh160 a month, you could keep your entire family healthy.”

Solution


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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Members from the Gusii and Maasai community at Ololchani Primary School in Kilgolis Constituency in Transmara District during the launch of the soccer exchange programme that aims at bringing the two communities to a peaceful relationship. Pictures: Ben Oroko.

Women take lead in sports for peace exchange programme By BEN OROKO Starting from age old tribal skirmishes along the Gucha-Transmara border, women from Bomachoge Constituency and their Maasai counterparts have embarked on a peace mission. Their objective is to ensure that their respective communities find a lasting solution to tribal clashes that have been an eye sore to the region’s political and socio-economic development. To achieve this mission, the women have identified sports as an activity to be integrated in their efforts to reconcile members from either side who have always been suspicious of one another.

Soccer

Already, soccer games exchange programmes involving women and youth from the two communities have been launched with the aim of preaching peace and harmony. According to Mrs Hellen Katim, Executive Director of Emayan, a non-governmental organisation, women from the communities along the Gucha-Transmara border have decided to use soccer among other activities to reconcile and find long lasting peace for residents in the region. Speaking at Ololchani Primary School in Transmara District during the official launch of the inter-communal soccer games exchange programmes for the youth, Katim said women from the two communities partnered with United Visionary Care, a Canadian-based NGO to empower the youth through soccer as a uniting activity to preach peace. “The introduction of soccer games for the youth from the two communities will ease tension between the two communities since sports, especially soccer, unites people and cements their relationship when they play in friendly and competitive matches,” observes Katim. Peace organisers picked on the youth since they are the ones who usually get involved in cross-border cattle rustling or tribal clashes as they are idle and jobless.

Reduced dropouts

It is hoped that cross-border soccer games will keep the youth busy. This will lead to reduced cases of crime among young people who are vulnerable to activities that threaten peace. Besides keeping the youth busy, the sporting activities will help in reducing cases of girls dropping out of school to get married. Early marriages are common among the Maasai. “If girls from both sides of the border inter-

act through sports, cases of girls dropping out of school will be drastically reduced since they will have the opportunity to share experiences with their peers from Gusii, majority of whom do not easily drop out of school to be married before completing secondary education,” explained Katim. When girls join soccer or any sporting activity they learn more on life skills and this helps them to address challenges posed to their lives by HIV/Aids, drugs and substance abuse. Sports provide a conducive, interactive and educative environment to address the challenges. Experience has shown that youth involved in soccer or any sports are less likely to be engaged in social vices. Director of Naserian Girls’ Rescue Initiative, Ms Carolyne Rramet, acknowledged that children from communities along the common border have been orphaned or dropped out of school after losing one or both of their parents to tribal clashes. Rramet challenged women from the two communities to spearhead the search for peace along the border. Besides using sports to preach peace between the two communities, she urged women from the affected communities to also consider initiating merry-go-round schemes that would bring them together.

Encouragement

If the local communities supported the initiative, it will give young people extra energy and they will be able to excel both in sports and academics. Girls are encouraged to take peace initiatives seriously since it is women and children who bear the greatest consequences of tribal clashes driven by negative ethnicity. Besides reducing cross-border tribal skirmishes, United Visionary Care-Kenya Chairlady, Mrs Maureen Okong’o said soccer exchange programmes would help in identifying certain talents in the youth that will emerge not only in sports but also in leadership. She observed that the youth were a key pillar to peace building and challenged them to use such programmes to re-discover their potential in sports and leadership instead of being misused by politicians to cause chaos and violence. She added: “It is time young people realised that they have a potential in various governance and leadership systems and exploit the existing opportunities to occupy their rightful position in the society.” Okong’o challenged women from the Kisii and Maasai communities along the Kisii-Trans-

mara common border to fast-track intermarriages between the two communities to enhance long-lasting peace along the common border. She said stereotypes against some communities were to blame for tension and suspicion among communities living in various parts of the country threatening the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood among various communities.

Peace sport

Douglas Mogeni Sereti, a youth and a coach at Thornhill Soccer Club of Canada said sports, especially soccer was the only tool to bring peace among warring communities and those living in suspicion with each other. Sereti said soccer was one of the resourceful activities yet it remained untapped for the benefit of the youth and their immediate communities. “As sponsors of these soccer games for the youth from the two communities, we realised soccer was one of the best tools for preaching peace among the neighbouring communities, since playing soccer together especially among the youth reduces tension and reconciles communities living in tension,” reiterated Sereti. President of the United Visionary Care, Mr Harun Otwoma said the soccer exchange programme activities were sponsored by Rotary Club of Mississuaga International, Vaughan Soccer Club of Canada, Thornhill Soccer Club of Canada in partnership with Otwoma Soccer Academy to facilitate efforts of finding lasting peace solutions for the two communities who have been involved in tribal clashes in the past. Otwoma said the tribal clashes that involved the two communities in the past had left in their

“The introduction of soccer games for the youth from the two communities will ease tension between the two communities since sports, especially soccer, unites people and cements their relationship when they play in friendly and competitive matches.” — Hellen Katim, Executive Director of Emayan

wake many orphans and widows, retarding development in the region to the disadvantage of the communities. “The exchange programmes will facilitate children between the ages of five and 12 to be productively engaged in soccer activities and be integrated in local communities along the affected common border,” explained Otwoma.

Youth polytechnic receives hostel By BONIFACE MULU The Government will give out cheques worth KSh4 million to youth in Kitui Central District. The District Youth Officer, Mr Stephen Kitonga Salee made the announcement at the Syongila Youth Polytechnic when he officially handed over a hostel block to the board of governors. The hostel has been constructed by the Government at a cost of KSh5.8 million. The handing over certificate was received by the board chairperson, Mrs Angeline Mutua. The District Youth Officer received the certificate of completion of the hostel’s construction work together with keys for the contractor, Mr Kimanzi Mutemi.

Salee said Syongila Youth Polytechnic had been chosen by the Government as the best youth polytechnic in Kitui Central Constituency. “The ministry will give more funds as well as equipment to the institution,” Salee said. He added: “The Government will provide the institution with more instructors and construct more buildings.” The construction of the hostel was completed in November last year. “As the Government, we know that the building is now in your hands,” he said. The polytechnic’s manager, Mr Peter M. Kiama thanked the Government for constructing the hostel. “The project is going to solve accommodation problems for the students,” he said.


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

9

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Eastleigh sinking under poor infrastructure

Savings societies urged to support joint venture By CAROLINE WANGECHI

By EDWIN MAKICHE A fast growing business hub in Nairobi, Eastleigh has been on the limelight for long over its links with people of Somali origin. The suburb which some local traders have nicknamed ‘Kenyan Dubai’ or ‘Small Mogadishu’ is perhaps the leading spot in Nairobi where one can find towering shopping malls interspersed with residential houses. The most common goods found here include clothing, beauty products, foot wear and electronics. The streets are clogged with people from within and outside the country flocking to do their shopping. Business looks good here as different banks have opened up branches just as training institutions have taken up space within the newly constructed buildings. However, amid these developments, Eastleigh’s infrastructure shows a marked deterioration. Driving  from the city centre into this hub, mountains of decomposing garbage dumped by the roadside are a sign of the horrendous sights ahead. Dust and rubbish seem to be a permanent feature in Eastleigh. With a population of over a million people and rising each day, garbage collection has not been matching the demand. According to Jonathan Munabo, a watchman in one of the posh residential areas, he does not recall the last time the City Council truck collected garbage in this area. “Dust and murk has been part of this town and even with the danger that this poses to the resident’s hygiene, it is like nobody cares,” observes Munabo. Piles of waste stuffed into plastic bags confirm this. Some estates  have outsourced services of private firms who collect the garbage at a cost of KSh3,000 per month.

Poor Hygiene

In the estates around Eastleigh Maternity Health Centre, women under the leadership of Ms Zaitun Hassan, a health worker at the hospital are trying to find local solutions to the garbage problem by charging KSh20 per household to hire trucks to cart away the waste. Most of those living here are people of Somali origin. Even though they are trying their best to curb garbage pile up, water shortage bites harder on this side of town further aggravating the situation. “The Government seems to have forgotten this side of the city long time ago, we only see the City Council when they come for their rates or other operations apart from garbage collection,” laments Hassan. The road network is in a sorry state, most harbouring pools of stagnant water that make cruising impossible even during the dry season. Thanks to the shoddy road constructions here, most of the streets are impassable with heaps of soil blocking the way. These streets have been turned by the locals into dumping grounds for rubbish, old engines and used motor vehicles. Street urchins and charcoal vendors have found these neglected streets a perfect place to pitch tent. Monica Maina, a grocer at the city hub since 1999 says the cost of doing business in the area has

been soaring by the day but this does not reciprocate the services they have been receiving. She says security is a major concern especially since criminals come from the neighbouring Mathare slum. Street urchins also flock the town’s streets by day. “Several cases of muggings and robbery go unreported in this place. It only seems the major concern for the police in Eastleigh is illegal immigrants rather than protecting the residents,” says Maina. Getting into and out of Eastleigh An open garbage field overlooking the Moi air force First Street roundabout can take base in Eastleigh. Inset: One of the many dilapidated ages and a resident in this area will streets in the area. Pictures: Edwin Makiche tell you that traffic is part and parcel of Eastleigh lifestyle. The jam is not osks and hawkers are everywhere and you cannot only caused by motorists but human turn a corner without rubbing shoulders with a beings as well. Seas of people flock here everyday. couple of street urchins carrying loaded oily sacks. Hawkers, beggars, lunatics and street urchins as Turning to Captain Mungai Street, one has to well as food kiosks by the road side contribute to move carefully as the hawkers, open garages benarrowing of the streets making movement difside the road and dumped garbage on the stretch ficult. of this street give little options. On the part of this street, vegetation has grown on the middle of the road courtesy of uncollected garbage. Old buildings in Eastleigh are being brought down and construction work of multi-storey shopping malls is the in thing here. The filthy state beneath is, however, a diversion Water shortage remains a perennial problem from the grandiose mansions that stand here. A for most parts of the suburb. Most residents rely two bedroom flat will cost as little as KSh20,000, on water vendors from Mathare. According to Ali with others going up to KSh50,000 per month. Rashid, the water  supply has never been steady Most landlords ask for four months rent in advance. in most estates and sometimes taps run dry for Residents here blame the Government for the sorweeks on end. ry state of infrastructure saying that Eastleigh has “We depend on the water vendors especially been neglected. from Mathare and where they fetch the water is “Hakuna mtu anafikiria jambo nzuri kuhusu still unknown to us. We have been banking on Eastleigh. Hao watu wanafanya ni kama huku ni promises from the Nairobi Water and Sewerage upande wa Somalia na sio Kenya (No one thinks Company but nothing seems to be forthcoming,” anything positive about Eastleigh, they treat here says Rashid. as part of Somalia and not Kenya),” says one This situation makes life unbearable, espeyoung man. cially for residents  with large families and low However, not everyone here is mad with the economic ability. The water shortage also poses state of affairs. Most charcoal and water vendors are a health risk especially in overcrowded residenall smiles saying that business is good on this part tial  areas like California and Kijiji. Some landof Nairobi. They hail Eastleigh residents for being lords here have sunk boreholes within their exceptionally generous and on a good day a water buildings, an act that has raised concern espevendor goes home with over KSh1,500 profit. cially on the impact this will have on the build“Eastleigh has no special problem. It is only that ings foundation. life is becoming generally difficult in Kenya,’’ says With the unsteady water supply, the sewerage Momanyi, a water vendor. system is poor, characterised by blocked sewers He thinks the garbage problem is contributed and open gutters. The slow paced repair works partly by hawkers and street urchins and that there of the sewerage system by the Nairobi Water and is no place where the council can dispose the waste. Sewerage Company through Kazi kwa Vijana iniHe was not cooperative so I deleted his part. tiative further exacerbates the condition. Sharing the same sentiments is Jibril Farah, a Venturing deeply into the town one encounpublic health official in Eastleigh District Health ters more desperate situations. The streets here Centre which serves both locals and immigrants in are named after the Kenya’s military heroes unthe area. He cites overcrowding and poor hygienic fortunately their state are a shame. For example conditions as the main factors posing health risks what used to be Sergeant Major Kamugobe Street in the area. has been turned into a dumping ground, an oasis “Most of the ailments we deal with here are flu, of stagnant water saturated with murk creates an cholera among other airborne and waterborne disimpression of negligence.  eases. This arises from the ever swelling population But even that, the dwellers seem to be gratified and ever diminishing standards of basic facilities,” by this environment as some carpenters happily observes Farah. take food in food kiosks by the roadside. Food ki-

Water shortage

Profit

The proposed Cooperative Alliance of Kenya promises to give co-operative societies endless opportunities for their development and ability to position the movement in running of the country’s affairs. According the Minister for Cooperative Development, Mr Joseph Nyagah, the eight million member co-operative movement should rally around the proposed Co-operative Alliance of Kenya because it will not only give the movement a voice but will also provide an alternative investment avenue. Nyaga said it was unfortunate that despite their strength and control of a large stake of all sectors of the economy, the co-operative movement was unable to have a say in key decision making because it was disjointed. The Minister was speaking during the 34th Annual General Meeting of the Kirinyaga-based Muhigia Co-operative Savings and Credit Society. The movement was in a position to start investments that have grown into key drivers in the economy such as the Co-operative Bank of Kenya and the Co-operative Insurance Company. “We should learn from Columbia where coffee co-operatives own the national airline and Europe where the co-operative movement owns an international hotel chain,” said Nyagah.

Investment

He said a national conference will be called in Nairobi to design the structure of the Alliance so as to put it in place in time for the anticipated privatization of the New Kenya Co-operative Creameries and the state-owned sugar companies. “We want farmers who produce the milk and sugarcane and who are currently in small isolated societies to have more dividends from the sale of the products they produce,” he observed. Nyaga urged teachers, who are based in every corner of the country to rally other co-operators to the mooted alliance as they were in a position to influence social change in their communities. He said the introduction of the Savings Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA) had ushered in a new era of confidence in the societies and urged co-operators to invest more in their societies. These will be used as vehicles for other investments that members cannot be able to make on their own. “With SASRA, the ministry will have a reduced role in the supervision of cooperatives. Co-operatives will be expected to improve on their governance while the Ministry takes on the role of policy making only,” reiterated the minister. Nyaga asked current co-operative society members to encourage more youth to join the movement saying recent societies formed by the youth had shown tremendous success and created employment. “A society formed by touts and matatu drivers contributing KSh50 a day in Nairobi had seen the touts buy matatus of their own,” he observed.


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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Residents demand accountability in public funds By John Syengo Women in Kenyatta area of Yatta District of Machakos County have resolved to keenly monitor the use of devolved funds to forestall misuse of funds and ensure accountability and transparency. The women further resolved to closely monitor the use of monies allocated to projects through the Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF) and Constituency Development Fund (CDF) through community audit networks to ensure prudent use of funds. The resolution to make managers of the CDF and LATF funded projects accountable was arrived at during a one day civic education workshop organised by the Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRCE), a nongovernmental organisation at Kenyatta Market. By a show of hands, the women who attended the meeting whose theme was “The role of community members in implementation of projects”, resolved to intensify monitoring of how the funds are used. The resolution was necessitated by concerns raised at the workshop over the management of devolved funds in the area.

Awareness

Addressing the gathering, Mr Laban Cheruiyot, a representative from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Amkeni Wakenya project that funds the CHRCE civic education programme, told the residents to seek to enforce accountability in the use of government devolved funds. He said that the implementation of projects should not be secretive and all the information about the money allocated to projects must be given freely to the residents. “It is the mandate of the community to nominate managers of projects so that they can demand accountability from their appointees,” reiterated Cheruiyot. In order to ensure that project funds were not misused, the community should form “a people’s projects monitoring committee” that would seek the right information on how the funds allocated to projects are used. “These loose community project audit networks are free to query any dubious use of funds and ask the project management committees to fully account for all the money as a way of ensuring transparency and accountability,” he said. Cheruiyot said close monitoring of how devolved funds are used by the community would discourage wayward individuals from swindling the public by ensuring that they faced the law should they misappropriate the money.

Cheruiyot said that his organization was keen in bringing the desired change and improving the lives of Kenyans by propagating for accountability and transparency in use of funds.

Bursaries

Reacting to complaints by a number of participants that Government bursaries were allocated to children from wealthy backgrounds as well as the politically correct, the UNDP official said such a thing was not only outrageous but unlawful. “Government bursaries are meant for the needy students in the community. As a rule, beneficiaries are supposed to be picked by decentralized committees at the Locations and Sub locations who know the most deserving. You must demand that the law is followed,” said Cheruiyot. A civic educator from Kitui West, Mr Julius Nyerere Musangi said many students in his home area had been educated to university level through government bursaries and wondered why the same did not apply in Yatta Constituency. “CDF bursaries have supported the education of many children in other places; why is it that this area is exceptional?” he posed. “As a community we must demand that our needy children are allocated bursaries since it is our right.” Musangi further pointed out that all Kenyans have the right to unconditionally benefit from devolved funds allocated to their areas. Richard Tuta of the CHRCE noted that the organisation was not only enlightening communities on the need to monitor use of devolved funds but also on the need to participate in institutional reforms. “This will ensure proper and acceptable implementation of the recently promulgated constitution,” said Tuta. Another official from the CHRCE, Mr Daniel Muoti, said it was no longer prudent for community members to remain passive as public funds were being swindled. “You need to be extra vigilant and actively monitor as well as supervise public projects and blow the whistle whenever you suspect improper use of funds,” urged Muoti. A youth leader from the Constituency, Mr Stephen Masyula, had set the ball rolling

Government officials inspect an on going Constituency Development Fund project in Yatta Constituency. Women and youth in the area want to be briefed on how projects and funds are allocated. Picture: John Syengo when he said that transparency lacked in the use of CDF and LATF funds allocated to projects as the beneficiary community was never appraised on how money was utilised nor were the projects picked and if at all it was in relation to the community’s needs. “The truth of the matter is that CDF and LATF money has been used in a numbers of projects but these projects are neither selected by the community nor is the community updated on how the funds are used as the law dictates,” said Masyula. On his part, Timothy Mbuvwa Kilungu claimed that education bursaries only went to children of people with strong political connections. He said although he was a disabled person without a reliable income, like many of his

“You need to be extra vigilant and actively monitor as well as supervise public projects and blow the whistle whenever you suspect improper use of funds.” — Daniel Muoti, CHRCE official

ilk, efforts to get bursary for his children had always come a cropper. Ruth Muendo from Kyuasini village in Kenyatta location also remonstrated that due to the secrecy surrounding the way the CDF and LATF funds were used, it had been difficult for community members to have evidence on misuse of funds although a number of projects like the Ngangani borehole had stalled midway.

Dwindling hope

Agnes Ndulu, who is physically challenged lamented that despite being a single parent, attempts to secure a bursary for her children had not yielded any fruits. “I am now faced with a fee debt of KSh60,000 for my daughter who recently completed her secondary schooling,” said Ndulu. She claimed that although she had variously presented her case to the area MP, Mr Charles Kilonzo, no assistance has come her way. She regretted that due to the huge fee balance, her daughter will not able to obtain her school certificates that would enable her get employment or admission into college.

Elderly demand stipulated old age payment By AGGREY BUCHUNJU Old people in Kakamega County have not been incorporated in the programme being rolled out in other areas. The old men and women aged above 65 years in Kakamega County are now crying over the stipend programme in the county. The chair of Navakholo division over 65 years old forum, Mr John Wakhanu lashed out at the Government for allegedly implementing some of its vital programmes in a discrimina-

tory manner. “The Government should respect the new Constitution by treating people equally and providing a level play ground for all ethnic communities,” Wakhanu urged. He claimed that for many years the people of western Kenya have been discriminated against when it comes to major Government programmes that are meant to spur economic growth. “We have always been discriminated against by successive Governments. Are we not part of

this nation?” he posed. Wakhanu claimed further that the above 65 generation may soon perish since the group is not even allowed to access loans from financial institutions. Consequently, he appealed to the Government to spread the stipend programme to all counties so that all aged people regardless of their ethnicity and political affiliation can also benefit. “We want this programme to benefit all areas in the county and not a few selected ones,”

Wakhanu said. The stipend programme is being implemented in a few selected districts where people aged over 65 years are paid KSh1,500 per month. A senior officer at Kakamega Central District Commissioner’s office who spoke on anonymity to the Reject claimed that already 137 people above the age of 65 have been identified from the area to benefit from the programme. Wakhanu further demanded to know who and where they come from and the criteria used to identify them.


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

11

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

A unique celebration as Kenyan Jews mark Passover By JOHN KINYUA           If the power and authority Israel commands as a nation is anything to go by as far as the Jewish faith is concerned, then Nyandarua County is set to reap much. Every Israeli ambassador posted to Kenya must pay a visit to the Synagogue of the Messianic Jews Headquarters in Africa that is located in a remote village in Nyandarua North District. Here, the envoy will make important announcements. The recent visit by Mr Jacob Keidar, the current Israel Ambassador to Kenya was late last year when he pledged support for the improvement of medical facilities of local health centres started under the auspices of the Israel Government.

Mwingi warders demand referendum money By JOHNSON MUTUNGI Warders from the Waita Correctional Centre in Mwingi Central District are protesting over non payment of dues by the Interim Electoral Commission (IIEC). Twenty one warders at the Mwingi GK Prison say the electoral body owes them a cumulative amount which had not been paid after they provided security during the constitutional referendum poll held last August. Speaking to the Reject in Mwingi, the warders who did not wish to be named for fear of victimization by their bosses said each of them was entitled to Sh3,000 for the job. They claimed that although over 40 warders were deployed to provide security in both Mwingi North and Mwingi South constituencies during the referendum, all the others were paid promptly except the 21. “We are highly suspicious that our money was pocketed by a senior officer somewhere. The fact that some of us have been paid is evidence enough that money was released to pay us but was diverted. The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission should move in to investigate,” said a warder.

Synagogue

While Christians celebrate Easter with marking the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the KeChief Rabbi Stephen Mbatia nyan Jews celebrated their 40th Passover dedicated to the exodus from baptising new converts and slavery in Egypt at Knessiah Messiother faithful before the start of anic Jews Synagogue at Mairo-inya the Passover. Inset: Entrance to village some five kilometres from the Messianic Jews’Synagogue Nyahururu town. situated at Mairo-Inya village in Over 3,000 followers of the anNyandarua North. cient Israel Messianic Jews faith Pictures: John Kinyua. converged at their rural-based synagogue that also serves as the country headquarters, to celebrate During the festivities, the usually quiet vilthe Passover, the annual religious tradition oblage of Mairo Inya came to life, as an unusually served by Jews worldwide. large crowd of men spotting long beards and Unlike Christians who celebrate Easter, the women wearing long smocks snaked through Jews celebrate Passover, a holiday that comthe dusty path that leads to the prayer house.  memorates the exodus from Egypt after years Young men wearing kippa, the Jewish skullof slavery.  cap, were preparing food for the children and The Jewish festival is an eight-day event that the elderly, cleaning the washrooms, splitting commemorates the day slaves left Egypt and firewood or drawing water before sunset when falls within March and April. According to the the Reject visited the synagogue last month. Jews, this is also the start of a new year.   The Jews stayed in separate groups of men and women, often discussing the Bible or asking: “What is new from Israel?” The Jews who are farmers, traders, nurses, Chief Rabbi Stephen Mbatia quotes the doctors, teachers and chroniclers were drawn scriptures: “We consider ourselves the strangers from all regions of the country. A central feain the house of Israel that Jehova Elohim spoke ture of their life is the quest to migrate to Israel to Moses about in the wilderness. The book of and live life to the fullest. Ethiopian Jews have Numbers 15: 14-16 says: ‘And if a stranger soalready migrated to Israel. journ with you or whosoever be among you in “We shall walk by foot when the time comes,” your generations... so shall the stranger be besays Mr Joseph Gichuki, a Nairobi based Jew fore the Lord’. who had travelled all the way from the city to The Jews eat unleavened bread for eight days take part in the event. during this time. They do not eat any foods conAlso in attendance was a staunch Jew from demned in the Bible.  Israel Mr Assaf whose role was to witness and The start of the Passover last Sunday was ascertain that Kenyan Jews are indeed celebratpreceded by a baptism of new converts and uning the feast of Passover like other Jews across baptised faithful which was done by the Chief the world as prescribed. Rabbi through immersion at a synagogue pond

Festivities

Unaware

specifically built for the purpose. Afterwards there were teachings where the chief Rabbi disclosed that Kenyans were introduced to the Jewish faith by Andy Schummerkar, an Israeli national at Mairo Inya near Nyahururu town around 1970.

End of the world

He said the Kenyan Jews have been relating well with other faiths and have been contributing much in the nation building. They took part in alleviation of suffering of the IDPs during the 2007 post election violence. The Chief Rabbi is also opposed to the idea by a section of other believers that the world will come to an end in May, this year. “We are still waiting for a trumpet from the Messiah which we have not yet heard,” he says.   In the evening, the community assembled in their Synagogue to spend the night telling the story of getting out of Egypt. They recited verses from Passover Haggadah, a prayer book set aside for the feast.   “The holy book commands us to tell the story of the Jewish liberation so that each generation appreciates the strength and kindness of God and knows how the Jewish nation evolved,” says Rabbi Mbatia.

He said there seemed to be a move to buy time and hoodwink them that their case was being addressed. The warders say they were once asked to present their names and stations where they worked during the referendum but nothing has been forthcoming. However, the Mwingi North election coordinator, Mr Martin Malonza said he was not aware that some of the prison warders who officiated during the referendum poll had not received their dues. However, Malonza, clarified that all the money for the security provided by various arms of the disciplined forced was handled by the office of the Commissioner of Police . The Reject was, however, unable to get comments of the Mwingi OCPD, Mr Kenneth Kimani over the matter as he was said to be out of office. However, the Mwingi GK prison boss Benjamin Ngari confirmed that 21 of his charges who provided security during the referendum had not been paid their dues. Ngari, however, said he was optimistic that the payment would eventually be made as he had presented the list of the affected officers to the relevant authorities. “It is quite a long time since I presented the list of the officers who did not receive their pay but I hope the delay in paying has been caused by the long procedure involved in processing the payment. I believe they will be paid,” observed Ngari.

Shareholders urged to declare next of kin By AGGREY BUCHUNJU Share holders in co-operative societies and other institutions have been asked to identify their nominees. Bungoma South District Co-operatives Officer, Mrs Mary Mwangu said this would reduce legal tussles in families when they die. Speaking to Relisa House shareholders during the society’s annual general meeting at Bungoma Railway Station in Bungoma County, Mwangu urged them to ensure that they nominated people who could inherit their

shares. She was responding to the society’s national chair, Mr Michael Sande’s assertion that most Relisa House shareholders had declined to name nominees. Sande, had earlier in his speech pleaded with the members to fill nominee forms saying in future dividends will only be paid to shareholders who have nominees on record. Mwangu echoed Sande’s sentiments saying that at no given time should a shareholder fail to have a nominee on record since death is imminent.

“Members who are uncertain about who should be their next of kin have room to change nominees,” Mwangu explained. She challenged them to pick on at least one for the time being. Mr Makhanu Simba, a shareholder, told the Reject that polygamy was the main reason why most members were reluctant to name nominees. “Some of us with more than one wife are torn between first and subsequent wives because we fear the risk of being seen to be favouring one side,” explained Makhanu.

During the meeting, Philip Amwayi and Ben Watitwa were elected Relisa Bungoma Branch delegates. Relisa House is in Nairobi city centre. The house was bought in 1986 by 14,000 members at KSh11.5 million. The shareholders are former employees of the defunct Kenya Railways Corporation. They raised their shares through the then Railway Savings Co-operative and Credit Society Limited. According to the Relisa national chair, the house is currently valued at KSh139 million.


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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Content centre hosts team from Ford Foundation By FLORENCE SIPALLA

The Murang’a Content Centre recently hosted Dr Mauro Porto from the Ford Foundation office in Brazil. Porto who is responsible for the media rights and access programme in Brazil was accompanied by Dr Joyce Nyairo, the programme officer for media and civil society for East Africa. The visit provided an opportunity for Porto to visit different programmes funded by the Foundation under the media portfolio with a view to facilitate exchange of knowledge and ideas. “In Brazil, news media is centred in big cities. The dilemmas of other people are not represented in the media,” he said citing similarities between Kenya and Brazil. “There are entire populations of Brazil that are not covered because news media got used to covering elite groups,” Porto explained. He added: “That symbolic exclusion makes it difficult for certain communities to access their rights.”

Alternative platform

This resonated with the reason why the Reject came to be. The mainstream media gave little space for stories from marginalized communities. When they covered these issues, the stories were brief and mostly on negative aspects of life. “This is why we came up with an alternative platform to give a voice to the voiceless,” said Ms Rosemary Okello, Executive Director of African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWC) that publishes the Reject. The bi-monthly newspaper has empowered local people to articulate their problems and in turn access their rights. Some stories published in the Reject have achieved this. A story that exposed a birth certificate scam in Murang’a and its environs led government agencies to investigate the issue. In Brazil, like Kenya, cross-media ownership characterises the industry. The country is also in the process of discussing media laws that would govern the work of the media. The Media Bill that is currently under discussion in Kenya also raises the issue of cross-media ownership. Sharing and discussing legislation in this area would be one way of fostering south-to-south cooperation. Porto indicated interest in learning new ways the media can diversify issues to be raised in the press. He emphasised the importance of ensuring access to media for all peoples, as this would in effect address sys-

Dr Mauro Porto, program officer from Ford Foundation Brazil shares with Florence Sipalla, programme officer at the Media Diversity Centre during a recent visit at the Murang’a Content Centre. Picture: Media Diversity Centre temic exclusion. He was keen to learn the kind of stories the journalists were working on that were of concern to the local community. He also emphasised the importance of media work in undoing structural elements that sustain inequality. Porto cited the example of the media coverage of hurricane Katrina. New Orleans had previously not been given prominence in the media before the disaster. When the hurricane hit, the media showed this “Third World” segment of the American population like it was a new phenomenon yet they had always been there.

Build relationships

The Reject is produced with support from the Foundation’s initiative geared towards advancing public service media initiatives. Nyairo lauded the stories carried in the newspaper as they have “contributed towards minimising marginalization in the media”. She also added that the stories have

helped readers understand the texture of life in the communities covered. Murang’a Content Centre has formed good working relationships with the community in which the journalists work and live. They have a mentorship relationship with journalism clubs in schools within the locale. The centre has also worked closely with the prison, providing copies of the newspaper to the inmates and sharing experiences. The community in Murang’a is keen on stories published in the Reject. The centre coordinator shared an experience where a story on the skills building programme in the women’s prisons resulted in a member of the community donating salon equipment to 28 year old Esther Wanjiku who had just been released from prison after serving her jail term. This donation enabled Wanjiku to start a fairly successful business in the town. The content centre is a hub for networking for freelance journalists contributing to both print and broadcast media including vernacular radio stations.

Woman loses eye sight after toxic jab By JOHNSON MUTUNGI A 22-year-old expectant mother, has gone totally blind after she was allegedly injected with toxic drugs in an attempt to procure an abortion. The woman who hails from Mwambiu village in Nuu division of Mwingi East district was admitted at the Mwingi District Hospital where efforts were being made to restore her sight. Meanwhile CID officers from Mwingi had moved in to investigate the case in which the man responsible for the pregnancy and works at the Nuu Health Centre laboratory department could have been the cause of the woman’s predicament. Ironically, the woman was injected with the harmful drug months ago and soon thereafter she lost her eye-sight. It was not until Sister Benedetti Mueni who is in-

charge of the Catholic aided Nuu Vocational Centre learned of her plight and went to help. Speaking to the Reject Mueni said that she asked one of her teachers at the Vocational Centre to accompany the woman who had lost her sight to Mwingi District Hospital where efforts were being made to restore her sight.

Suspicious drip

Talking to the press at the hospital the woman said that before she was injected by staff at Nuu Health Centre where the father of the unborn child worked, she had sight. She said although she had another child from a previous relationship, she became pregnant soon after she developed a friendship with the Nuu Health Centre employee but resisted attempts by the latter to procure an abortion.

She claimed that initially, her boyfriend had liaised with another medical officer at the health centre and put her on a suspicious drip claiming she was suffering from serious malaria which caused blood to start oozing from her vagina. Once she was discharged after the drip debacle, the father of the unborn child did not relent in his quest to have the pregnancy terminated. He visited her home in the company of another medical officer in mid December and gave her two jabs on both thighs. “Days after they gave me the two injections on my thighs, I lost my sight and could not see again,” says the woman. She was unable to get immediate medical attention because she is an orphan and lived with her poor and elderly grandmother. She now seeks to have the man responsible for the pregnancy arrested and punished for the permanent damage he caused her.

Women call for improved skilled maternal health care By KEN NDAMBU Women in Lower Yatta District have appealed to the Government to equip the local dispensaries with facilities for expectant mothers to seek maternal care. Speaking at the Nthongoni Chief ’s camp, the women also urged the Government to carry out investigations on traditional birth attendants as expectant mothers suffer greatly under their care. The Coordinator of Tei wa Wo, a community based organization (CBO) which strives to enhance the rights of women, Mrs Jeniffer Nyumu said although several dispensaries have been opened in the district they lack maternity wings where expectant mothers can seek skilled care. She said due to the lack of the facilities, mothers turn to traditional birth attendants at the risk of losing their lives. “We have cases where the TBAs have kept mothers in labour for three days a situation that puts at risk the life of the mother and that of the baby,” explained Nyumu. She deplored high rate of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the area and urged the provincial administration and the Ministry of Health to sensitise the community on the dangers of the practice. “My experience as a teacher is that when girls are circumcised especially in adolescent stage, they abandon school and end up in early marriage,” she observed. Nyumu said her organisation has formed a watchdog group to work with the provincial administration in a bid to curb brewing and consumption of the illicit alcohol locally known as ‘kaluvu’ as it has serious effects on women. Area Chief, Mr Willy Mulwa praised Tei wa Wo for its efforts to uplift the living standards of women. “I also urge you to start income generating activities to improve their living standards” advised Mulwa.

Kitui game reserve to be fenced off By BONIFACE MULU

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has begun erecting electrical fencing and aerial resource mapping at the 1,833 square kilometres South Kitui National Game Reserve that will cost more than KSh100 million through funding from the International Fund for the Animal Welfare (IFAW). Kitui County Council Clerk, Mr George Wambua said that they were going to establish the cutline at the game reserve. The council is fencing the game reserve to protect the animals and also to tackle animal-human conflicts. Wambua said that there are two planes being used in aerial resource mapping at the game reserve. “As the fencing and resource mapping works are on going, many people especially the pastoralists who are herding livestock in the park as well as charcoal burners will have to be evicted,” said Wambua. He was speaking during the Kitui County Council meeting chaired by the council chairman, Mr Nzyoni Mang’uye. All the civic body’s 39 councillors attended the meeting. The Clerk said animals at the game reserve are secure. The game reserve is expected to bring wealth to the people of the Kitui County through tourism. “We call upon investors to come and put up lodges at the game reserve. Tourists will be coming to see the wildlife, said Wambua adding the park is endowed with a lot of minerals among other natural resources.


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

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Popular fish species depleted from Lake Naivasha By GEORGE MURAGE Back in the early 1980s, Lake Naivasha used to be the sole supplier of fresh fish to the capital city and the surrounding suburbs. Thirty years down the line, the popular and sweet tilapia species is no more as the present fish supply cannot sustain even the fishermen in the lake. Instead, the unpopular common carp species has found its way into the lake and unlike 30 years ago, an annual three months’ fish ban has been slapped on the lake. The lake is under attack from all corners with poaching and pollution playing a major role in the depleted tilapia stock. Every year as from June 1, to August 31, the lake is closed for re-stocking, a move that opposed by the fishermen.

Effects

Unlike the 1980s when the lake had tens of fishermen, the number has been reduced to 50 boats with ten nets each of four inches. The lake’s eco-system has also been adversely affected by agro-chemicals used in the horticultural farms and increased human activity arising from employment opportunities offered by the thriving trade. Researchers claim the chemical run-off from Naivasha town sewers and farms around the lake, which use its water for irrigation has also affected its bio-diversity. The toxic materials have also been pointed as another reason for the steady decline in the number of fish. According to a recent research by various bodies and scientists, the main problem facing the fishing sector is the drop in water levels.

Report

In a report ‘Towards Conservation of Lake Naivasha Fisheries’ by Mr George Morara of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), destruction of the habitat is one of the threats to fisheries. Others include illegal fishing, post harvest loses, effects of climate change and over fishing. The report says that the decline in fish size and number of fish species threatened the lakes fishery in 2001 and a ban was imposed. “Since then, low lake levels currently being experienced pose a natural danger to the fishery,” says Morara. In his recommendations, Morara says that the annual three-month ban is appropriate

adding that more effort should be instituted to protect breeding grounds. According to Mr David Kilo from the Lakes Anti-Poaching Unit, the ban was meant to increase the tilapia stock but a move that has failed. “Currently, getting a tilapia from the lake is almost impossible and we wonder of what benefit the ban is serving,” reiterates Kilo. He is however, quick to note that poachers are a major threat to the fishery as they have been fishing in breeding zones and using undersize nets. He reiterates that the huge water pumps used by the flower farms do suck in fish eggs. Effluent from the farms also plays a role in depleting the fish stock. Kilo’s sentiments are echoed by Mr Lucas Otieno who says gone are the days when one could solely rely on fish. He says that the popular tilapia is no more and they have to rely on the common carp species that is yet to be fully accepted in the market. “In the 1980s, the number of fishermen to

Plans to improve Lake Victoria water services By TITUS MAERO                            The quality of water being used for domestic purposes has deteriorated over time due to a number of factors that include increased industrialization. In most cases, this is as a result of effluent and chemical waste being discharged directly into water bodies. Speaking at the Kakamega Golf Hotel during the LVWSB annual stakeholders meeting, UNICEF Kisumu Office Programme Officer, Mrs Margaret Gwada said poor planning in urban areas coupled with the proliferation of unplanned settlements is a big challenge to efforts to provide safe and clean water. She reiterated that inadequate water distribution is responsible for the many diseases which afflict people in areas facing inadequate water supply. It is for this reason that UNICEF re-affirmed its commitment to partner with the Lake Victoria Water Services Board (LVWSB) in improving water services infrastructure in the

western region. Gwada said the organisation was working closely with the LVWSB to replace old infrastructure with new water pipes in the distribution of water in the region. “Lack of efficient water services in urban and rural areas have impacted negatively on the living standards of the people and hindered development activities from being initiated,” said Gwada. Gwada said UNICEF will continue working in partnership with organisations involved in the water sector in order to make the product accessible to the people especially those in informal settlements within urban areas. She said such water programmes had been initiated to reduce the distance to water points which pose a challenge particularly to women and children who bear the greatest responsibility of fetching water. “Most time is spent on fetching water hence compromising the girl’s education and time for other productive activities,” Gwada pointed out.

Fishermen in Lake Naivasha sell the common carp species to fishmongers at the Central landing beach. The popular tilapia species has been depleted from the lake Picture: George Murage the lake was unlimited but now its only 50 fishermen who are allowed into the lake meaning the others have lost jobs,” says Otieno. According to the Naivasha District Fisheries Officer, Mr Mathew Ngila, the Government had set aside KSh2m towards restocking of tilapia in the lake.

Tilapia

He says that the ministry has already introduced Nile Tilapia into the lake to compete with the dominant common carp species. Ngila says the project will run until June 2011 and will involve the introduction of fingerlings into the troubled lake. “In the last few years the number of tilapia species has continued to drop with common carp species going up and we want to change this,” says Ngila. According to statistics from the fisher-

ies department, fish production rose from 203,000 kgs in 2007 to 225,000 kgs in 2008 with the common carp been dominant. Despite reports of pollution by the farmers, a study on the status of Lake Naivasha two years ago declared the fresh body free of any pollutants. The report by world renowned researcher, Dr David Harper from the Leicester University in UK has instead added more heat than light to the lake described by many as ‘ailing’. “No measurable residues of any of the investigated pesticides were found in any of the samples taken from various points of the lake,” reads part of the controversial report. According to the report, a thorough analysis was carried out in independent Swiss laboratories of pesticide and fungicide residues using mass spectrometry and gas chromatography.

East Africa to benefit from environmental conservation By ODHIAMBO ODHIAMBO Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP) has set aside $30 million to be given out as grants to the riparian communities along the beaches of Lake Victoria. The cash will be given to organised beach management units (BMUS) and community based organisations (CBOs) for environmental conservation and community empowerment. The districts to benefit include Nyatike, Mbita, Homa Bay, Gwasii and Rachuonyo Districts. “The beach management units will spend the grant on constructing fish weighing shades and cold storage facilities among other things,” said Mr Fanuel Mosago, an official of National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), which is one of the implementing agencies. He said they had received 180 applications from CBOs and 23 BMUs in Nyatike District but left out Migingo Island because it was still under ownership dispute between Kenya and Uganda. Mosago said each group will receive up to KSh5 million grant adding that the programme was also taking place in other East African member states. “The aim of the eight-year project is to improve the management of trans-boundary natural resources in the lake basin,” said Mosago. The World Bank through the International Develop-

ment Association (IDA) and the East African partner states are funding the project. Other sources funding the project are Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). The overall programme cost in the East African region is $252.7 million. The project aims to reduce environmental stress in Lake Victoria Basin and to enhance the basin’s ecological integrity in addressing environmental threats. “The project aims at controlling and preventing sources of pollution besides boosting the basin’s cultural as well as economic value by involving communities in natural resources management,” noted Mr Mosago. He added: “Improving livelihoods is part of the project’s mandate.” Another objective of the project includes improving economic growth and equity among riparian communities. The project is being coordinated by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC). The LVEMP is implemented in selected river catchments within the Lake Victoria Basin. In Kenya, the project is being implemented in the Nyando River Basin which covers an area of 3,550km2 and traverses Kericho, Nandi, Nyando and Kisumu. The project will also be implemented along the lake’s shore stretching from Busia in Western Province to Nyatike in Nyanza.


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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Flower farms Frustrations in tobacco farming leaves shed rogue farmers weighing other options tag through renewable energy By ODHIAMBO ODHIAMBO

By DAVID NJAGI Flower farm workers in the North Eastern flank of Mount Kenya are racing ahead of time as they seek alternative means to lighting their home. While some can claim a slice of the benefits of solar technology, others hope to tap energy from a successful biogas project which is at its pilot stages. At Tambuzi Flower Farm in Burguret Village, the workforce has the farm’s management to thank for a solar kit that is now lighting up hundreds of homes in the location. The production manager at the farm, Ms Rebecca Muthiani estimates that in a month a household would spend about KSh600 alone, a cost that weighed heavily on most people due to their limited income. “That is when the management decided to intervene by introducing the solar unit to the workers, which can power homes with LED light and also charge a mobile phone,” explains Ms Margaret Hobbs, one of the senior managers at the farm. According to Hobbs, the solar unit can generate a voltage of up to five watts and has a lifespan of about 20 years. “The demand for energy is usually a heavy burden that poor homesteads have to bear,” explains Hobbs. She adds: “That is why we thought of introducing an off grid energy technology to our workforce.” Depending on the need of the moment, the unit is a simple solar energy technology that can be assembled manually to power a portable lamp, radio system as well as charge a mobile phone.

Fertilizer

The innovation that appears to be changing the lives of flower workers living here has also taken its place in the farm. A worm shed that generates fertilizer and mulch has residents baffled on how a simple innovation could change the usually arid Burguret into the next food basket. Managing Director at the farm, Mr Tim Hobbs explains how waste yarn is collected from the pack house and spread on an elevated bed which has been enriched with earthworms. “It is then broken down by the worms to generate worm tea, which is a kind of fertilizer manufactured naturally,” says Hobbs. “It is then fed back into the farm as fertilizer or mulch.” A few hours’ drive away in Timau, the community in Buuri District will soon know the value of both human and animal waste. A pilot biogas plant at Gundua Secondary School is already generating energy from sludge from the students’ lavatories. Project Manager, Mr Charles Ndaya says the project has been going on for three months, but the school has Kisima Flower Farm to thank for the development. According to Ndaya, energy generated from the plant is used in the school’s laboratories as well as in the kitchen for cooking. “This project has enabled us avoid digging many holes in the school because the waste is recycled to generate biogas,” explains Mr Martin Mwiti Marangu, the head teacher. He is also hopeful that more investment will be channelled into the facility to generate enough energy to sell to the community.

A drive through the agriculturally rich South Nyanza reveals a life of misery and hopelessness. The  locals have joined the long list of Kenyans who are faced with starvation as a result of insufficient food stock. They are also struggling to make ends meet because  they have not been able to make any savings from their farming activities. The over dependence on tobacco farming by the residents of Migori, Uriri, Rongo, Kuria West and Kuria districts for many years have not helped them to break away from the yoke of poverty. Besides sugarcane, this is the main cash crop the residents rely on for their livelihood. A few  people living along the beaches  of Lake Victoria still depend on fishing although the sector is also faced with challenges such as dwindling fish stocks, poor infrastructure and recurrent cross border conflicts. Majority of tobacco farmers are living in ramshackles  and cannot afford  basics such as paying school fees  in decent learning institutions. School dropouts rate have also been high in the districts due to the involvement of children in tobacco farming.

Little pay

A former Action Aid Kenya programme coordinator in the Kuria region, Mr Lucas Chacha says tobacco farming has done more harm than good to the locals. It fetches little money although it is labour intensive. “It also exposes the children and adults to myriad health problems,” he argues. Some farmers have deserted tobacco farming  for other early maturing cash crops such as soya beans, arguing that  the cost of farm inputs such as fertilizers  and the overall cost of living had shot up. Despite these problems, leaf buying companies still pay them peanuts. The main companies operating in the region include Mastermind, BAT Kenya and Alliance One. The latter is a tobacco merchant exporting leaf to Europe and other parts of the world and is not engaged in cigarette manufacturing. Tobacco farmers in South Nyanza, which is the biggest producer  of the cash crop in the country, have now written a protest letter to the leaf buying companies to review prices upwards. They have threatened to uproot the crop from their farms. The farmers organised sensitisation meetings in all the districts where they resolved to carry out leaf delivery boycott threat. Their leaders Mr John Magaiwa, Mr Charles Nyangi and Mr Gesamba Mwita said they had received information that the companies were planning to use the provincial administration to intimidate them but vowed to stay put. The companies  increased the cost of the highest leaf grade to about KSh103 per kilo but the growers want to be paid at least KSh200 for the highest grade. The poorest grade fetches below KSh20. Statistics show that there are over 20,000 farmers in the region.

Outcry

The buying season usually begins in March of every year. “We have been exploited for a long time and this time we are saying no. We have been putting our lives at risk by attending to our farms without protective gear such as aprons and gloves only to be paid peanuts,” said Mwita. Another grower, Mr Moses Mosabi quipped: “Even though we need money to take our children to school, we are ready to keep our cash crop to give to other well paying buyers.” Even though the farmers now want to keep their crop, the firms gave them loans for farm development which are usually deducted when their produce is bought. They have also signed a binding contract with the multi–national companies. Mastermind employees in the area also expressed  similar sentiments. “We have given

A tobacco plantation. Below: workers attending to their tobacco farm. Pictures: Courtesy heatingoil.com and tobaccotobamboo.org them a good deal but some leaders want to win their sympathy by whipping unnecessary emotions. We believe sobriety will prevail when the market starts,” said a company official who asked not to be named because authorised to address the media on official matters. He argued that the grading system was important in determining the quality of tobacco. Kuria MP and suspended Roads Assistant Minister, Mr Wilfred Machage has in the past called on his constituents to discard tobacco farming and grow well paying food crops. Machage  said leaf buying companies  had continuously ignored the farmer yet he was backbone of their operations. In a bid to introduce an alternative crop in South Nyanza, the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) has set aside a parcel of land in Lichota Migori to be used as a soya beans seed bulking centre in a pilot project. The immediate former LBDA chairman, Mr Owigo Olang said they supported soya beans farming to improve the livelihood of the Nyanza residents most of whom are languishing in abject poverty and facing acute food shortage. The chairman of the Kenya Soya Beans Farmers Association (Kesofa), Mr Hezron Kivandah says the crop is rich in protein, carbohydrates and has a medicinal value. “We  are now in the process of supplying certified seeds to our registered farmers in the 18 districts in Nyanza and Western provinces. These seeds are being supplied by the Tropical

Some farmers have deserted tobacco farming for other early maturing cash crops such as soya beans, arguing that the cost of farm inputs such as fertilizers and the overall cost of living had shot up.

Soil Biology Fertility (TSBF) centre based at the Maseno University,” Kivandah explained. Soya matures within a period of three months although this depends on the variety chosen by the farmer. “We want to do agriculture as a business and bring in value addition. We have long term plans to set up processing factories in the Western region  through collaboration with other partners,” asserted Kivandah. Buyers of the crop currently include individuals, hotels and cooking oil manufactures. “Besides being consumed by human beings, soya is also used in manufacturing animal feeds and foodstuffs for people living with HIV/Aids because of its high protein  content,” explained Kivandah.

Soya beans

According to experts, the soya bean is environment friendly because it fixes its own nitrogen through the root nodules. It also absorbs carbon thereby reducing the green house effect. The crop also sheds all its leaves when it matures. Soya beans products in the Kenyan market include soya tea, soya milk and soya cake which are slightly expensive because of the crop’s low production in the country. “We have a very conducive weather pattern in Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley provinces for soya farming except that most farmers appeared ignorant about its economic and heath benefits. We  spend  a lot of money to import  when we can produce it locally and export the surplus,” said farmer Mr Samuel Kibea. The crop  fetches KSh35 per kilogramme and one acre  is able  to produce between five and eight 90 kg bags and the best variety is resistant to drought. It can be inter-cropped with maize since soya will provide nitrogen  for it. Mr Moses Okello says he spent KSh19,600 to develop   his farm and earned a profit of KSh57,200 from the soya sales.


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

farmers Light at the end of the Cane tipped on tunnel for cotton growers building strong institutions

By BENDARO TSUMA

After many years of frustration over prices, there is a glimmer of hope in Mpeketoni, Lamu district in the Coast Province. This follows the gazettement of new prices for the crop that has perpetually been regarded as “useless and time consuming”. The Cotton Development Authority (CODA) announced that cotton will be bought at KSh32 per kilogram from the farmer, up from KSh27 and sometimes even lower when bought by brokers. The new prices were effective as from the last planting season.

By ODHIAMBO ODHIAMBO

Cane farmers within the Sony sugar belt have been asked to form strong co-operative societies in a bid to improve their welfare. Sony Sugar Company Managing Director, Mr Paul Odhiambo Odola told about 30,000 growers in the Southern Nyanza region to form societies to enable them acquire loans to buy their own cane transporting tractors. He said the associations should also help them set up fertilizer importing firms The CODA Coast regional instead of leaving this responsibility to coordinator, Mr Jaxton Ondiko the miller. said strict measures have been “We want Sony to only concentrate in put in place to bar middlemen milling sugar. Other duties such as transand brokers from accessing the portation, weeding, harrowing and harcrop from farmers. vesting as well as fertilizer supply should “The brokers have largely be handled by the farmers,” Odola told been the cause of the ever the Press in his office. plummeting cotton prices that Odola noted that currently the comled to the near collapse of the pany is doing these activities for the sector in the country,” observed Officials of Cotton Development Authority join cotton farmers to tend to young crops in Mpeketoni farmers because they had no financial Ondiko. where they recently announced measures to revamp the sector that has been on its death bed. capacity to undertake them. Charges A cotton farmers Open Day Picture: Bendaro Tsuma for these services are deducted from the in Bahari area in Mpeketoni farmers’ accounts during cane delivery within Lake Kenyatta Settlepayments. “Cotton farming is very difficult. The inputs censed dealer or buyer to produce for him. ment Scheme Phase One and “Since the death of Sony Outgrowers are expensive and the buying price has been too Coast Provincial Director of Agriculture, Ms Phase Two in  Lamu District witnessed farmCompany (SOC), farmers in this region low. We have been subjected to a lot of discourFaith Onyango said the Government would asers’ express anger over the frustration they had have not thought it wise to start strong agement and have almost given up on cotton sist farmers double their production through faced in the cotton sector. and viable institutions to help them congrowing,” said Ngwate. seeds, fertilizer and expertise. Mpeketoni is a major cotton growing area at solidate capital to improve their wellCODA was developing a marketing strategy the Coast Province and was the cotton basket being,” he observed. for cotton and commercialization of the agrifor a long time in the 1980s until brokers came He said ginneries which were operated by culture industry. in and destroyed the industry. brokers offered between KSh15 and KSh24 per The country has a demand of 200,000 bales As a measure to revive the sector, cotton inOdola noted it was unfortunate that kilo despite the Government fixing the price at of cotton annually but produces only 20,000. spectors had been employed and given powers “politics was the most active and growKSh30 in the past. The huge deficit is filled by imports from Tanzato prosecute brokers found buying the crop diing industry in Nyanza” saying this had He said the price of insecticide for spraying nia, Uganda and other African states. rectly from the farmers. led to the demise of many industries in the crop has risen from KSh500 to KSh1,200 Earlier during the meeting, farmers ex“CODA will license specific buying centres the region besides demoralizing potenover a short time. He added: “You can not meet pressed anger and frustration over the Governin each growing area. There shall also be litial investors. a KSh25 production cost per kilo and then sell ment’s lack of concern for the industry. censed buyers and they alone will be allowed to He said they were paying farmers beat KSh25 per kilo. It is irrational.” The crop Lamu Cotton Seed Farmers Association asbuy cotton from farmers,” explained Ondiko. tween KSh100 million and KSh120 milrequires spraying every week for the first four sistant chairman Mr Moses Mugwate and Balion monthly but the cash was not visible weeks months. hari Councillor Mr Reuben Karanja said cotton in the cane growing villages due to reckFarmers cannot buy fertilizer as they are A CODA director Mr Mwangi Migwi asfarming was difficult and needed incentives less lifestyles. poor. The crop requires four weeding sessions sured the farmers that new regulatory rules had from the Government. “Our people are not putting their before it begins to produce and is labour intenbeen introduced to revive and regulate the sec“None regulated low prices, high inputs and earnings into good use by investing in sive. tor including price control and stabilization. general high production costs are the main long term initiatives. They consume the “As a result of the frustration, members of “One of the rules the Government passed is problems to cotton farming. We need the Govcash as soon as they receive it from the the Lamu Cotton Seed Growers Association that all cotton cloths manufactured in the counernment to be firm in regulating the sector and bank,” he explained. have reduced from 6,000 to only 1,500 today try must use locally grown cotton,” said Migwi. help us,” explained Mugwate. The CEO said Sony had embarked on and more are leaving,” explained Ngwate. He added: “Farmers also must only sell their Earlier, it was difficult to convince the farma five-year strategic plan to make its opHowever, he was optimistic that with the produce to registered dealers.” ers that the sector was headed for better times. erations more efficient and cost effective measures put in place to revive the sector, farmThe other rule is contract farming where They said such promises had been given before ahead of the planned competition with ers will go back to growing the crop. each farmer will be contracted by a specific libut never came to pass. the cheap sugar from the Comesa member countries. He said Uganda and Tanzania had only three taxes being levied on sugar while Kenya had 13 and this pushed up the overall cost of production. Odola said Kenya Sugar Research Foundation (KESREF) was in the process benefits of the local farmers. He said: “Kitui is He said that the horticulture sector is booming By BONIFACE MULU of developing a variety of early maturing one of the few areas in Kenya that have the best business in Kenya. cane seeds to replace the current variety soil for water melon farming and local residents “The HCDA funds education or extension serPlans are underway to boost horticultural secwhich took between 18 and 24 months should make use of that benefit to enrich themvices for farmers in the country,” said Ngumbau. tor by building the capacity of the farmers. in the farms. selves.” Speaking at the end of a two-day education For this purpose the Horticultural Crops “A seed that matures within 12 Kitui has also been found to have very good seminar organised by the HCDA for farmers Development Authority (HCDA) has set aside months is expected to be rolled out in soil for grape farming. Ngumbau lauded the from the Kitui County, Ngumbau said the auKSh70 million for educating farmers in the the farms in Nyanza and Western provKenya National Chamber of Commerce and Inthority has 13 directors appointed by the Presicountry within its 24 centres. inces soon and this will enable farmers dustry (KNCCI) Kitui branch for its good leaddent who serve under the managing director. A director with the authority, Mr. Kennedy to get quick returns from their sweat,” ership and asked the local business people who He said HCDA will fund growing of indigNgumbau Mulwa, made the disclosure at the Odola said. had not joined the branch to do so. enous mangoes in the Ukambani region for the Mutune Social Centre in Kitui District recently.

Brokers

Price increase

New rules

State to build capacity in horticultural sector

Strategic plan


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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

All for the love of children By KAMBI KALALA     

Anyone who embarks on a business enterprise has one thing in mind: profit. However, one woman’s eccentricity has set her apart. Lucy Mariga, 46, proprietor of Joy Angels Baby Care Centre in Majengo has a big heart for babies. Every time she mentions the word ‘baby’, her face lights up. The numerous toys that adorn her spotlessly clean office are a clear testimony of the motherly love she has towards children. After high school, Mariga went to college and studied Catering and Institutional Management. Among other subjects, she studied baby care and nutrition which was a plus in her future endeavours. However, despite this she always hungered for a job where she would work with children. Her dream was to start a centre to cater for them. This was realised in 2008 when she opened a unique child care centre, the only one of its kind in the entire Kilifi County.

Non-profit making

While many would expect her to be reaping huge profits out of this business, Mariga is running the project purely out of her love for children. “I earn absolutely nothing from this project in terms of financial returns apart from the fact that I feel profound contentment doing what I really love,” she says. Mothers who have to go to work and do not have house helps have found a sense of hope from the centre. The mothers leave their children aged between eight months and five years at the centre during the day and collect them in the evening. They pay a small fee for this. However, the centre, like any other institution faces its own challenges. The mothers are supposed to provide food for their children. However, not all of them bring the food and many times Mariga has to dig deeper into her own pocket to feed them. Then there are mothers who can leave their children at the Centre for many days without prior arrangement. “Some mothers, especially the commercial sex workers leave their children here and disappear for several weeks with European clients. They later turn up and refuse to pay for the services rendered,” she says. “It is always a joy to have the children around. A baby’s laughter fills my heart with emotion and my mind with beautiful thoughts,” she says. On a good day, Mariga can receive as many as 10 children of varying ages, whereas other

Mariga’s eldest daughter Sharon assists the children during a birthday party of one of the children last year. Inset: Lucy Mariga the proprietor of Joy Angels Baby Care Centre. Pictures: Kambi Kalala times she has to make do with a only two. However, during school holidays she gets fewer children because the older siblings are at home to take care of them. However, at monthend, more are brought in since house helps usually travel to their rural homes. In addition, Mariga receives school-age going children on weekends and in the afternoon after classes. “What the parents pay is enough to settle the salaries of my three employees and rent. Otherwise, I have to foot the other expenses from my earnings,” explains Mariga who also works as a housekeeper at a beach resort.

She clarifies that she does not get funding from donors. “I run the place single-handedly. Even my husband is out of the picture,” she says. Mariga recently opened a second hand clothes shop whose proceeds she can use to run the centre. Just like any other business undertaking, the Centre is licensed by the Malindi Municipal Council. Public health officers regularly visit to monitor sanitation conditions. Does she ever harbour fears of mothers abandoning their babies at the Centre? Mariga rules out that possibility and explains that mothers who leave their babies with her must

“It is always a joy to have the children around. A baby’s laughter fills my heart with emotion and my mind with beautiful thoughts,” —Lucy Mariga

Bank comes to the aid of children’s home By KEN NDAMBU and BONIFACE MULU The Kitui Baby’s Home which was on the verge of collapse has been given a new lease of life. The home was faced with food shortages among other essential amenities. The National Bank  of Kenya, Kitui branch, responding to the institute’s call for save our souls (SOS) donated foodstuffs worth KSh100,000 appealed to other financial institutions to come forward and assist homes for disadvantaged children. Led by Kitui branch manager Eric Mwandacha, the bank staff said they were touched by the plight of the orphaned abandoned children who have found a home at the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) facility. The home that started in 1980s is currently housing over 30 children under the age of five with the youngest being one month old. “We were touched to learn than this home is caring for such young children and we felt obligated to help,” explained Mwandacha. The home received rice, biscuits, sugar, cooking fat among other food items. The manager of the home, Ms Dorcas Mureithi said that the facility was faced with challenges such as lack of funding and food which was affecting its operations. “Some of the children are collected in hospitals where they are abandoned by their mothers, others are brought in after being abandoned in the streets

while others are orphans,” she disclosed. The home is facing other challenges as Mulango Children’s Home where they are referred to after attaining the age of five is facing closure due to lack of support. “Should this happen, the institution will have no alternative but to look for a way of uniting the children with their parents or guardians though it will be a hard task,” she said. Mureithi thanked the bank for the gesture and asked other groups to emulate the institution. The home with 32 babies was started in 1980 from the Mulango AIC Children’s Home that was started in 1978. “We receive and take care of babies who are between zero and five years old from all parts of the country,’’ Mureithi said. The home receives money from the Africa Inland Church at the end of every month which is used in taking care of the babies. “The Africa Inland Church has only two baby homes in Kenya, in Kitui and Kericho,” Mureithi disclosed. She further revealed that after taking care of the babies at the Kitui AIC Baby Home for five years, they take them to the Mulango AIC Children’s Home and others to their relatives. Their nurturing capacity is only five years. A volunteer at the home, Ms Christine Corrigan said that although the children do not have their biological parents, volunteers were working hard to give them parental care and love.

have their identity cards scrutinised and phone numbers taken. Her love for children is so deep that she has acquired a piece of land at Maziwani in the outskirts of Malindi town where she plans to start a children’s home to cater for orphans and other less privileged children in the society. It is from the same love that she has on several occasions donated sacks of maize which she grows at her farm to a friend’s orphanage in Nairobi. Mariga has also sunk a well at the farm to assist the local community access free water instead of them have to trek long distances in search of the precious commodity. “It saddens me to see expectant mothers walk long distances in search of water,” she says. One would be forgiven to imagine that Mariga has no children of her own. She is a mother of two girls and a boy. The eldest is studying accountancy at a Malindi college while the other two are still in secondary school.

Teachers demand academic excellence status for special schools By JOEL JUMA The Government should elevate some of the special schools to national status to avoid discrimination of physically impaired students. The Kenya Special Schools Head Teachers Association also demanded that the Government set aside funds to establish centres of academic excellence for special children in constituencies. The Association said the Minister for Education, Professor Sam Ongeri should ensure each region gets a national school to cater for the needs of physically challenged children to curb their isolation. “We should not be left out during the expansion of schools by the Government the way we were left out during creation of centres of excellence last year,” said Arthur Injenga. Injenga said that the proposal by the Government to elevate two secondary schools from each County to national status should ensure that special schools are not left out. Each of the schools that will be elevated to the national status is set to get

over KSh100 million for expansion of facilities. Inspection of the schools set to be elevated is already being done around the country. None of the special schools in Western province have been considered for elevation as well as receiving funds for expansion as centres of excellence. Western Provincial Director of Education, Mr Kenneth Misoi said that several schools which include Butere Girls’, St Peters Mumias and Kakamega High have already been inspected in Kakamega County. “Inspection reports will be used by the Government to ascertain the schools that merit elevation,” Misoi said. Injenga who was speaking at a Mbale Hotel in Vihiga County during a head teachers meeting faulted the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) for not ranking candidates who sat for national examinations in their own category. “The students from special schools need to be ranked alongside their schools the way it is done for others,” said Injenga.


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Raising the red flag on autism By FAITH MUIRURI His broad smile and agility perfectly conceals his lost links with speech. At first he mumbles a few words and then suddenly reverts into incoherent speech to reveal his impairment in communication. He faintly recollects himself but is quickly distracted by music that is playing loudly to entertain hundreds of children and parents who have gathered to mark the Autism Day. Adrian Karanja is only eight years old but unlike other children his age, he has difficulties engaging in meaningful conversation. He is only able to mumble a few words and phrases but that has not stopped his zeal for music. He hums to the musical tones which appeal to his senses. His mother, Ms Catherine Gitonga says that her son will only remain attentive as long as some music is playing in the background. Managing a child with this impairment is not easy. Gitonga was forced to quit her job as an hotelier after her son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.

Autistic children mark the autism week in a gig at the GOAN Institute grounds. Most mothers have been forced to carry the burden of taking care of the children. Picture: David Njagi a child is born. In Kenya, the actual number of children affected by autism is unknown as there are no statistics. There is also very little support for families who struggle to raise children with this condition. Since there is no medical test for ASD, diagnosis is done through a clinical setting. A diagnosis is best determined by a team of professionals through observation, play and testing of the child. This is coupled with interviews with parents or guardians. Because ASD is a spectrum disorder, children with autism are unique in their capabilities and challenges.

Burden of care

According to Ms Trixie Pujol, secretary of Autism Awareness Kenya (AAK), the condition is characterised by impaired social interaction, speech development and signs of restricted behaviour. Owing to myths associated with autism, however, mothers have wrongly been accused of causing the condition by being cold and unloving to their children. “This is not the case because autism is caused by genetic factors that may be environmentally triggered,” explained Pujol during an interview with the Reject. She says most mothers with autistic children have been forced to carry the burden that comes with taking care of the children.

The fact that most mothers actually take the blame has often led to delay in seeking treatment. “This prevents the child from getting the necessary intervention,” says Pujol. Autism affects one in 90 children worldwide. However, through early intervention a child may reach their developmental potential. In Kenya, intervention is limited since there are only ten speech therapists in the country. Currently medical practitioners are engaged in clinical trials of a technology that will help detect such cases at an early stage and correct the situation from between five to six months of pregnancy. Speaking at the event to mark autism day, Dr G Ogutu says trials of the new technology are already in place and this will help bring down the high levels of children with autism in the country. “It is important that pregnant mothers to attend prenatal care clinics to ensure that such cases are detected at an early stage and remedial action taken,” urges Ogutu.

Awareness needs to be created around condition By DAVID NJAGI The communication bar that is expected to bridge the stigma gap between autistic children and the society is missing. The media has been accused of not playing its role in educating and raising awareness on the condition. “It is once in a while that there is media coverage on autism. This is never enough because there are many children in Kenya suffering from the condition,” says Karolien Remmerie of the Special Education Professional association (SEP). “Extensive media coverage would enable more people know how they can help these children and their families.” In many African communities, the condition has been associated with a curse or witchcraft and hence the stigma and social ills that come in its wake. The Special Education Professionals, a volunteer organisation blending therapists and special needs teachers, has taken it upon themselves to raise awareness on the condition. From Kariobangi to Korogocho and Kibera slums, a helping hand has found cheer in the forgotten children of Kenya. Many autistic children have grown up to

Technology brings hope for early detecting disease By DAVID NJAGI

Denial

I suspected something was wrong with my son when at two years he had not uttered a word,” says Gitonga who suffered complications at delivery. Initially all the relatives were in complete denial. Karanja was born just a few moments after his paternal grandfather committed suicide. The family, therefore, associated his condition with the horrific act. He underwent several cleansing rituals to correct the condition but all was in vain It was then that Gitonga woke up to the reality that her son was suffering from autism, a condition that affects speech development. It is at this juncture that she sought medical help. Currently Karanja is enrolled at Buru Buru Phase 1 Primary School. Although other children in the school are reaping benefits of free primary education, Karanja’s mother has to pay KSh10,000 to cater for his special needs. Karanja is not alone in this dilemma. There are many other children suffering from this condition. Lui Mui is only two and a half years but his love for cars is insatiable. His mother Miriam Ndinda Mweu who is a laboratory technician with the AAR says that she has had to buy a car to contend with her son’s condition. “Anytime I took him along to the supermarket, he would go straight to find car toys and would cry until I bought him one,” Mweu explains. Mui was diagnosed with autism in October, last year. “This prompted me to do extensive research on autism and all the information I have gathered correspond with every medicine prescribed to my son. However I believe that one day my son will be able to express himself coherently,” Mweu explains with a tinge of optimism. Autism Spectrum Disorder (referred to as ASD) is a life long developmental disability that typically appears during the first 36 months after

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

be great men and women. For instance, Albert Einstein the father of modern physics, Thomas Edison of the electric light bulb fame and even Dr Temple Grandi, she who invented the hug machine to calm hypersensitive persons were all autistic. Perhaps, it is this kind of achievement among autistic persons that puzzles Remmerie, when she is faced with the question of what inspired her into this kind of work.

Special education

An occupational therapist who has lived in Kenya for 20 years, Remmerie believes her upbringing in a social family may have steered her into the work at Special Education Professionals. The professional’s daily brief include passing on parenting skills such as how to dress, wash, carry as well as communicate and play with the child. “Many children grow at their own pace but if a parent understands the situation it is possible to groom the child to the next potential,” explains Remmerie. “We also inspire parents to believe that they can be able to do more than they are capable of handling at the moment.” For an organisation that has pitched tent in the affluent parts of Muthaiga at Gertrude Hospital, it would possibly not occur to many Kenyans that

SEP would be keen on rubbing shoulders with the rank and file of the society. According to Remmerie, most of her team’s time is spent in the slums reaching out to poor families who cannot afford private therapy intervention or purchase the adaptive equipment for their autistic children. The organisation has been keen in helping break stigma among families with autistic children in Nairobi slums. However, Remmerie acknowledges that the trend where parents hide their children is still deeply ingrained in the wider society. The professionals also have projects in Thika and Mai Mahiu. “We also visit different places on request like Nakuru and Garissa but our wider dream is to become a professional training centre so that we can reach out to the rest of the Kenyan society,” explains Remmerie. The Autism Society of Kenya (ASK) says it is difficult to present a figure on how many cases of autism are reported every month because many parents still hide their children. Shortage of doctors has been a stumbling block. Currently there are only four doctors who are able to deal with the condition. However, according to Ms Felicity Nyambura of ASK, Kenya needs at least one doctor for every five autistic patients to post an impressive success rate.

Soon it will be possible for mothers to tell whether their unborn children are autistic. Through a molecular technology that analyses blood samples obtained from a pregnant mother, physicians say it will now be possible to trace strains of autism in an unborn baby. If successful, this move will save the country millions of shillings that are currently spent in postnatal management of the disorder. The Africa Relief and Health Programme (ARHP) is in its final trials of a research initiative that will be able to detect autism from the time a mother conceives, then treat the condition even when the foetus is just five months. According to ARHP’s executive director, Dr Maxwell Ogutu, the technology is the first of its kind in Africa but has been used in Europe and proven to be the modern way of containing autism. “We want to reduce the risks of a child being born with these autistic references,” explains Ogutu. “When a woman is pregnant we take a sample of blood to the laboratory and through the molecular technology we are able to tell and trace the element of autism.” Ogutu says the technology has a success rate of 48.7 per cent depending on the age of the unborn baby. “Once we find a trace of autism in the blood sample we are able to restructure the gene,” says Ogutu. “The younger the baby, the better but the older it gets the more the situation becomes difficult to manage.” While the research is being conducted in conjunction with the University of Nairobi and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Ogutu says the other development partners include USAID, Norwegian government as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Few doctors

However, the Autism Society of Kenya (ASK) says physicians should tread carefully with the technology since results of trials in the USA are yet to reach them. According to Ms Felicity Nyambura of ASK, even as much as the technology would bear good fortunes for parents, the institution’s position is not known yet since Kenya does not even have enough doctors to deal with the disorder. “As ASK, we are asking for caution since in Kenya we only have four doctors at the Kenyatta National Hospital who are able to do a rapid assessment and diagnose autism,” explains Nyambura. She observes that in Nairobi alone, at least ten cases of autism are diagnosed every month, but the Educational Assessment Recourse Centre (EARC) says the number of cases that go unreported could be higher due to widespread stigma. According to Sylvia Mwakachola of EARC, the institution receives very few cases that visit the facility for assessment although they have information that there are very many autistic cases out there. “We are still grappling with a situation where parents still hide their autistic children and that is why many cases go unreported,” says Mwakachola. The Autism Society of America (ASA) defines autism as ‘a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills’. “Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities,” says ASA.


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ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Drought situation worsens By HUSSEIN DIDO

As we drove through Bassa village, a donkey loaded with four 20 litre-jerri cans collapsed after arriving home 25 kilometres from a water point. The women struggle to offload the jerri cans from the donkey. They say half of their animals died as they had to travel a long distance with heavy water load. One of the women, Mrs Fatuma Guyo says her donkey died two weeks ago after arriving from the water point due to poor feeding. She says they were engaged in securing water for the family than feeding the donkeys. “My family relied on the donkey and now that it is dead we have no other means of ferrying water,” said Guyo. While some people take a few minutes to reach a watering point, the same privilege is not available to the residents of Isiolo.

Lack of water

Here water is a rare commodity and the search for it is an uphill task to both men and women. Women struggle with the day’s activities to ensure there is water at home. Their husbands have to plan their day to ensure that their livestock get water at least once in a week. The animals have to make do with no water for seven days due to vast distances they have to cover in search of the scarce commodity. This is due to the biting drought that has hit the region. Camels stay for 10 days while goats and sheep go for seven days without water in dry land of Dusot, 150 kilometres away from the newly created Merti district. The herdsmen also have to cope with the situation. They strictly ration the jerri can water they are carrying for only drinking and cooking for it to survive through the long days. Herdsman Bashir Ibrahim takes 24 hours to drive his animals to a watering point 30 kilometres away from a strategic pasture reserve in Dusot in Isiolo county. The journey starts at 12.30 am. In pitch darkness, he has to cover the long distance in the cold amid the potential danger of meeting wildlife scavenging for carcasses of animals that succumbed to the drought. For those without donkeys the only remaining option is the

A herder tends to his animals at a watering in Isiolo. Most farmers are now selling their land and moving to urban centres as the prevailing drought has made farming a horrendous task. Pictures: Hussein Dido water buzzer provided by the Ministry of Livestock Development and another by the Ministry of Arid Land Development that has been providing water to more than 20,000 families in the village. The villagers say they have not had rain for the last two seasons. They have been forced to accommodate neighbours from Wajir who are also suffering. “There is an influx of livestock from the neighbouring districts as result of the drought and we agreed they graze in Dusot but we barred herders with camels because they consume lot of water,” said a herdsman. “It is hot during the day. I have to engage my three children to drive the animals to the water point as early as midnight,” says Ibrahim. As the journey to the water pan kicks off, mothers and young girls accompany the herdsmen to the water point to fetch water for domestic use. Ibrahim says during the long journey the weaker and sick animals were left behind. “We must survive with what is available as recurrent drought poses a serious social-economic challenge to pastoralists,” says Ibrahim. The herdsman is among those from Wajir West who moved to Isiolo with their livestock in search of pasture and water due to prolonged drought in the region.

Weak and unwell

And as the search for the rare commodity takes off in the middle night, the herdsmen have to ensure that the elderly, children and people who are unwell are left behind with something to keep them going as the journey takes one and half day to complete. “We are forced to leave behind children, the aged and the sick because when they move with us they become a burden,” says

Ibrahim. He says patients on anti-retro-viral drugs are yet to access them because health facilities are far from the strategic pasture reserves. Those who have the drugs cannot use them since they cannot take them on an empty stomach. “Some have stopped using the drugs because they cannot cope due to poor feeding and drought situation,” observes Ibrahim. He says the drought has had adverse implications particularly in the efforts to alleviate poverty and improve livelihood among the pastoralist communities.

Red alert

The Kenya Red Cross Society has raised an alarm that the drought situation was getting worse with livestock death and cases of starvation in Moyale, Marsabit and Isiolo counties. According to Red Cross regional coordinator, Mr Damocha Daniel the situation is getting worse with depleting pasture and drying water pans. “The situation has been aggravated by the influx of herders from others counties and countries in search of pasture and water.” In Basa, more than 20,000 people and 70,000 livestock are at risk as water pans, shallow wells and dams dry up following the drought that had continue to cause suffering. The communities have been heavily depending on water buzzers for domestic use. Unfortunately, the two water buzzers broke down last week due to mechanical problems. Urgent measures need to be put in place to avoid starvation. The government pledged to pipe water from Merti town about 100 kilometres away to the affected villages but little is done to hasten the situation.

Land sales increase as dry spell persists By CHARLES NJERU John Mwanzia, 52, a farmer in Eastern Kenya from Mwingi recently sold his four acre farm last December and moved to Nairobi. Mwanzia has used his KSh1,105,000 ($13,000) proceeds from the sale of his farm to start a tailoring business in Nairobi. “In the part of the country where I come from we experienced high levels of crop loss. I have little confidence in farming since the returns are minimal. With the money that I got from my land sale, I am renting out a tailoring shop in Nairobi,” Mwanzia said of the predicament. “I opened the shop very recently. I am yet to see the success of my business as time goes. So far, I have paid school fees for my two children with proceeds from my business and it makes me happy,” said Mwanzia. A growing number of farmers are selling their farms and moving into other professions to make ends meet. Some are even migrating to other countries in Western Europe and North America to start new lives with their families. He says that several years ago he could produce a lot of food for both his family and extra harvest for sale. Climate change has now taken its toll on several farmers and discouraged them to continue farming. “The government should assist people like me not to sink in poverty since land in this

part of the world is an asset. I believe the sale of land is a setback but my new business looks promising. If my business begins to do well, I will buy back some land to settle down in a few years,” Mwanzia hopes.

Costly venture

Just like Mwanzia, John Bronson, who once owned 30,000 acre piece of land in central Kenya sold at least 4,000 acres in October last year. “There is very little pasture for my animals in my expansive piece of land. Maintaining the land during drought is very expensive. At least part of the money that I made from the land sale is being used to buy livestock feeds. I find it a good way of dealing with the prevailing drought,” says Bronson. “I plant a lot of food crops which are irrigated. It is expensive since I have to buy expensive machines and also the water itself is costly. I am thinking of selling a few more acres in the near future,” Bronson explains. Parts of Eastern and North Eastern Kenya are now seeing an increase in land sales as a result of the negative effects of climate change. John Katuve, 59 from Eastern Kenya sold his land for a throw away price of KSh1,445,000 ($17,000) out of desperation. The value of land has gone up but some farmers are selling their farms at throw away prices to make ends meet. “The value of my former five acre piece of

land near Mwingi town was valued at more than KSh1,955,000 ($23,000) but I had to pay college fees for my two sons who graduated last year. I expect them to help me when they become self sustaining,” says Katuve. He adds: “Owning land near a market place was prestigious.” Katuve, Bronson and Mwanzia are among farmers who began selling their land as effects of drought continue to be felt. According to the Meteorological Department of Kenya, the drought is the worst since 2009. “The drought is beginning to be felt in certain parts of the country and is bound to get worse if the current weather patterns,” said Mr Matayo Indeje, associate research scientist at the Metrological Department. December, January, and February are usually the hottest and most humid months in East Africa but recent years have seen an increase in average temperatures which are now permanent. However, there are critics who say that the increased sale of agricultural land could be an obstacle to food security since there is an ongoing dry spell. “How do you expect a new land owner to settle and plant crops, till his land right after moving into his farm and not settling down?” poses Mr Juma Oyier, an agro-economist. He observes: “It could take that person several months before he can get used to his new land.” Already the livestock take off programme that the government announced in November

last year in preparation for the current drought has not yet taken off. Livestock owners were expected to sell their most vulnerable herd to government agencies at market rates. The government estimates the country’s livestock stand at seven million cattle, 31 million goats, 500,000 donkeys and 3 million camels. According to the World Bank, $2.5 billion will be lost as a result of the drought. “Some pastoralists are walking for several weeks with their cattle herds all the way to Nairobi just to find grazing facilities. It’s a sign that things are bad and immediate action should be taken,” observes Oyier. He adds: “About ten years ago, drought was not as severe as it is in the recent past, we have to pay for messing with Mother Nature.”

Response mechanism

The country currently does not a have a disaster response mechanism in place but the disaster bill is being debated on in parliament. However, in few places, the actual value of farm land has gone down and real estate companies blame this on drought and climate change. Economists and scientists say that it is difficult to establish why people sell land but they agree that climate change plays a big role in such decisions. There are land sales in drought affected areas, especially in North Eastern Kenya. The last three months, many have sold their freehold property and moved to Nairobi and Mombasa.


ISSUE 039, May 1-15, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

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Dairy project empowers post election violence victims By CHRISPINUS OMAR Memories of the 2007 post-election violence are still clear in their minds. They will never forget what they went through given that the shells of some of their properties that went up in flames are still standing. However, a dairy restocking programme that was launched last year targeting farmers who bore the brunt of the skirmishes in Uasin Gishu County is turning into their fortunes. The project is a joint venture between the Ministry of Livestock and the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) through funding from Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is already making a difference in the area. The first batch of 64 farmers who received in-calf grade heifers has started sharing out the first calves with their neighbours from a different tribe. Wareng District, which was hard hit by the chaos was allocated 32 cows, whereas Eldoret West and Eldoret East were left with 16 cows each. “We have been a group of ten victims of the post poll violence who have been taking care of this cow that I was the first one to get. Soon, this calf will turn six months and it will be mature to be handed over to another farmer on the queue,” Ms Anne Leting told a team of government officials and those from the ACK, when they came to assess the progress recently.

Peace

She explains that the group members are involved in fetching water and availing pasture for the cow besides monitoring to ensure it remains healthy as they wait for their turn to benefit. “In turn, I share with them milk from the cow free of charge. The culture of sharing has united us further given that we are not from the same ethnic background,” says Leting, a resident of Simat Location in Uasin Gishu explains. At Burnt Forest, which was the epicentre of the violence that rocked the country, Catherine Cherop received a jersey heifer from her neighbour John Owino. The beneficiaries admit that apart from helping them restock part of the cattle that they lost during the skirmishes, the dairy project has cemented peace in the affected areas given that cows are highly regarded in the area. “A family without a cow is regarded as poor that is why we commended those who came with the idea that

the dairy project was the best way to bring us together as we strive to overcome what we went through,” says Mr James Omambia. He points out that though the single cow they receive cannot be compared to the cattle they lost when hell broke loose, it was still better than nothing. “The cow, if well maintained, will reproduce and with time my home will have the number of cows that I desire.

Motivation

It is the best gift we have received ever since we were hit by this unexpected catastrophe,” Omambia says with a chuckle. The farmers meet regularly at Kipkenyo Demonstration Centre and other identified sites for capacity building sessions on modern crop production and animal husbandry. “Officers from the Ministry of Agriculture usually visit us during such field days and sensitise us on emerging market changes and new crop and pasture varieties that can improve our productivity,” explains Ms Mary Mukundi. She says that the agricultural lessons have motivated them to invest in other economic activities like poultry farming and horticultural cultivation to supplement the dairy sector. “We want to stop over-relying on cattle rearing and maize production given that erratic rainfall patterns experienced in the past has left some farmers who heavily relied on crops counting losses,” says Mr George Kamau, who also rears poultry in his farm at Kapseret in Wareng District. The beneficiaries now want the project extended further to accommodate sheep and goats citing that they have a shorter gestation period of five months compared to cows which take up to nine months.

Variety

They say the move will see the targeted population get their share of the bargain within a short period instead of waiting for long. “This is a great project. I have seen it foster peace as different communities who stay in this area frequently meet to chart the way forward and especially on the need for peacefully co-existance irrespective of opposing views from the country’s leadership,” says Mr Henry Togom, Kapseret Chief. The director of ACK Christian Community Services, Mr Jackson Sambu says that prelimi-

Mr George Kamau, who suffered the post election violence in Uasin Gishu shows the cow he received in the programme initiated to promote peace among communities in the area. Inset: Mrs Anne Leting is also a recipient of the dairy cow that is being used to bring the communities to a harmonious relationship. Pictures: Chrispinus Omar nary investigations revealed that the violence adversely affected dairy farmers in the Uasin Gishu district. “This informed our concerted efforts to liaise with an organisation that was willing to invest in a restocking programme as part of the healing and reconciliatory process,” he says. The challenge now is for the project, which he describes as quite successful, to expand to cater for other areas besides incorporating other dairy animals. Eldoret West District Veterinary Officer, Dr Joseph Njuguna warned the farmers against resorting to traditional methods of treating cows that fall sick. He said the cows were insured and a farmer should liaise with the nearest veterinary office, whenever a cow exhibited unfamiliar signs. “The cows should be fed at the appropriate

time and their vaccination schedule adhered to,” reiterated Njuguna. Wareng District Commissioner, Mr Alex Ole Nkoyo and his Eldoret East counterpart, Mr Charles Mukele said empowering communities with projects that can help them become self reliant was the panacea to the post poll violence victims’ woes. “Relief aid cannot be there throughout one’s life but such projects will see the affected communities eventually stand on their own feet,” said Nkoyo. The administrators who admit that peace had been restored in the area appealed to communities to mutually co-exist in order to spur development.

Kidney failure stands between student and her destiny By KARIUKI MWANGI It is always the joy of any child to complete school and achieve their life dreams. However, there are times when fate stands in the path to one’s realisation of their dreams. For Caroline Murugi, her education dream is at the risk of being nipped in the bud if help does not come her way. Murugi, a Form Three student is suffering from kidney failure. The 18 year old girl developed kidney problems late 2008 while she was undertaking her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations at Faith Spring Primary school in Embu West District. Despite her health condition, Murugi insisted on joining Form One and was admitted at St. Mary’s Girls’ Kiangima Secondary School in Embu in 2009. The school’s principal, Ms Muthoni noted that Murugi has always been in the top ten posi-

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tions since she joined the school but noted that her zeal to perform better has been hindered by her deteriorating health. “The girl’s illness has really affected her performance as most times she is out of school for treatment while other students continue with their learning,” the principal observed. Her face and legs are already swollen and this has made it difficult for her to attend lessons as per the time table. The condition also hinders her from participating in other co-curricular activities. The school has allowed Murugi to be a day scholar as her condition cannot allow her to continue being a boarding student. Through the school’s kitty started to help needy students, Murugi has received KSh90,000. The school in collaboration with her parents have already spent KSh400,000 but so far nothing has changed. “Despite having fees arrears of more than

KSh50,000 we have not chased her out of school because we are encouraging her to continue fighting as she waits to get medical treatment,” explains Muthoni. Speaking to the Reject, her father Mr Josphat Gichovi said Murugi’s health continued to deteriorate. He took her to Embu Provincial General Hospital after she was referred to the Kenyatta National Hospital for further treatment. In the quest to find help for his daughter, Gichovi has exhausted all his savings on treatment. Unfortunately Murugi’s health has continued to deteriorate. The principal observed that the girl requires KSh1.5 million to undergo a kidney transplant that will help solve the problem once and for all. The parents and school fraternity are now calling upon well-wishers to partner with them to find treatment for the Form Three student. Murugi says she often experiences difficulties in walking and breathing. She gets tired very

Caroline Murugi who suffers from kidney failure. Pictures Kariuki Mwangi fast which makes it difficult to do any physical exercises. Murugi hopes that one day she will get the required treatment as she vows to continue with her education and pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. However, her dreams will only be realised if well wishers come to her rescue and help them raise the required amount to help her undergo a kidney transplant which will bring her woes to an end.

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello-Orlale Programme Coordinator: Wilson Ugangu Editor: Jane Godia Sub-Editors: Florence Sipalla and Mercy Mumo Designer: Noel Lumbama Contributors: Musa Radoli, Aggrey Buchunju, Ryan Mathenge, Nick Odhiambo, Omwa Ombara, Ruth Omukhango, Ajanga Khayesi, Benson Mwanga, Kigondu Ndavano, Kariuki Mwangi, Edwin Makiche, John Syengo, John Kinyua, Johnson Mutungi, Ken Ndambu, Boniface Mulu, Charles Njeru, Titus Maero, Caroline Wangechi, George Murage, Odhiambo Odhiambo, David Njagi, Bendaro Tsuma, Kambi Kalala, Joel Juma, Faith Muiruri, Ben Oroko, Chrispinus Omar and Hussein Salesa.

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The paper is produced with funds from

Reject Online Issue 39  

The latest edition of the Reject Newspaper is out. The Reject is a bi-monthly online newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of A...

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