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March 16-31, 2012

ISSUE 058

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

Making of billionaires out of small time fishing By KIGONDU NDAVANO The new craze in modern fishing will soon make millionaires out of small scale fishermen and ordinary peasant farmers in the North Coast. A better percentage of KSh3 billion allocated to the Ministry of Fisheries’ Development for expansion of fishing projects at the Coast is already going towards the new but  unique multi-million dollar industry. Ordinary Kenyans along 75-kilometre coastline in Magarini District, Kilifi County will soon be experts in growing of the brine shrimp – Artemia – a small crustacean known to be a highly nutritious food that is indispensable for marine fish larvae.  The coastline is now dominated by salt manufacturing firms who manage huge lakes of sea water in ponds before turning them into

salt. Kenya’s salt belt in Magarini covers 10,000 hectares and soon this will be minting billions into local and national economy. Experts say that by use of one third of this area of salt production for integrated salt, Artemia production will improve the economy of the area by up to KSh10 billion annually especially if that exercise is done at finest levels. From the onset, in the dry and bushy villages of Magarini District where homesteads are lined next to huge salt ponds and crop failure is a norm accompanied by the always high levels of poverty. The new project is expected to environmentally match with what ordinary Kenyans have always been used to, a life in the salt ponds. “These peasant farmers, majority of whom have for years worked as casual workers in the salt mines har-

vesting the crystals from saline waters will soon start to associate salt ponds, not with suffering but with huge earnings in foreign exchange,” explains Patrick ole Ntutu, Magarini District Officer.  According to Dr Betty Mindraa Nyonje, an expert on Artemia and project coordinator, brine shrimp artemia is a small crustacean which is highly nutritious that is indispensible for marine fish larvae. Kenya’s salt belt in Magarini covers about 10, 000 hectares and by use of one third of this area of salt production for integrated salt, Artemia production can improve the economy of the this area by up to KSh10 billion annually if done at optimal levels. When the Minister for Fisheries launched the project at Kadzuhoni Village, even experts on fish and Continued on page 2

From top: A group of pupils from Kadzuhoni Primary school in Malindi District tour the artemia, cysts and biomass ponds. Workers at the salt mine. A scientist with the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Instiutute Maureen Mukami introduces artemia cysts and biomas into one of the several ponds started at Kadzuhoni area in Malindi District. Pictures: Kigondu Ndavano

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ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Project to benefit local communities By Kigondu Ndavano The benefits of integrated production of salt and Artemia is being demonstrated in a pilot unit. According to Dr Betty Mindraa Nyonje, an expert in Artemia production, apart from improved salt quantity and quality, an additional source of income will be generated through production of Artemia cysts and biomass. Nyonje notes that these are crucial for the optimal local development of shrimp and fish larviculture. Local community development centres, which have already developed extensive aquaculture initiatives for the benefit of the rural communities are being targeted for demonstration of project activities throughout the project lifetime. This project intends to upgrade

the living conditions of rural communities in Kenya by the pond production of Artemia cysts and biomass in locally available salt production systems. This will be done by application of Artemia cysts and biomass in emerging aquaculture initiatives.

Expertise

Nyonje observes that there will be a critical mass of practical and theoretical expertise created in Kenya at the partner institutions which will be realised through a multi-faceted training programme, including short term training sessions in the field, at the Flemish partner institute and at Can Tho University, Vietnam and by one Master of Science in Aquaculture and one sandwich PhD study at the Flemish partner institute. “Training at the local commu-

nity level through field demonstrations and training workshops organised by the partner institutions have already started. The project is expected to have an impact on the development of the country,” notes Nyonje. Artemia cysts, currently to be imported to Kenya at lowest price of $220 per kilogramme for Great Salt Lake product, USA, will be readily available locally. She notes: “The estimated needs are at present in tens of tonnes per year while at the same time for the development of aquaculture  high-quality formulated feeds, based on fish meal or Artemia biomass, need to be imported. The project will provide opportunities for the harvest of a valuable by-product (Artemia cysts/ biomass) in seasonal artisanal salt works in (sub) tropical regions.

Pupils from Kadzuhoni Primary school in Malindi District visit artemia, cysts and biomass ponds, the first ones to be started in Kenya under a KSh3 billion ministry of fisheries project to be overseen by the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute. Picture: Kigondu Ndavano

Making of billionaires out of small time fishing Continued from page 1 other marine beings could not comprehend how a small plastic container with soil-like looking powder could be money. Even the Minister for Fisheries, Amason Kingi looked bewildered as Nyonje explained that the brown coloured soil like powder she was holding in a small plastic container was Artemia seeds whose single kilogramme fetches up to KSh25, 000 in the international market. Another scientist Maryanne Mukami was holding a larger container full of what looked like fish fingerlings that were swimming easily. She soon handed over the smaller containers to the minister and after some observations and scientific details, Kingi returned the ‘organisms’ to the scientist who quickly poured half of the same in a large plastic container before they were all dropped into a pond, marking the launch of the project. She noted: “With Kenya’s salt belt in Magarini covering  about 10,000 hectares, using one third of this area for Artemia production can improve the economy of the this area by up to KSh10 billion annually when optimally utilised.” Nyonje explained: “It occurs worldwide in natural hyper saline lakes, ponds and lagoons.” Its eggs, known as cysts, can be produced in massive numbers and once harvested and properly processed, the cysts can be stored for several years as dry off the shelf product. According to Nyonje, the emerging larva is a convenient substitute for the natural plankton diet of fish and shrimp larvae in aquaculture facilities worldwide, largely due to its general availability, nutritional quality, and ease and versatility of use.

Saltworks

The Artemia Project is being undertaken at various saltworks in Gongoni area of Magarini District in Kilifi County. The programme operating under the title “Improvement of living standards of rural communities in Kenya through Artemia production” is a Belgian Interuniversity Council (VLIR) funded project. It is being implemented through a tripartite partnership between the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Ghent University of Belgium and Can Tho University of Vietnam. The coordinator explains that the

project was a follow-up of the first project that was executed in 1984-1986 through a bilateral cooperation funding between the governments Kenya and Belgium in the field of Artemia research for aquaculture development. “By the end of the project in October 1986, the technical feasibility for the production of the brine shrimp Artemia in coastal salt works in Kenya had been demonstrated,” says Dr Nyonje. What was then envisaged was piloting commercial Artemia production for the purpose of producing local Kenyan Artemia for the aquaculture industry.

Filter

Brine shrimp also occur in numerous man-operated solar salt works where its presence has a beneficial effect for the salt farmer especially if proper management of an Artemia population is maintained as that can lead to increased salt production and better quality salt. Artemia is known to act as filter and the scientist explains how it filters out the phytoplankton, which when in excessive amounts can make salt to be of lower quality and crystals. According to Nyonje, the decomposing biomass of Artemia promotes Halobacterium blooming in the crystallisers, which speeds up the precipitation process, resulting in bigger and better quality salt crystals. Research has revealed that the presence of Artemia also provides opportunities for the harvest of a valuable by-product (Artemia cysts and/or biomass). Magarini has suitable conditions and cysts produced in local systems have been found to be of top quality especially because the local Artemia population is managed for optimal production. “This product is not only impor-

Minister for fisheries development Amason Kingi holds a jar with artemia cysts and biomas at Kadzuhoni Village during the launch in Magarini District salt production systems. Below: A female worker at the salt mines. Pictures: Kigondu Ndavano tant for the world market but primarily for the benefit of local and regional aquaculture activities,” explains Nyonje. Presently more than 2,500 tonnes of dry cysts are marketed annually for use in fish and shellfish hatcheries worldwide and majority of this product is natural harvest from Great Salt Lake, USA. However, according to production records, the world demand for Artemia cysts cannot be met by the current supply. The Ministry of Fisheries Development envisages making fish production from aquaculture match the 50 percent mark of the other regions of the world in the next few years. However, according to Nyonje

Kenya stands to make great strides in the fish farming industry in the next few years if it can produce its Artemia locally; making its supply more reliable and affordable. There is a ready market for Kenyan Artemia worldwide.

demand for Artemia cysts to match such an ambition, therefore, remains enormous.  According to Nyonje, due to the fact that it is only high quality products close to what is available in Magarini that can fetch prices as high as $200$250 per kilogramme on the world market, the Magarini project remains highly viable. The initial phase of the project aims at conducting Artemia introduction and production runs in local pilot site conditions. The target is to develop optimal locally applicable techniques for inoculation and pond management.

Commercial production

The goal of the initiative, however, is having salt manufacturers enter into commercial production of Artemia cysts as soon as the feasibility of economic production has been demonstrated with harvesting, processing and storage of the cysts and biomass being a priority. Currently scientists are exploring local Artemia production in order to fulfil the Kenyan requirements for Artemia cysts and biomass and eventually enter the international market. Another objective is to develop routine technologies in view of har-

vesting, processing, packaging, storing and transportation of locally produced Artemia. They also seek to improve the use of Artemia cysts and biomass as a source of live food in local aquaculture operations.  According to Nyonje, the long term objective is to finally commercialise Artemia production in Kenyan salt works for both domestic and export market.


ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Degraded Mau water shed regaining its foothold By DUNCAN MBOYAH Mau forest from time immemorial has been providing river flow regulation, flood mitigation, water storage, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, carbon reservoir and micro climate regulation to Kenya and the entire east African region. It forms the largest closed canopy forest ecosystem and covers over 400,000 hectares of land. Over the last two decades, the complex has lost 107,000 hectares — approximately 25 percent of its cover due to irregular and unplanned settlements, change of land use from forest to unsustainable agriculture and change in ownership from public to private land. The excised areas include critical upper water catchments for the rivers and lakes fed by the Mau. However, one year down after the evictions and against the wishes of the yesteryear grabbers, the catchment is finally kicking back to life from its death bed. “It has been a long journey that was mixed with murmurs from yesteryear beneficiaries but I am happy to say we are now seeing the fruits of consistency,” reveals Hassan Noor, Chief Coordinator, Mau Forest secretariat.

Rehabilitation

According to Noor about 21,000 hectares of forest has been recovered as part of phase I, forest land that was excised in eastern Mau forest reserve and phase II that is largely bamboo forest that were encroached by illegal squatters. In regard to the repossession of land title deeds, 44 titles have been surrendered with no claim for compensation. The secretariat is in the process of recovering land owned by two companies which have no records with the registrar of companies but are holding land in the forest. In its part, Kenya Forest Service, the custodian of forestry in the country has not been left behind as they have rehabilitated approximately 11,000 hectares of forest since 2009. “We are currently rehabilitating rivers

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Makalia, Naishi, Nderit and Njoro that flow into Lake Nakuru,” Noor explains. A joint enforcement unit led by rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has succeeded in reducing illegal activities in the forest by 60 to 70 percent, more so in southern forest blocks where threats are high. Survey work also has been undertaken and so far three forest blocks — Eburu, Maasai Mau and Transmara — are complete. The survey of south Western Mau was funded by Narok County Council, the Government of Spain and USAID.

Documentation

“The secretariat has developed necessary documentation for the establishment of new institutional arrangements to oversee and coordinate the management of the complex and other water towers in the country,” Noor adds. The secretariat has engaged the Ogiek, the only Kenyan community that lives inside the forest in charting the way forward. The Ministry of Lands has also completed their survey and finally acquired funds for resettlement of those who owned guanine title deeds. According to Achim Steiner, Executive Director United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) if not checked properly, the continued destruction of the complex may inevitably lead to a water crisis in western Kenya and regionally. “The complex can be used to generate resources due to the forests potential of storing carbon from the atmosphere,” observes Achim. According to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, there is need to invest in conservation of forests as a way of ensuring sound health of the planet. “We are in the process of launching a Kenya Water Tower Authority to help rehabilitate and conserve the water towers besides increasing budget for the sustainable rural environment management,” explains Odinga. However, on its road to full recovery, the complex has seen growth due to assistance from the Government and other private partners. One such development partner is the Euro-

“The complex can be used to generate resources due to the forests potential of storing carbon from the atmosphere.” — Achim Steiner, Executive Director UNEP

From top: Men participate in a reforestation exercise at the Mau. Workers tend to a tree seedling nursery. A man points to a section of the destroyed Mau complex. Pictures: Reject Correspondent pean Union (EU) that recently contributed €2.3 million towards the conservation of the water canopy to help sustain its nature based assets that contribute an estimated $1.5 billion per year to Kenyan economy alone. The EU and the Danish Government have also pledged to contribute €20 million for the conservation of other water towers and critical ecosystems through the Community Development Trust Fund (CDTF). “This programme will deal with causes of declining water flows, such as forest excisions,

weak institutional capacities and adverse impacts of climate change,” notes EU’s Charge d’ Affairs and Head of Operations Dr Benard Rey. Besides the EU and USAID, the Spanish Government and Brazilian Embassy have contributed funds and are also engaged in resuscitating the forest complex. Given that rivers Naishi and Nderit that had dried up due to the destruction of the forests are now flowing back into Lake Nakuru, it is a sign that the forest complex is indeed breathing a new life.

Money given to boost forest rehabilitation By Caroline Wangechi Programmes are being put in place to support the development policies on climate change and environmental conservation. The plans will handle interventions in northern Kenya as well as other parts of the country that are semi-arid and arid. Through these programmes, KSh2.2 billion has been given to the Kirinyaga Ecosystem Project for the rehabilitation of Kamweti, Murindu-

ko and Ngariama forests. The money was given through the development arm of the Government of Denmark (DANIDA). According to Chihenyo Kang’ara, programme officer at the Danish embassy, the money has been given to rehabilitate the forest that has been destroyed in the said areas. She observed that the community needs to be empowered on environmental issues since they are the ones who have access to the forests. “The community needs money

and other logistics so that they can keep an eye on the environment,” she added. Kang’ara said that through the European Union, KSh2 billion has been given out to the communities in projects where renewable energy can be generated. The three years plan which is expected to run from 2011-2015 is geared towards eradicating poverty in very many places and conservation of degraded forests. According to Joseph Ruhiu, manager Community Development Trust

Foundation (CTDF), Danida has also contributed to poverty eradication in the country. He stressed that the money has been given for improving environmental management by those living close to the forest and for them to use innovative ideas such as how to generate more fire from rice husks. The key environmental problems in Kirinyaga include deforestation and degradation where Mt Kenya forest has been destroyed in the last two decades with illegal timber merchants

clearing off an extensive part of indigenous trees. Environmental destruction of forest has brought impacts that have been felt downstream where water volumes have decreased during the dry season. Fuel wood is the main source of energy within Nyamindi and Thiba basin where most fuel-wood sourced from the forest which comes from farm-forestry.


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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

School versus motherhood, a delicate balancing act for teenage mothers By RUTH OMUKHANGO There is this old African saying that “children are blessings from God”. This is true particularly when there are many who would like to have children and cannot. However, it is ironic for those who are too young and already have children, even when their bodies have not matured enough for child birth. These are the teenage mothers. While being a mother itself is a job, it is particularly challenging for teenage girls who also have to balance motherhood with school work. Mercy Wanjiku (not her real name) is a case in point, as she battles with the day-to-day challenges of a being a teenage mother. As she holds her three-month-old baby, it is clear that at her tender age she has learnt a lesson that everything in life comes with responsibility and calls for sacrifices. For 17-year-old Wanjiku, little is known about what actually goes on in her mind. Besides her responsibility as a mother, Wanjiku is a Standard Eight pupil at Mariwa Primary School, in Western Province. She is looking forward to sitting for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at the end of the year. Having conceived while in Standard Seven, Wanjiku did not drop out of school but endured the ‘shame’ until she gave birth in December, last year. She is grateful that the head teacher allowed her to continue with her classes until the end of third term.

No excuses

At the beginning of the term in January, Wanjiku reported punctually to school as she From top: Children at a daycare was afraid that any delay would cost her a place in the examination class. She does not let her centre in Kibera. Children baby be an excuse for not attending classes. playing at Little Rock Daycare “I am determined to continue with my eduCentre. Josephine Akoth with cation and having this baby will not stop me. her son Carlos whom she had I know it requires me to work extra hard and when she was 19. Teenage I am ready for it,” explains Wanjiku, the only mothers seek the services daughter in a family of three children. of caregivers at such centres Her pillar of strength is her mother who has to enable them continue always been there for her. Her mother is a busiwith school. Pictures: Reject nesswoman who sells porridge at Luanda MarCorrespondent ket. She has had to sacrifice all her businesses to take care of the baby while her daughter goes to While one would argue Wanschool. This means there is a drop in financial rejiku’s scenario as a typical rural sources on her part that is translated to reduction in incident, the case is not different family income as well. She now depends on husband for young mothers living in urban who is works as a farm supervisor in Naivasha. slums like Kibera and Mathare To assist her mother, Wanjiku shares the responwhere teenage mothers are forced sibility by routinely waking up as early as 4.30am to to drop out of school completely to wash the baby’s clothes, prepare porridge as well as take care of their children. managing any other household chores assigned by For Josephine Akoth, also her mother, which include fetching water from the known as Mama Carlos, living in nearby river. Kianda Village, within the sprawlAccording to Wanjiku, these chores take her two ing Kibera slum, being a teenage hours and by 6.30am, she is usually ready for school mother is stressful. She recalls her which is about one kilometre from their home. “I ordeal five years ago when she was know it is my fault and have to do whatever I can do a Form One student at St Dominic not want to antagonise anyone in the home because Secondary School within the city they are doing me favour by taking care of the child,” centre. adds Wanjiku. Akoth joined Form One at the age of 18, in 2006 She then settles down to school work, paying atwhile she was already one month pregnant. She tention to every detail from the teachers. At lunch puts her predicament down to the long December break, she has to run back home to breastfeed the holiday mischief which she still regrets to-date. baby before returning for the afternoon classes. Like Wanjiku, she continued going to school in her “I have to breastfeed the baby or else, the milk condition until she safely delivered in August, the overload causes me to have a fever,” observes Wanjisame year. After delivery, she stayed at home for ku who says she does not know how to express milk. the remaining four months and went back to Form She returns home at 5.30pm where she spares two One when she was 19 years old. hours to bond with her baby as she prepares the eveLuckily, she was blessed to get a sponsor who ning meal. While everyone retires to bed, Wanjiku opens her books to do her homework until 11.00 pm. Continued on page 5

“I am determined to continue with my education and having this baby will not stop me – I know it requires me to work extra hard and I am ready for it.” — Mercy Wanjiku, teenage mother


ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

A day in the life of a teenage mother By RUTH OMUKHANGO At 15, she is a mother and a student. Her life is one that leaves admiration and questions of if only . . . Jennifer Akinyi is a teenage mother living in Gatwekera, within the sprawling Kibera slums. She is in Standard Seven, a section of primary education that is equally demanding. In order to make it to school on time, Akinyi must be up by 4.00am to wash her babies clothes as well do other household chores such as cleaning her mother’s house, fetching water and preparing breakfast for the rest of her siblings. Within this time she must also prepare her five-month-old baby, Carol, who she will drop off at a day-care centre while she is at school. At 7.00 am, Akinyi is ready to leave for school. Holding her school bag in one hand, she holds the baby with the other. She also carries the baby’s bag that has the items she will need at the day-care centre.

Despite Akinyi’s busy schedule, she must be at school by 7.30am and embarks on her schedule until lunch hour. While other children run home for lunch, Akinyi dashes to the day care to breastfeed as well as check on the baby for half an hour. Sometimes she is lucky to be offered a meal at the centre but in most cases there is nothing. She then runs back to school before the afternoon classes. Unlike her peers, she does not have time to play or socialise with her agemates as she has additional responsibilities as a mother. As other children pack their bags to go back home in the evening at 5.00pm, Akinyi has more to carry home, she has to pass by the day care centre and take her baby. On arriving home, she bonds with the baby for one hour and then proceeds to do her household chores which include preparing supper for the family. She completes this work by 9.00 pm and has to catch up with her homework before she retires to bed and looks forward to another day.

Hope of university education dim for bright A student By LUCY LANGAT When John Njoroge received a text message from his elder sister, he was filled with disbelief. An Internally Displaced Person (IDP) living at Pipeline camp in Nakuru, Njoroge had no mode of following the live announcement of the 2011 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results. As other Kenyans followed the results’ announcement through radios and televisions, Njoroge, 18, sat with his parents in their tent. They were hoping against hope that they will get the best results for their son, who had faced numerous challenges throughout his secondary school education. As tension rose among them, a text came through his father’s mobile phone, indicating that he had scored an A in his KCSE. “I was overwhelmed with joy, my mother knelt down and started thanking God as my father clapped continuously,” he explains. Njoroge had sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary School examination in 2007 at Kitigoi, Molo District, getting 326 out of the possible 500 marks. Shortly after this examination, the boy and his family were evicted from their home during the 2007-2008 post-election violence. He has since then only known Pipeline as his home.

Motivation

However, life as an IDP did not deter the former Anester Boys High School student from chasing his dream of becoming a telecommunications engineer. Often, he had to go to school without anything for school fees. Currently, he has arrears of KSh60, 000 fees balance. “I faced a lot of challenges but they gave me motivation to work harder, at least if I pass, I know I would have something conquering the challenges,” he says. Njoroge’s father, Michael Kago remembers all too well how much he had to sacrifice for the sake of his son. Kago had to do casual labour to pay his son’s school fees, but the money was never enough. “I even sold a plot I had at Total, Mau Summit and took all the money to school, yet, there is still a balance,” says Kago. He notes: “However, I am happy that he passed after all.” It has not been easy for the 53-year old father of six. Besides his own, Kago has three other children who were orphaned by his daughter who died during the violence. However, the old man was determined to give his son something, education. At some point, Njoroge almost gave up on his schooling. He had a bad attack of pneumonia which saw him hospitalised for six days. “I thought I would not catch up with the rest of the students and felt like calling it quits but my father encouraged me to press

John Njoroge is celebrated at the camp after he received his KCSE results. He scored an A and hopes to become a telecommunications engineer. Picture: Lucy Langat on,” says he During school holidays, Njoroge would spend days revising under the sun. At the camp, other children often called him ‘choppie’ a nickname for a bookworm or one who studies hard, but this, only motivated him more. Often, he would go without lunch, but he says God provided him with energy to study the whole day. With no electricity in the night, and no guarantee of availability of paraffin to light his family’s tin lamp, Njoroge had to make maximum use of the natural light. At Pipeline camp, everyone was excited as news about Njoroge’s great performance spread fast. “This is proof that even in the camps, some children can perform well despite our deplorable living conditions,” says Paul Thiong’o, the camp’s chairman. Thiong’o regrets that all children were rated the same, regardless of their social and economical background. “A child from the camp is often traumatised by the nasty post-election violence and the poor conditions at the camp, yet they are rated the same as children from rich families,” observes Thiong’o. He says it is a shame that another elec-

“I faced a lot of challenges but they gave me motivation to work harder, at least if I pass, I know I would have something conquering the challenges.” — John Njoroge

tion is approaching, yet the Government has not resettled thousands of IDPs. It is even worse, Thiong’o notes that the rainy season is currently approaching yet there are still many people in the camps.

Bursary for IDPs

Thiong’o says the government should set aside a special bursary for IDP children noting that some are very bright but lack school fees. “The children can only be empowered through quality education, let the Government have a special fund for them,” says Thiongo. For now, Kago is a happy man, happy that his son did him proud despite all the challenges. However, that is as far as his happiness can go. He is worried every time his son talks of university education. They are yet to see his results slip, at least until they clear the pending school fee balance. Then they will think of where to get money for university. “I see a dark way ahead, I have so many family responsibilities, yet I would want to see my son prosper in education and in his career, but I have no money,” says Kago. Were it not for the eviction, Kago says, he would not be struggling as much as he is today. “I lost my cattle and sheep, and the land I used to cultivate, all these would be a source of income,” he observes. After all, Kago says, his daughter would not have died if there were no skirmishes and he would not be having the burden of taking care of her three children. Despite the challenges, Kago is ready to bear the burden, counting on God for the energy and providence. For now, Njoroge only hopes that some day he will realise his dream of becoming a telecommunications engineer.

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School versus motherhood

Continued from page 4 agreed to pay for her full secondary school education. The benefactor also gave her a daily allowance of KSh200 to cater for her bus fare and lunch. But for Akoth, the challenge lay in the day-to-day hassles of balancing between being a mother and a student simultaneously.

Daily hassles

“I used to board the train to the city centre in order to save on my fare to buy milk and clothes for the baby,” says Akoth, the fourth born in a family on seven children. Like Wanjiku, she is lucky that her mother, a vegetable seller, agreed to take care of the baby during the day. However, she was expected at home early enough to give her mother the opportunity to sell the vegetables by the roadside in the evening. Akoth’s day would begin at 4.00am. She would fetch water and wash the baby’s clothes. In addition, she would coordinate all the household chores and would hurry up to catch the train at 7.00am from the Kibera Railway Station. Being a single, Akoth’s mother was unable to fully take care of the family’s financial needs. She had to sell vegetables to eke a living. This forced Akoth to save further by forfeiting her lunch to take her son to Little Rock Daycare Centre where she was expected to pay KSh300 per month. “My mother would drop my son at the centre at 7.00am and I would pick him on my way from school at 6.00pm,” says Akoth. As soon as she arrived at home, she would embark on household chores until late and then prepare for the next day which involved doing her homework. Besides her daily chores, Akoth does not recall going to school over the weekend as she is usually engaged herself with casual labour in small hotels within the slum. In other instances she would wash clothes for people to raise money to pay for her baby’s day care. For Akoth, now 23, this has been a journey that is painful and full or regrets. “I felt that the world had conspired to crumble on me,” she says. However, as she looks back five years, her son is now in nursery school at Ayany Primary School. Akoth is grateful that she was able to complete her secondary education. She looks forward to completing her catering course but in the meantime, she earns her living from washing clothes and through her artistic skills. Although she still lives with her mother, she is determined to work hard and take care of her baby. Akoth does not want to be a disgrace to her son. Many other girls in similar situations have engaged in commercial sex to make ends meet.

Poverty cycle

Teenage pregnancy and subsequent motherhood provides a challenge to the girl child with or without social support from family, friends and community. Given the absence of welfare benefits and child support, teenage pregnancies lead to increased dependency, and are likely to perpetuate poverty and low status of women. Akoth confesses that life in the slums is very difficult especially for teenage mothers who are forced to engage all sorts of practises to raise funds for survival. For her, hard work and keeping busy has shielded her from the temptation within the surrounding and frustrations. According to Mary Mghoi, a teacher at the Little Rock Daycare Centre, parenting in the slums is a challenge since most people have to go out of their locale to fend for themselves. “It is even more challenging for teenage mothers who constitute a quarter of the population that bring their children to the centre,” says Mghoi. She adds: “We start receiving the children as early as 7.00am.” According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2008–2009, 18 per cent of young women aged 15–19 have already began childbearing. Fifteen per cent are mothers and an additional three per cent are pregnant with their first child. Young motherhood is slightly more common in urban areas than in rural areas.

Employment

In Kenya, teenage pregnancy is not only as a reproductive health issue, but one that affects the current and future socio-economic wellbeing of women and the nation. It is evident that early childbearing denies girls the opportunity to complete education and acquire human capital skills critical for gainful employment in the labour market and decision-making on key development issues. According to a report produced by the Centre for the Study of Adolescents (CSA), 5.5 million girls between 15 and 19 years give birth annually in sub-Saharan Africa. About 62 per cent estimated mothers in sub-Sahara Africa are between ages 15- 19. In Kenya, poverty and deprivation are major factors contributing to teenage pregnancy. More schoolgirls submit to early sex in exchange of money.


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ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Petty Akoth:

Traditional birth attendant counts over 50 years in service By JANS ATIENO At 61, she has delivered many children that she would have lost count were it not for the records that are well kept in several exercise books where she notes details of her clients. Besides the exercise books, the wall of her house has photos she has taken with some of the women she has attended to, something that also keeps reminding her of her work over the years. Petty Akoth has seen more deliveries than any single nurse in a government hospital has seen in their entire career. As a matter of fact, this revered traditional birth attendant has 51 years of experience, a rare achievement that is unheard of even in government facilities. The efficiency in her hand when attending to women has left many locals and foreigners tongue tied. Commonly known to the residents of Homa Bay County and beyond as Mama Jossy, Akoth has helped so many women of different backgrounds including professionals and the illiterate.

Client variety

The most surprising thing is the varying classes and social standings of her clients. She laughs when I appear surprised that even doctors and nurses who are always preaching to women to give birth in hospitals are among her clients. “Those nurses come to my ramshackle to deliver their babies, what they tell women at the hospitals are just but routine and government policies that they also do not believe in,” she says. Akoth was born in 1951 in Kanam village in Rachuonyo North District, Homa Bay County and a second born in a family of six children. At the age of ten, her late grandmother, also a traditional mid-wife called her and put herbs in her right hand and some coins in the left before uttering some words to transfer the gift to her and as fate would have it, in the same year she performed her first practical assignment. “One day my sister-in-law, who was pregnant went to the river to fetch water, on coming back, I realised that she was in labour, rushed and removed the pot from her head,” Akoth explains. With a touch akin to that of experienced nurses, she laid her down and delivered the baby by herself. She used a piece of her dress to tie the umbilical cord to the surprise of many women who came later. Over the years the Government has made efforts to improve hospital deliveries in a bid to reduce mortality rate

of mothers and newborn babies by encouraging pregnant women to deliver in health facilities. However, due to high cover costs and long distances to health facilities, many women still prefer the services of Mama Jossy. So what makes her famous despite all the campaigns? “It is all about life, in my 51 years experience I have always delivered live births without any problem,” she observes. Another important factor that lures women to her is the ability to detect when a woman has the strength to push the baby or not. This especially true for women who are HIV positive and those who are malnourished and hypertensive. In such cases she will do most of the work herself, unlike From top: Petty Akoth holding two babies she delivered at night. She is flanked by the two young in hospitals where mothers are mothers she helped deliver. Akoth displays some of the herbs she uses to treat various ailments. Petty harassed into pushing the babies displays her certificates of recognition and participation from AMREF, Homa Bay District Hospital and or facing the knife. the area chief. Pictures: Jans Atieno Akoth admits that some of her clients are those who have unnegligence.  In the first half of January 2012 In 1998, Homa Bay District hosdergone Caesarean section more On December 24th, 2011 when alone, Akoth delivered more than 55 pital called her for training on how than thrice and were told never to get pregnant again, but she helped deliver many Kenyans were eagerly wait- women, a figure that even the Homa best to handle HIV positive clients ing to celebrate Christmas, Ojwang’s Bay District Hospital which serves as who are still not bent on going to the their fourth or even firth babies. Betha Atieno is a married prima- wife Karen was hopeful of bringing a referral to Suba, Ndhiwa, Rachuon- hospital. Indeed, courtesy of the training, ry school teacher in Homa Bay town a bundle of joy to her young family. yo North and South Districts cannot boast of. she ensures that her HIV positive who vowed not to deliver her baby However, this was never to be. Akoth, however, is not just any clients are armed with Navirapin elsewhere after she discovered what other ordinary mid wife, on her tin Syrup, zidovudine syrup and LamiAkoth could do. She gave birth to her two sons at Her joy was cut short thanks walled house hangs her book that vudine syrup, whichever is recomthe district hospital through Caesar- to the soap opera on the televi- has all the records where she keeps mended by the doctors, which she ean-section, unfortunately the boys sion at the hospital’s reception that details of the births and two certifi- gives to the newborns immediately did not live to blow their first birth- had nurses too engrossed to attend cates of recognition alongside a let- after tying the umbilical cord into day candle. to her frantic call. By the time the ter of approval from the area chief three parts. These are drugs that will With the fear of undergoing a third nurses realised what was happen- that allows her to carry out her mid prevent transmission of mother to child. operation, her colleagues informed her ing, the baby had already suffocated wifery duties. However, Akoth is not only a of another way out and sure enough, and could not make it. darling to the pregnant women. She she chose the traditional option. This attitude coupled with lack of Her contribution in reproduc- has friends among many men and Nancy Akoth on the other hand is personalised attention and customer grateful to Akoth for having detected care in many public hospitals are tive health was so massive that in the women because she is also capable of malformation in her womb. some of the reasons why many preg- 1992 she was called to undergo train- treating infertility in both men and Fortunately for her, this is one of nant women still troop to traditional ing in sick nursing, mid-wivery and women and impotence in men. For Akoth all one needs is a stiAkoth’s rare gifts and she managed mid wives’ dens, some only a few ki- general first Aid by African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF). pend that ranges from KSh200, to reverse the ‘curse’ using her herbs lometres from public hospitals. KSh400, KSh500 or even KSh600 but and delivered her of a bouncing baby sometimes she does it for free. She girl who was named Petty. says some mothers are too poor but still need help. Since most of her clients are those Akoth’s clients vary in age and staliving below the poverty line, Akoth tus, and on this particular day we find has not been able to construct a dewhen she has just delivered a 14-yearcent house where she can attend to old girl of a 3.5kg baby. The girl walks her clients in a more efficient way as with a lot of ease despite having just she would have wished. delivered the previous night. And as the country gears towards However, Akoth’s other gift is the achieving the Millennium Develability to make the “baby turn its opment Goals (MDGs) and Vision head” in case it is not yet engaged by 2030, many Kenyans including Petty the time labour pains get underway, Akoth agree that a lot of reforms still a condition that has led many womneed to be undertaken in the health en to the operation tables. sector especially  in  reproductive Sherald Ojwang on the other health if the mother’s confidence in hand has never been able to recover the government health facilities is to from losing his first born son due — Petty Akoth, TBA be restored. to what he believes was the nurses’

Negligence

HIV training

Gifted

“It is all about life, in my 51 years experience I have always delivered live births without any problem. Those nurses come to my ramshackle to deliver their babies, what they tell women at the hospitals are just but routine and government policies that they also do not believe in.”


ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

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School gets girl friendly toilet facility By Caroline Wangechi The hygiene of girls in public schools must be given top priority to curb diseases that keep them out of school. Speaking while commissioning Kiarugu Primary School modern girls’ exhaustible toilet block, Kirinyaga Central MP Gachoki Gitari noted that girls have always been disad-

vantaged when it came to hygiene as toilets in public schools were in a pathetic state. Gitari noted that girls have problems while going to the toilets since many have remained unattended and this puts many girls’ at risk of exposure to diseases. “Many girls are kept out of school due to lack of proper hygiene as they have been exposed to many diseases that affect them psy-

chologically,” observed Gitari. He said that at the age of 13, many girls experience physical changes in their bodies where they even start their menses but the condition in public toilets where some do not even have doors. This forces the girls to stay away from school especially during their menstruation until when they will be relieved.

“Many girls start their menstruation at the age of 13. As a parent I have seen it is better to give them (girls) a modern toilet where they will feel free while changing their sanitary pads in closed doors which do not have holes,” observed Gitari. The MP said there are eight more primary schools in his constituency that are going to have a similar plan at a cost of KSh6.8 million.

Yoongoni Village role model in toilet construction By LYDIAH NGOOLO Flies know no bounds. This is much of the reason why villagers at Yoongoni Village, in Mwingi East District have dug latrines in their homes to diminish chances of an outbreak of communicable diseases. Whether modern or makeshift, toilets dot the village. “Nitwaekie kwiituia matu kuu kwonze kuma twenza syoo (We no longer defecate in the bush since when we began constructing the latrines),” explains Katumbu Musele, a mother of four and the chairlady of the Yoongoni Village Toilet Project committee. She adds: “It is not expensive to construct latrines depending on one’s ability. I have only used tree branches and twigs for walls and the roofs then an old sack for the door.” The drive to set up latrines in most homes in Yongooni was mooted by the Kitui Catholic Relief Service operating under the Kitui Diocese. According to its head, Elija Gichoro, the organisation focuses on social development.

Training

The diocese has mobilised and trained residents on the need to have toilets and in turn train their children on how to use the latrines and wash their hands after use. To ensure that every family constructs a toilet of its own, a family member from each of the 44 families within the village was selected to initiate the project. Soon the members became very social and worked in solidarity to the extent that, families who are unable to put up toilets on their own were helped by more able neighbours. “Due to the success of the toilet project, the village was considered a model village resulting to its hosting last year’s toilet day celebration for Kitui County,” explains Gichoro. He adds: “Before the initiation of the project, the village had only

two latrines but currently there is a latrine in each of the 44 households.” The initial two latrines were of little help as people answered to calls of nature in the bush leaving many places swarmed with flies. The soiled flies would consequently move from one place to another spreading disease like diarrhoea, cholera and other stomach complications. However, Gichoro says, that has become a thing of the past as every latrine has a jerri can of water, soap and ash near the door for hand washing to avoid contamination and spread of diseases.

Health benefits

The Eastern Provincial Public Health Officer Carol Ndegwa who was the chief guest at the toilet day celebrations and District Officer James Muiruri Wanyoike were impressed after being conducted on a tour of three model latrines by village elder Musee Muasya. They started with the home of Felix Mwikya, a father of six who has one of the modern latrines in the village. Mwikya said his family has benefited a great deal from the toilet project. He noted that hardly do his family members suffer from stomach complication. His children learned the benefits and importance of latrines as well as the need to wash hands after visiting

“Before the initiation of the project, the village had only two latrines but currently there is a latrine in each of the 44 households.” — Elija Gichoro, Project Head

the toilet. “With the properly constructed toilets, privacy is ensured and one feels safe,” says Mwikya. He adds: “Although the project was expensive, it is worth it and I have been spared the headache of often constructing and repairing of the simple makeshift latrines.” Another latrine visited belonged to Itiko Mwikya, a mother of four. Hers is a temporary, makeshift type made out of old iron sheets. “I am happy to have a latrine in my household. Since my children are young, I have to fill the container with water once it is emptied every day. I also make sure there is soap next to the container for my children and the visitors to wash their hands. The pit is always covered to avoid foul odour and contamination from the flies. I also sprinkle ash to check off the pungent smell and flies,’’ explains Itiko. The third one belonged to Katumbu Musele, a vocal, cheerful and active mother. She is considered among her peers as a good example. Her toilet is simple and she was the first among the Yoongoni villagers to construct one after receiving training. “There was no way I could tell the villagers to construct the latrines if I did not have one that would serve as an example. They then suspended their other daily activities and embarked on construction of their own family toilets. With the supervision of public health officers we made it,” explains Musele.

Construction

However, Mwendwa Mukuni, a Standard Six pupil from Kandwia Primary School in the neighbouring village, who attended the celebration, had a story to tell. He says he would use a latrine while in school but visited the bush when at home.

Katumbu Musele a vocal leader in Yoongoni village washing her hands after visiting the toilet. Below: Provincial public health officer Caroline Ndegwa addresses the meeting during the international toilet day at Yoongoni village in Nuu division, Mwingi East district. Pictures: Lydia Ngoolo He was pleased when his father came up with the idea of constructing a latrine. He added that he was so excited that he skipped school to help his father in construction work. “We were not used to washing our hands after relieving ourselves in the bush but after constructing the latrine at home, we use it and wash our hands with soap and water,” explains Mwendwa. He adds: “It was shameful for one to hide in the bush only to encounter your father or mother on a similar mission. These days things are different and we no longer fall sick

frequently.” Addressing the celebration, Ndegwa praised the residents for keeping high standards of hygiene and sanitation by constructing both temporary and modern latrines. “I am impressed by your work and this is why we are celebrating this day here. The surrounding villages like Yatwa, Kandwia and Kawelu should emulate Yoongoni,’’ Ndegwa reiterated. Nuu District Officer James Muiruri encouraged the chiefs to continue mobilising the community to construct more latrines.


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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Kieni farmer outshines many By JOSEPH MUKUBWA

Daniel Gakuu’s parents wanted him to be an accountant. They worked hard to ensure that he pursued the course to completion. But that was never to be. Instead of being called an accountant, 44-year-old Gakuu is popularly known as farmer number one. This was after the farmer from Kinyaiti village in Kieni West, Nyeri County ventured into small scale farming in 1991, specialising in onion farming. He turned down all job opportunities that came his way and whenever he got a job, he resigned soon after employment. Today, he is one of the most prominent onion farmers in the County. He first started by farming less than an acre until in 1998, when he farmed one and a half acres. “I spent only KSh40,000 as capital and after selling the harvest, I earned KSh400,000. This motivated me and together with my wife we resolved to expand the land under onions to three acres the following year,” says Gakuu. But this year’s venture was not a walk in the park. Gakuu incurred a huge loss due to rain shortage which hit the country due to La Nina effects following the El Nino effects in 1997. This prompted him to seek employment as a farm manager so as to source for capital. “I regard challenges as a chance to learn new things and so I used my stint during employment as an opportunity for exposure. During this period, I met many people who turned to be very beneficial to me. They included seed companies’ officials and Agricultural officers, among others,” he explains.

Model

In 2009, Safari Seed Company conducted a research for the Red Tropicana F1 onion variety which turned out to be a major success. They requested him to be one of their marketing agents to be selling their seed to other farmers as he was a good witness and model to the locals. This was his turning point. They sent him seeds worth KSh200,000 from which he got enough capital and went back into onion farming in full force. He distributed the seeds in the entire County. Since then, seed companies have been using him to research for their new products before introducing them into the area. In the year 2010 and 2011, Gakuu grew onions in a 4.5 acre piece of land, which had a bumper harvest. From this harvest, he reaped a net profit of KSh900,000 after spending KSh200,000 in the project. “Not many of my fellow farmers who grow onions ever harvested over 3,000 kilogrammes in an acre due to various challenges. Consequently, this earned me the nickname farmer number one,” he reveals. Through onion proceeds, he has bought a personal car and a pick up. He uses the personal vehicle for his other work while the pickup is used to transport workers to the farm. The father of four has also managed to educate four children to secondary school. Two are his while the other two are his sister’s. He is optimistic that he will educate them to university level. He has also built a decent house where he stays with his family. His popularity has made him known far and wide.

Consultancy services

The farmer is now an onion farming consultant in his own right, where he provides consultant services to area residents including some prominent personalities on onion growing. He has also managed to employ over 30 casual workers from needy families in his farm. “But we do have various challenges, where one is the issue of labourers who have been a headache to us. They are the ones who dictate charges to us during planting seasons where they demand between KSh300 to KSh400,” he complains, adding that in other areas, labourers earn between KSh150 to KSh200 in a day.

However he is quick to add that, “We are glad that many of our youths have ventured in onion farming which has brought down cases of crime in the area as it has drastically reduced idlers. They have been growing onions whose proceeds they use in the purchase of boda bodas as well as raising money to pay dowry among other uses.” Other challenges includes high farm input prizes and lack of warehouses for proper storage of their onions. They thus sell them at a throw away price to avoid damages in the farm. “But we are optimistic that most of the problems will soon be over, following intervention by a company known as Farm Concern International which came in the area in 2007. It brought most of the solutions to our problems,” says Gakuu. According to the company’s representative in the area Gerald Watoro, it is a market development agency that focuses on empowering small scale holders to commercialise farming activities by assisting them to produce quality and quantity harvests as well as linking them directly to buyers.

Technical advice

It offers farmers technical advice on construction of storage facilities which has helped add value to their onions by prolonging the products shelf life. This enables the farmers to keep the produce and sell when the prices Daniel Gakuu at Kinyaiti area in Nyeri County. Daniel planting with some of his workers in improve. his farm. Daniel inspects his onions. Pictures: Joseph Mukubwa It links the farmers directly to buyers eliminating brokers who hybrid varieties which are capable of producing community to develop an economic block to earlier ended up with the lion’s share of their about 10 tonnes of onions in an acre.The hybrid achieve the desired volume for markets and orproceeds. The elimination of brokers has seen variety matures in four months compared to ganisation structure within farming communithe prices of onions improve from between OPV variety which matures in six months. ties according to Watoro. KSh3 and KSh5 to about KSh20 to KSh30 per Gakuu says that before the company came kilogramme. into the area, farmers used to plant the open It introduced the domestic horticultural Currently, Gakuu has put 10 acres under onpollinated variety (OPV) onions which were a and market programme which uses commerions where he expects to reap about KSh2 millow yielding variety. The variety produced as cial village model as a vehicle to empower the lion. He expects to sell them at KSh30 a kilolow as 1, 500 kilogrammes unlike the current gramme. He is also in the process of preparing three more acres. His future prospects are to open a consultation firm where he expects to help more people from the county to venture in agribusiness. The farmer says that he spent most of his time in people’s land guiding them on how to grow the crop. He also hopes that the current season will have a bumper harvest and intends to buy a more powerful vehicle which will thrive in the — Daniel Gakuu, onion farmer dusty areas of Mweiga.

Expansion

I spent only KSh40, 000 as capital and after selling the harvest, I earned KSh400,000. This motivated me and together with my wife, we resolved to expand the land under onions to three acres the following year.”


ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

9

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Bank donates sanitary towels for school girls By BEN OROKO Aware of the reproductive health challenges that school girls, especially orphans face, the Barclays Bank, Kisii Branch staff in collaboration with Daraja United Women’s Group in Kisii town recently donated sanitary pads to orphaned school girls under the care of the group. The move was informed by the challenge of absenteeism facing girls who more often than not abscond classes during their menstrual cycles due to lack of comfortable sanitary towels as majority of them depend on improvised materials which are in most cases uncomfortable. Led by the area branch manager Ken Mirera, the bank staff donated sanitary pads as part of the efforts to promote reproductive health education among girls and enhance their presence in school during their menstrual cycle which

more often than not contributes to their absenteeism from school. Mirera clarified that the donations were meant to adequately prepare the girl-child for the biological conditions she goes through while in school and to ensure she continues attending classes without interruption.

Continuous attendance

“Besides donating these pads to the girls, we are equally using the opportunity to impart proactive reproductive health education on the girls both on the use and the importance of using the pads during their menstrual periods,” observed Mirera. Daraja United Women Group coordinator Winfridah Abuya who is also a retired nurse observed that a teenage girl needs support through training and provision of hygienic sanitary towels. Abuya challenged local communities to

change their beliefs and attitude in relation to the upbringing of the girl-child. She noted that education for the girl-child faced challenges, especially management of physiological changes during her growth and development. “Periods affect girls, who mostly feel uneasy while in school, forcing them to skip lessons as they cannot afford to buy the sanitary pads which are mostly regarded by the locals as products meant for the affluent in society,” observed Abuya. She blamed poverty and ignorance as being the reason why parents fail to buy the pads for their daughters who rely on unhygienic locally improvised materials which are uncomfortable and in most cases pose health risks to the girls. Abuya observed that parents from the local community abdicate their roles and shy off from openly discussing and advising their teenage girls on reproductive health issues that affect them during their development and growth stages.

Expensive farm inputs discouraging coffee farming By CAROLINE WANGECHI Expensive farm inputs and escalating costs of production have scared farmers from planting coffee. According to coffee farmer Michael Gichuki, high prices of farm inputs and escalating costs of production have scared away many from venturing into coffee farming.   Gichuki who markets his coffee through Thika Mills Limited after the collapse of Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU) in 2008 added that many farmers in the county need to be motivated to return to growing the cash crop. “The government should zero rate all agrochemicals like fertilisers and chemicals as a way of winning back farmers into the coffee industry,” noted Gichuki. He explained: “This

will ease farmers’ burden in light of the runaway inflation rate currently being experienced in the country.” Gichuki observed that farmers need to be educated on the importance of proper coffee farming practices as many abandoned the crop after world prices for the commodity started fluctuating in the late 1990s. He is optimistic that the industry will regain its lost glory with recent improvements in world prices. Gichuki urged farmers who had uprooted the crop to start planting again as the prices are now promising.   “I encourage farmers to back government efforts in reviving the industry by going back into coffee farming. I am delighted to see that many farmers have started planting the crop after realising that there is a bright future in the industry,” said Gichuki.

Members of the Kuria community have called upon the local provincial administration and the police to ensure that measures are put in place to deal with parents who forcefully circumcise their daughters this year. Kehancha mayor Tobias Werema appealed to security agencies in the area to be on high alert. “FGM is still threatening the lives of the Kuria girl and woman as it compromised their education and posed a danger to their health,” observed Werema. He reiterated that it was important that the

By JOHN SYENGO

A farmer inspects his coffee farm at Kiangwaci in Kirinyaga County. Costly farm inputs and production are discouraging farmers from planting coffee. Picture: Caroline Wangechi

church also stepped in and helped the administration in the fight against the tradition. Werema warned that leaders in the area would physically search for perpetrators of the vice especially the traditional circumcisers who make thousands of shillings out of the outlawed practice. Area DC James Mugwe said the government had secured the common border with neighbouring Tanzania to vet visitors entering the country. “Security officers especially at the Isebania border point had been put on high alert to arrest anybody crossing over into the country without valid documents,” he observed.

Mugwe also noted that the Isebania-Kehancha-Ntimaru road currently under construction would be complete by mid this year and would open up the area for fast development. He said the Government had released millions of shillings for various development programmes in the area, including the KSh50 million abattoir project at Mabera trading centre. He called on the residents to diversify their farming activities saying it was wrong to solely depend on maize and tobacco. “Very soon a private white sugar miller will invest in this region and we would like you to invest seriously in cane farming as soon as the factory becomes operational,” Mugwe advised.

Culture barring women from leadership positions By BEN OROKO Conservatism and patriarchy have been blamed for being barriers to women ascending to positions of leadership and decision making. According to Josephine Ombati, Public Officer Gusii County Council, the conservative and patriarchal Gusii community culture is to blame for frustrating women seeking political leadership. “Cultural beliefs among the Gusii continue denying potential women leaders a chance to seek leadership in various public positions with

Support

Abuya appealed to well wishers and donors to volunteer in supporting the girl-child cope with adolescence challenges adding that the support will enhance the girl’s education for her to compete fairly and favourably with her male counterpart. Abuya’s remarks come amid increasing cases of teenage pregnancies among school girls, a situation that many education stakeholder blame on lack of sex education to empower the teenagers, especially girls on matters of sexuality that would to enable them  make informed choices to curb risking and ruining their education and life careers.

Women told to embrace family planning

Call for combined force in the fight against FGM By FRED OKOTH

She noted that, it was time local communities shunned obsolete cultural norms which hampered the girl-child’s welfare both socially and academically to pave way for her positive development and growth.

most of them fearing being seen as social outcasts,” Ombati observed. Speaking to the Reject in Kisii town, she lamented that women from the community have for a long time been discriminated upon while trying to fight for their rightful democratic space in various elective positions. “Women seeking for political leadership face challenges, given the Gusii Community’s conservative cultural norms which restrict women to the kitchen and other family duties not related to seeking leadership of any kind,” Ombati noted. She called on various development part-

ners and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dealing with women’s affairs to consider re-directing their efforts to the region to empower women with the required knowledge on their constitutional rights. This, she argued, would enable the women make informed decisions on seeking leadership and electing fellow women to various political offices. She decried discrimination against women seeking political leadership from the community saying a lot of civic education is needed to sensitise women on their rights and opportunities meant to empower them socially, economically and politically.

Women in Mwingi have been called upon to abandon outmoded cultural practices that associated family planning with infidelity and prostitution. They were advised that it is only through embracing family planning that they can have healthy and happy families. Speaking in the area recently, Eastern Region coordinator of the National Coordination Agency for Population and Development, Jane Wanjaria said women should stand up against cultural barriers that mitigate against the use of contraceptives. She said time had come for all and sundry to rise up to the reality that the shunning of contraceptives had made poor families shoulder the heavy burden of extremely big and exorbitant families. “It is time women found ways of convincing their spouses that using contraceptives like condoms is not counterproductive and need not be associated with prostitution,” noted Wanjaria. She added: “It helps in ensuring well planned families that can be easily fend for and in a stress free manner.”

Use of contraceptives

She was speaking at the Mwingi sports ground during a public meeting to mark the launch of a week’s activities to encourage the use of contraceptives among the women in the area. She said contraceptives also helped to curtail the spread of HIV/Aids virus besides helping ensure that couples planned their families. The public sensitisation meeting preceded an exercise at the Mwingi District Hospital that saw a number of women voluntarily take up long term family planning methods that included implants and tubal ligation. However, others opted to collect pills and condoms. The officer in charge of the Ear, Nose and Throat department at the hospital, Dr Josephat Mutinda who represented the district medical officer of health lamented that currently the prevalence on the use of contraceptives in the area had drastically dropped compared to the period between 1970s and 1990s. Mutinda, however, noted that the good news was that many donors like the Aphia Plus Kamili and Amref have come in to popularise family planning and reverse the negative state into which the family programme had sunk to.


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ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

A biting snake menace hits Mwingi By KEN NDAMBU When Kathini Mulyungi retired to bed with her two sisters, little did she know that would be the beginning of a new life of hopelessness and despair of coping with paralysis for the rest of her life. Her dream of pursuing education at Mwingi Primary School was shattered as she had to spend four months in hospital. When she came back to school, she had to repeat class to learn how to write with her right hand as the other one had been amputated. Kathini recalls the events that led her to being physically challenged as if they just happened. “We were asleep with my two sisters in our Ithumbi rural home, Mwingi District when a black-necked cobra found its way into our room and attacked me. I took cover under the bed as my mother rattled it before killing it,” she recalls. Although Kathini was given first aid, the hand continued to swell and she developed breathing problems by the time she arrived at Mwingi District Hospital. This prompted the doctors to refer her to Embu Provincial Hospital where the hand was cut off to save her life. “Though I have healed, I cannot do anything even minor jobs and have to rely on relatives to help me,” she explains. Kathini’s testimony is just one of the many cases of snake bites in Mwingi District, Kitui County which has sent shivers to leaders in the region.

Research

Research conducted by a local community based organization (CBO) shows that in the last ten years, 295 cases of snake bites have been reported in the area out of which 100 were fatal. Mwanthi Maliwa’s left leg was amputated three times at Embu Provincial Hospital after he was attacked by a puff adder in Wingemi Village, Nuu Location, Mwingi East district. “I was grazing cattle in the fields when a huge snake appeared from a tree shade, bit me and coiled itself around my legs,” explains Maliwa adding the reptile was so fierce it continued biting him until villagers who came to answer his distress call rescued him. “When I reached the hospital four hours later, the lower part of the leg was rotten necessitating doctors at Mwingi District Hospital to cut it off before referring me to Embu Provincial Hospital where the leg was amputated further,” explains Maliwa. In Nduvani village, a primary school teacher Simon Kithonga died 30 minutes after he was attacked by a black-necked cobra near his poultry house three days after his sister was attacked by the same snake.

“My son had just arrived home from school at 7pm and as he passed by the poultry house, the snake emerged from the chicken pen, pounced and bit him on the chest,” explains Mary Kithonga. According to Peter Musyoka, coordinator of Visionary Advocacy for Desperate Cases (VADCA), a CBO which strives to mitigate against snake bites in the area in the last 10 years, nearly 300 cases of snake bites have been reported in the larger Mwingi District. Of the cases, 97 were fatal, 80 victims have been maimed with either legs or hands amputated while many others got minimal compensation or never got compensation at all. “The core value of the organisation is to sensitise the residents on how to improve the environment around their homesteads to wade off the snakes and at the same time educate them how to administer first aid to the victims of snake bites,” explains Musyoka.

Preventive measures

He says snake menace is common along the Mui coal basin as the equatorial vegetation and temperature is conducive to the reptile especially the poisonous black-necked cobra also known as the chicken snake. Other snake species found in the area are puff adders and python. However, Musyoka cites poor infrastructure and lack of transport to take the victims to health centres as a major contributing factor to increase deaths from snake bite. Most of those who have died lacked transport to take them to the nearest health centre for first aid. “The organisation encourages the residents to spray their compounds at night with petroleum products like kerosene and burn old tyres so that the smell can scare off the reptiles,” says Musyoka adding that snakes have a strong sense of smell. For first aid, he advises the victims to wash the affected spots with water and soap as snake venom is acidic and to neutralise it some alkaline like calcium hydroxide should be used. Victims should be encouraged to take glucose with water at a rate of one glass after every ten minutes until one urinates. Residents are advised to leave water in cans in the compound at night for the snakes to drink as they creep into houses at night in search of water and shelter. Records at Mwingi District Kenya Wildlife Service offices show that the district has the highest cases of snake bites in the country which is attributed to climate change. “Every month we record 10 to 15 cases of snake bites who come to fill compensation forms and the number continues to increase,” says Joseph Njue, the game warden.

He notes that delays in settling compensation claims is caused by failure by the victims to fill in the forms in time. “All the claims lodged in time are processed and the dues paid in time,” says Njue. However, according to Peter Mutemi, Executive Director of Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRCE) based in Mwingi, the law governing compensation for wildlife victims should be amended as the money given is too little.

Compensation

From left: A standard seven pupil at Mwingi Primary School Musyoki Musyoka who lost two fingers and sight after snake bite. Kathini Mulyungi from Ithumbi village had her education dream shattered following snake bite while asleep. Below: The Coordinator of Visionary Advocacy for Desperate Cases (VADCA) a Community Based Organization (CBO) that strives to mitigate against snake bites says 300 cases have been reported. Pictures: Ken Ndambu

Currently those who die from snake bites get KSh200,000 while those who survive receive between KSh15,000 and KSh50,000 regardless of the severity of the attack. “These are the rates which should be reviewed as the snake bites leave the victims maimed and not to be able to eke a living on their own,” notes Mutemi. Fast diminishing forest cover has been blamed for the rise in snake menace within Mwingi. “High rate of charcoal burning, drying of rivers resulting to harsh climatic condition has driven snakes from their habitat to co-exist with human beings resulting to the conflict,” observes Temi Mutia, director at the Regional Institute for Social Enterprise and Environment. He says as a mitigation measure especially in Mui Coal basin where mining of coal is expected anytime, it is necessary to carry environmental

assessment to avoid hidden vices like snake bite. He called for establishment of a snake bite research centre in Mwingi as an intervention measure to curb the increasing cases of snakehuman conflict. A clinical officer in charge of snake bites at Mwingi District Hospital Josphat Mutinda attributed the poor road network and positioning of the health centres to playing a role in the increase of fatal incidents in the region. “Snake bite victims should get treatment within 24 hours but some victims reach health centres even after three days when the condition has deteriorated,” notes Mutinda. He notes that snake bite treatment systems in the hospital are in place but when the cases are delayed the option is to refer them to Embu for specialised treatment. Snake menace has become an epidemic that needs support from all health stakeholders.

Disenfranchised youth must be given opportunities to grow By TITUS MAERO The establishment of county youth assemblies board is the culmination of efforts to support young people to be organised in a structural way to voice their opinions on issues affecting them. According to Lee Brudvig, the United States of America (USA) Embassy Charge d’Affairs, the setting up of youth assemblies is grounded in enabling youths at the village level to mobilise and share their aspirations, and concerns as well as seek solutions to problems afflicting them. Brudvig noted that youth assemblies is a concept that gives young people the opportunity to choose their leaders from the grassroots up to the national level adding that such

forums enable them voice social and economic matters. Brudvig was speaking at the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega during the launch of the Yes Youth We Can Kakamega County Youth Network. The forum brought together youths drawn from Kakamega County. He said the youth movement under the Youth Yes We Can programme is backed by a Constitution that enables young people to be recognised and registered with the Department of Gender and Social Development. Brudvig further said the forum is facilitated by Winrock International with funding through the United States Agency for Development (USAID). “The launching of the forum in Kakamega County is a milestone both in the USA and

Kenya co-operation and in national efforts to engage, encourage and empower young people in the country,” observed Brudvig. He noted that the past four years had seen much progress with the enactment of the National Youth Policy (2006), the establishment of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and the National Youth Council Act 2007.  At the same time, he said implementation of the new Constitution established a framework to end the culture of impunity in order to mitigate negative ethnicity and to close the huge gap of inequality in the society as well as promote development for the well being of all Kenyans. “The Yes Youth We Can fund will support

young people to tackle their economic and social challenges in ways that are youth owned,” noted Brudvig. He added: “It will support economic growth, create employment and strengthen their livelihoods.” He said improving the economic rate for the youth is critical for Kenya’s stability and that of the region adding that the impact of Yes Youth We Can efforts to promote the voice and livelihoods of the young people will be felt beyond Kenya’s borders. He noted that for the country to grow, the disenfranchised including youth, women and the rural poor must be given opportunities, resources and benefits noting that young people will find their way up, sharpen their business management skills and create jobs for each other through such forums.


ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

11

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Scorn of a child with cerebral palsy: A medical condition that is shrouded in myths By CAROLINE WANGECHI What is this disease? What causes it? Is it curable? These are some of the questions that race through our minds every time we see a child with one or more malfunctioning limbs. In a bid to explain the condition, people have ignorantly branded it the curse, the omen and some even view it as punishment for sins committed by parents. Ten-year-old Cynthia Nyakio knows this all too well. She has heard it all with neighbours and relatives viewing her as the black sheep of the family. “Life has been a nightmare for me ever since my daughter developed this condition back in 2005,” says Jane Muringo. With tears in her eyes, the mother of two explains how relatives and friends started avoiding her, claiming that she was cursed. Her family turned into the subject of ridicule.

Abandoned

Muringo’s only companion in the lonely journey of raising a child with cerebral palsy was her husband. He soon grew tired of the scorn and abandoned them making life even harder for Muringo and her children. “Being the father and mother for my children especially Nyakio has made it very difficult for me to find a job to sustain us,” she says. “I am forced to lock her up in the house as I go to find odd jobs to try and make ends meet.” Muringo’s ordeal is because no one is willing to take care of her child when she goes to work. Her bid to seek for assistance from the Government have not been helpful. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development office in Kerugoya directed her to Joy Town School in Thika but that journey too proved futile. She was sent back to the Kerugoya office and despite paying an interview fee of KSh200 at Joy town, they told her that Nyakio was not viable as

they do not deal with such cases. In spite of all these odds, Muringo has learnt to cope with the situation as she now fully understands the pressure of cerebral palsy. She is, however, a bitter mother as she believes that her child’s condition was a result of a doctor’s negligence. A one on one interaction with Dr Ezron Macharia reveals that this is partly true as medical mistakes are one of the major causes of cerebral palsy. He explains that cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disease that affects the mortar system. “It is like a life sentence as once a child develops the condition, she/he has to live with it for the rest of their life as it is not curable but can only be managed through therapy,” explains Macharia. He notes that one of the most common Jane Muringo with her daughter Cynthia Nyakio who suffers from cerebral palsy. Due to mistakes that can lead to the condition is givalienation from her family, Jane is forced to lock her daughter in the house as she goes in ing a child wrong medication. search of casual jobs. Picture: Caroline Wangechi Macharia explains that a child’s liver is not fully developed and hence unable to detoxify in gait and mobility, impairment of sight, hearward are also at a higher risk than the rest. Presome proteins that need to be excreted such ing or speech and seizures as well as sharp mature infants of less than 37 weeks are also at as bilirubin. pitched cries. high risk. Bilirubin then finds its way to the brain and “One can easily detect a child with cerebral Lest we get too scared, Macharia is quick to gets deposited at the base causing a disease palsy by noticing that the child lacks concentraadd that only less than 10 per cent of the popucalled kernicterus that precipitates cerebral tion and looks disoriented from the environlation is affected by cerebral palsy. He advises palsy. ment,” notes Macharia. He adds: “A child with the public to accept those affected as part of According to Macharia other medical misthe condition usually has very disrupted sleeping them as this assists in their therapy. takes that can cause the condition also include patterns too.” “It is important to realise that it is not the leaving the child in the birth canal for too long fault of the affected that they are this way and causing lack of oxygen and failure to recognise neither is it a curse or a punishment for sins. and treat seizures. The risk of getting children with cerebral Anyone can fall victim,” explains Macharia. He went on that failure to diagnose and treat palsy can be minimised by ensuring that both Just like Muringo, people should get inmeningitis in time as well as failure to perform parents are not below 20 years and not above formed about the condition in order to be in a Caesarean section in presence of foetal distress 40 years. position to deal with those affected people like may also cause the condition. “People of African-American descent are her daughter. Macharia explains that excessive use of vacmore prone to getting children who will develop “I only wish someone would look at our uum extraction and failure to detect prolapsed the condition,” observes Macharia. struggles and have mercy on us or at least help chord is a regular cause too. Some other risks related to the child are when my child get to a special needs school so that Cerebral palsy manifests itself in various one of a pair of twins dies or children born with I can be in a position to fed for them,” says forms. The child may be seen to have muscle low birth weight. The first child and the fifth onMuringo as she sighs tearfully. tightness, involuntary movement, disturbance

Risks

Lupus silently claiming lives of young women By DORCAS AKELLO When you first meet Lillian Mogoro, one cannot help but notice the angelic smile that lights up her pale face and fragile body. Mogoro is not your ordinary strong African woman. Though only 20 years old, she has been weighed down by the burden of disease. Mogoro is a survivor of lupus, which was recently diagnosed after two years of struggling with different illnesses. “I realised I had lupus in October 2006 but before that every part of my body ached. I was sickly every now and then,” Mogoro explains.

Endless trips

She made countless trips to a hospital in Eldoret town but the doctors could not diagnose the problem. When the situation worsened to the point of her being paralysed, both feet and arms, her family decided to transfer her to Kenyatta National Hospital where she was diagnosed with lupus.

Lupus is an immune mediated disease that affects the body tissues and is usually due to the body attacking itself; it develops antibodies against itself which make it release substances that lead to inflammation. It occurs mainly to women of child bearing age because of hormonal issues that are at play, making women nine times more likely to get the disease than men. Some of its symptoms include about 90 percent of patients presenting joint pains different from arthritis, 85 per cent suffer skin disorders, oral ulcers, get hair loss,

variety lung disorders, heart muscle disorders, headache, seizures and psychiatric manifestations like depression. About 70 per cent suffer kidney problems in the course of the disease among many other symptoms. “This was a great breakthrough for me because then I finally knew what I was suffering from, only that I did not know what I was up against,” she observes. Mogoro, a mother of two girls, says the disease which has not been given much attention in terms of financing in Kenya is slowly claiming lives as many cannot afford its

“Because of the known specific symptoms, it is very possible to have the patients misdiagnosed, especially if they do not have access to qualified physicians or personnel.”

— Dr Phillip Simani, a physician and rheumatologist

treatment due to its high cost. According to Dr Phillip Simani, a physician and rheumatologist, lupus arises as an interaction between genetic and environmental factors. “Genetic factors are as a result of clustering of lupus in families, environmentally it is sun interacting with somebody who has genetic predisposition leads to it,” he explains. Simani says it is hard to diagnose the disease and one needs to be sensitive to it. “Because of the known specific symptoms, it is very possible to have the patients misdiagnosed, especially if they do not have access to qualified physicians or personnel,” he observes. According to Simani, if patients are not well taken care of and the disease is not well managed they may suffer miscarriage in most cases for those who are pregnant. “Some medication for lupus patients also

interferes with breastfeeding and survivors have to stop taking the medication in the course of the pregnancy and also when breastfeeding,” Simani noted.

Costly affair

According to another lupus patient who spoke on anonymity, it is expensive to handle the disease citing that seeing a doctor one has to part with between KSh1,500 and KSh2,000 for each visit. “Seeing a doctor in one month usually costs KSh6, 000 and there are only three doctors in the Nairobi who can manage the disease,” she says. She notes that lupus comes in different forms which are known in medical terms as flares. It could be like a headache today, tomorrow backache and every time one has to see a doctor. “If you are employed you can easily be fired because today you ask for permission to go to the hospital, another week you go, another week you go again and this makes it very hard for people to work with lupus patients,” she said.


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ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

High cost of living causing family break ups By HENRY OWINO The rate at which the cost of basic commodities in the market is skyrocketing is a worrying trend for many Kenyans. This is especially worrying for low income earners who depend on casual job wages for to sustain their families. Most people are forced to dig even deeper into their pockets to buy the essential commodities. Most consumers can no longer afford them even though they used to in the previous years as prices never changed much. Today what one used to buy at KSh100 now goes for about KSh300 or more depending on where it is bought, availability and the locality. In fact the increase of basic commodities is more than 200 per cent yet the salary remains constant making the cost of living exorbitant.

Coping mechanisms

Majority of Kenyans are earning below a dollar a day yet the cost of living has gone up forcing the same low-income earners to opt for various ways to survive since life has to continue. So to make up for the difference being experienced by the harsh economic times, many are disposing off their priced possessions in their houses at a fraction of what they spent on them in a bid to obtain some cash to survive. Currently most families have cut their budget spending to buy essentials only, while others have even re-programmed their diet timetables by having a single meal in day. Despite all this, some families are breaking apart due to misunderstanding of the rising cost of basic food items. For those who could not cope with the very high cost of living especially in Nairobi, they had to relocate to upcountry or move to cheaper and affordable rental houses in the slums to make ends meet at the end of the day. Monica Adongo Onyango, 43 said the prices of basic commodities has gone up that nowadays she has to draw up a budget of all that she needs before leaving her house for any shopping. Adongo said life has become so expensive that if one does not budget properly, then he or she will end up spending more money on unnecessary items.

Costly living

Adongo lives in a rental house at Makina, Kibera’s estate in Nairobi. She says the cost of living in urban slums has always been cheaper compared to any other place in the city but prices of basic commodities remain the same for all regardless of their purchasing power. She gave the example of maize flour used to make ugali, a staple food that is now selling for between KSh110 and KSh120 depending on the brand. “I am surprised that sugar which I used to buy at KSh100 not long ago, now it is being sold at over KSh2OO. Nowadays I do not buy sugar, it is better to purchase four packets of two kilogrammes maize flour which is more essential in the house than sugar which I can do away with.

From left: Monica Adongo Onyango carrying her goods from the supermarket. Rose Wafula, buying vegetables at an open air market along Ngong Road. Pictures: Henry Owino It is a matter of priority and cost cutting. When I get some money, I ensure all basic items are bought because you never how much it will cost the next day,” Adongo explained. She revealed that some families have had quarrels over household expenditure. The genesis of the misunderstandings always comes from how much money the wife spent on basic commodities.

Conflict

The husband might leave some money for the wife and expect the amount he left could be enough for the day, only for the wife to realise prices had changed the previous night and buys the basic goods very expensive. Some men would not listen and unnecessarily beat up the wife for misuse of family money hence break up. She added that it is the reason many families today are either breaking up or the husband resorts to buying the basic needs by himself for the family for purposes of having peace in the house to protect their children. Rose Wafula who has been married for the last seven years with three children says she is finding it tough to feed the family. Her husband is a casual labourer at a construction site while she is a small scale business woman selling snacks at a nearby school. Wafula admitted that they have had many differences between herself and the husband most of which are always caused by the budget. She said her husband is very strict when it comes to spending. Gone are the days when

their family could take milk, tea and bread. This is no longer part of their breakfast routine. Leisure activities such as travel and eating out have also being shelved as the family tightens controls around spending money. Wafula said the last time they travelled back to the rural home for such an occasion was in 2007 and in addition, they were going to take part in the voting process in Bungoma town. “The cost of kerosene I use in my house for lighting and cooking has become costly, we cannot afford cooking gas, a container of charcoal is KSh40 and I need two per day, so imagine if you add the house rent of KSh1800, water…its too much to imagine,” Wafula narrated. She said most of her neighbours at Gatwekera in Kibera estate sold their house possessions that they thought could earn them some good money but they never and ended up vacating to upcountry when life in town especially Nairobi becomes unbearable for them. She said they do not live in iron structure

“Today life is about cost cutting, why should I spend KSh10, 000 on a single day just to please people then I suffer for the rest of the year.” — David Okemwa

houses at their wish but the level of poverty caused by inflation has pushed them to the slums. David Okemwa has lived in Nairobi for over 30 years now in different estates. He says one could live with relatives cater for other expenses without much struggle. He however says things began changing in the late 1990s after multiparty politics took root in Kenya.

Bad politics

“I remember the former president said bad politics lead to bad life. So even if we make noise that unga should be KSh40, KSh50 or KSh70 who cares? They do not because they are not feeling the pinch of inflation you and I are feeling,” Okemwa said. “Today life is about cost cutting, why should I spend KSh10, 000 on a single day just to please people then I suffer for the rest of the year,” Okemwa said. He said any wife who still demands for expensive pedicure, manicure, clothes, shoes that are not necessary in the house as a basic need from her unemployed husband at this time when life has become exorbitant and almost unbearable, then that woman is not considerate to the husband and deserves no honor to the community. The gentleman on the other hand, blamed the members of parliament for not implementing the Price Control Bill which has been in the August House for some time and needs to be in practice to save the poor against unscrupulous businessmen.

Poverty and alcoholism have given rise to domestic violence By WANGARI MWANGI Abject poverty and alcoholism have been cited as the major contributing factors of the increased domestic violence in Murang’a County. In the recent past, the media has highlighted cases of gender violence in Central Kenya. In a special sitting with the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) women from this area featured prominently with the victims narrating their ordeal at the hands of their husbands and family members. It emerged that thousands of women have been suffering in silence fearing to disclose their problems to avoid public embarrassment or threats from their husbands. Mary Njoki* a mother of five says she abandoned her family and children when her husband became intolerable but even her second marriage worked no magic. She said on several occasions she

spent nights in the cold after being chased out of the house by her drunken husband. “I thought running into the arms of another man would end my marriage nightmare of being beaten everyday but things never changed,” she said.  Lack of a stable source of income for women has created a platform for men to exploit their wives as they will only clinch into that marriage for the sole purpose of providence as they have no one else to rely on. Grace Mwanjiru* told the commissioners in the sitting that since she

got married 20 years ago, her husband has always been beating her since she does not make any economic contribution to the family. “My husband comes home drunk, beats me up mocking me that I have nowhere to go because I am poor,” she said.

Sexual assault

At times, the violence includes sexual assault. The women narrated how they have been victims of sexual assault in the hands of their husbands. Some of them said that when their husbands come home drunk

“In every 10 women, four or five of them suffer from domestic violence.” Jane Kamwaga, County Chair, CCCE

they also defile their daughters. However they fear disclosing such cases to cover for their spouses or after being threatened. Helplessly, they watch as their daughters suffer yet there is nothing they can do. “Our daughters are married off at early ages to cover up the incidences once the offenders realise the information has reached the authority or they arbitrate to avoid spreading the matter to the public,” said one mother who sought anonymity. The provincial administrators at the grassroots have not had the capacity to deal with such cases and the conflicting parties are advised to solve the matters back at home. Issues of disinheritance, property grabbing and human rights violations also came up with several women claiming to have been chased out of their matrimonial homes after the death of their husbands. Jane Kamwaga, the County chair of the Coordination Centre for Com-

munity Empowerment (CCCE) said many women are suffering in silence.  She said the prevalence rate is shooting to 40 to 50 per cent calling for urgent measures to address the issue. “In every 10 women, four or five of them suffer from domestic violence,” she said. However, Kamwaga regretted that women are never ready to report incidences of domestic violence. Instead, they discuss them amongst themselves without seeking any legal redress.  The presiding chair of the TJRC session, Tecla Namachanja said the problem being shared by women from the area was shocking. She said there was need to urgently address the issues. The chair said they would make recommendations to the government to ensure that the women’s suffering was brought to an end. “We have a special interest in women. We shall do all we can to create a conducive atmosphere for them to live peacefully,” she remarked.


ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

13

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Blood disease drains family resources By BENARD KIMANI A family in Nairobi is grappling with what has befallen them following a rare disease affecting their only son, at the age of 11 years. It all started as stomach pain in June 2011, but the family has lived to experience sleepless nights that have turned into months. The fight against Aplastic Anaemia disease (AA) is still on, but the life of master Ben Ombasa Kengere hangs on the balance. When the Reject visited the family in their rented home in Mwiki, we found Ombasa at home resting on the seat with his face held up with one nostril stuffed with a white piece of sterilised linen. He had been nose bleeding and this was part of first aid to curb the situation.

First aid

The family is now accustomed to the routine. They all are keen to administer first aid, even his eight-year-old sister June Gloria Moraa. Moraa dashes into the room with a surgeon’s mask to cover Ombasa’s nose and mouth after the nose bleeding stopped. Ombasa is supposed to be playing with his peers or in school studying, but this will only happen at his own peril. He has been advised by his doctor to avoid crowded places and situations that could cause injuries. It is an uphill task for the Standard Five pupil as his parents describe him as very playful. They say he likes running and challenging older boys during school competitions. These are painful facts the family of four has lived with since he was diagnosed with Aplastic Anaemia over ten months ago. It is a rare disease in the country and could be behind deaths of innocent Kenyans due to its soaring costs of treatment. The Ombasa family is a living example to this fact. Slightly over half a year now after their son was diagnosed with AA disease, they are still not out of the loop. “We are now struggling to get daily drugs for our son,” says David Kengere, Ombasa father. According the Dr Geoffrey Zambezi Mutuma, consultant pathologist, AA treatment is very expensive. “The only therapeutic treatment of the disease is bone marrow replacement. Transplants are very complicated and always very expensive for a common Kenyan to afford,” says Dr Mutuma. Aplastic Anaemia is a rare serious disease caused by the bone marrow’s failure to produce blood cells such as red cells, platelets and white cells. “We were advised to observe high standards of cleanliness, make sure he does not go into crowded areas where he can get infections,” says Nancy Kengere, Ombasa mother. Kengere says these are some of the reasons that they resolved that he can attend school only two days in a week. This measure is to reduce the risk of getting injured as his blood does not coagulate easily.

Ambition

Although reduced visits to school paint a dim future for the young lad, he wears a brave face. He says the disease will not dampen his desire to become a doctor in future. He would like to attend to sick people. His fight with the disease has been marked with struggles.. “We moved from one hospital to the other to seek treatment. Many tests were carried out, finally we got the rude shock at Aga Khan Hospital where we learned what is ailing

our child,” says Kengere. Kengere says he has spent a lot of money on the disease which he says is far beyond their means. “We cannot afford the amount of money that is required to have our son receive a bone marrow transplant which seems to be the only remedy for the disease,” laments Kengere. Ombasa has undergone close to 20 blood transfusions which have helped him stay alive. When he was first diagnosed with the disease, Kengere says his son could not even walk, his knees were very weak and he looked tired. When they received the test results, they learned that among others, their son’s blood platelets, which are responsible for blood clotting and eventually stopping bleeding were very low. He had a single platelet left out of 150 to 400 considered as the normal range. The platelets could only be extracted from fresh blood. The family has had to mobilise friends, relatives, church members and even Ombasa’s teachers to donate blood. A single visit would see them take up to 20 people. Four blood donors could extract only one platelet. The boy received six on the first day. The procedure would be repeated five days later. “It was then that I realised what we had initially thought to be a simple condition could turn fatal,” says Kengere. In his pocket he had only KSh5, 700 but the blood test amounted to KSh16, 000. This not withstanding Ombasa was admitted in the high dependency unit which at a cost of KSh15, 000 a day. In three weeks he was admitted in the hospital, the family spent over KSh600, 000.

Bone marrow transplant

The high cost of treatment led to them taking their son home and only taking him to hospital to attend regular outpatient clinics. The doctor recommended that Ombasa takes drugs for a period of 60 days to see whether his condition would stabilise although the ultimate solution remains bone marrow transplant. Dr Mutuma says the cause the condition is not known. The farthest doctors in the country go is to treat symptoms to replace what is missing which include infections, adding platelets and supplementing red blood cell essential for supply of oxygen in the body to boost haemoglobin. He says lack of a drug that cures the disease has made it very expensive to treat. While the only remedy to the disease is bone marrow replacement, the doctor laments that currently the country so far is not comfortable in conducting this complex bone marrow transplant. At the same time he says the disease is not very common in Kenya. The Kengere family is one of those who have faced this reality. “Some of the drugs are im-

From top: Ben Ombasa Kengere relaxes at home with one nostril stuffed with a white piece of sterilized linen to stop nose bleeding. Ben with his mother Nancy Kengere. Together with his family outside their home in Mwiki. Pictures: Benard Kimani ported only on order. The only hospital you can get these drugs is Nairobi Hospital,” says Nancy, Ombasa’s mother. On average, the family spends KSh1 000 daily on drugs and over KSh40, 000 to cater for the boy’s medical expenses. They are always on high alert, as Ombasa develops fever often requiring medical attention. However the drugs seem to interfere with his hormones. “You are very lucky to have found him in this state; last week he had grown very big, you would think he is a body builder,” says Nancy. She adds that the drugs had at the same time made him grow hair on his entire body. At times, he would lose his temper easily. These are some of the situations that the family will have to contend with much longer. They have on several occasions tried to save funds to pay for bone marrow test with little success. The only test they have managed to conduct is blood test to two of their daughters who would come in handy as bone marrow donors. “I have been striving to save money to secure bone marrow tests on my daughters but the money has ended up on solving crisis

I have been striving to save money to secure bone marrow tests on my daughters but the money has ended up on solving crisis when my son gets sick.” — David Kengere, boy’s father.

when my son gets sick,” says Kengere. Kengere says the money required to conduct these tests is KSh206,000. The samples would be sent for testing to a lab in South Africa. This notwithstanding, the actual treatment is more expensive and can only be carried out either in South Africa, India and Britain among other places. Kengere says if funds are available he will seek these services in India which he says is a little cheaper. He estimates the total treatment costs at KSh7 million and KSh10 million in South Africa.

Priority

“Where I come from, I have never seen people fundraise this kind of money. I have only seen people raise upto KSh100, 000 for school fees,’’ says the concerned parent. Ombasa’s mother is supposed to go for a backbone operation but has opted to deal with her son first. “I was diagnosed with lumba loidosis which has left me in a lot of pain,” says Nancy. She cannot sleep for two hours straight and has to sit to turn in bed. For the average Kenyan, treatment for the AA seems to be a pipe dream. Kengere urges the government to establish trust funds to cater for treatment expenses for chronic illnesses such as AA. He observes that in the UK and USA such trust funds have been established to help in the treatment of the disease. However his attempt to seek help from UK Aplastic Anemia trust were unsuccessful as only citizens are eligible beneficiaries. The family is yet to identify an AA patient in Kenya.


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ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Pneumonia contributes to child mortality By HENRY OWINO

Pneumonia is a curable and preventable disease. However, the infectious ailment still poses a challenge among young children despite the fact that we now have a vaccine for the disease. The introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine in Kenya is beginning to contribute to reducing pneumonia related deaths. The vaccine was intended to save millions of children’s lives who were dying at a tender age of less than five years. Pneumonia Day is marked in the month of November annually. Last year, six hospitals across the country were used to raise awareness and promote action towards reducing the burden of pneumonia to mothers in Kenya. In Nairobi, the awareness campaign was held at Mbagathi District Hospital where nurses, doctors and mothers celebrated the day with the young children.

Hospitalisation

Sara Mutanu, aged 11 is in Standard Three at ACK St John Kangemi Primary School suffered pneumonia last year. She was hospitalised at the Mbagathi District Hospital for a week to receive proper medication. The little girl said she began experiencing difficulties in breathing and coughed often. “I could not breathe well and used to cough a lot. The teacher gave me permission to rest at home but my aunt decided to take me hospital for treatment,” explained Mutanu. The mother of four-year-old Trinidad Kinuthia was baffled when she received the news from the doctors that her son was suffering from pneumonia. Mary Wambui, the mother could not visualise the chances of survival for her son and was worried death was knocking at her door. Wambui narrated: “When I took the little one to the hospital a new it was minor illness, something manageable. So, when the doctor said it was pneumonia, I was so scared that my son will not make it because this disease has claimed many children especially in Nairobi during cold seasons like July and August months. Though the doctors assured me that he was going to be well. I never believed it until after a few days when I saw that he was recovering,” said the mother who was relieved her son is now well. According to Dr Ambrose Agweyu, the Kemri-Wellcome Trust Researcher at Kenyatta National Hospital, pneumonia is a killer disease especially in children under five adding that the vaccine would contribute to curbing it. He added that most parents especially the young ones, seems to be very ignorant about some diseases and for them to know, awareness is the key strategy.

Vaccination

“Awareness is the key element that parents need to have especially young parents. We know that pneumonia is a killer disease among the children and vaccination is the only way out that will help the children curb the disease,” said Dr Agweyu. He added that but basic home care such as ensuring children have warm attire and beddings especially during the cold season would help. Dr Agweyu urged caregivers of children who have survived pneumonia after receiving treatment to share their experiences with medical staff to help the researchers collect information on the disease.

The researcher reiterated that the interaction between caretakers, parents and health workers will increase awareness about pneumonia and effective ways of preventing and treating the disease within the community. It would also motivate hospital staff who are caring for children at the strategic targeted hospitals. “In order to prevent the disease, exclusive breast feeding during the first six months of life, ensuring adequate child nutrition, promoting regular hand washing and reducing indoor air pollution play a great role in pneumonia prevention,” encouraged Dr Agweyu. Safe and effective vaccine exists to provide protection against the primary causes of pneumonia. Hib vaccines are already in widespread use, a programme that the government and other partners are engaged in. Dr Agweyu urged the relevant local and international decision makers to review and meet prior commitments towards implementing the MDG goals especially of reducing child mortality. He said there is need for child survival intervention including those relating to childhood pneumonia and can be done by increasing public investment in children and maternal health programmes. If the politicians could prioritise healthcare needs of all Kenyan children with the Hid and pneumococcal vaccines, it will help create more awareness in the country and contribute substantially towards the attainment of the fourth Millennium Development Goal aimed at reducing child mortality. The target for attainment of MDG goals is four years away and the 15 per cent allocation of the total national budget to healthcare need is far from being realised.

“When I took the little one to the hospital a new it was minor illness, something manageable. So, when the doctor said it was pneumonia, I was so scared that my son will not make it because this disease has claimed many children.” — Mary Wambui, Mother

From top: Staff at the Mbagathi District Hospital. Mary Wambui and her son Trinidad Kinuthia. Sara Mutanu during the interview at the hospital. Pictures: Henry Owino

Health workers deserve better pay and working conditions By KARANI KELVIN Doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners deserve better pay and working conditions. This was the message during a medical practitioners’ award ceremony held in Bungoma. Honourable Alfred Khang’ati, MP Kanduyi Constituency and assistant Minister in the office of the Prime Minister said that it was a shame that the government he is serving is slow in responding to the demands of medical practitioners. He said that medical practitioners work in difficult and risky environments and deserve to be remunerated properly. He compared the medical practitioners’ with the commissioners of the Constitutional Implementation Commission (CIC) who are paid very well although they do not work in risky environments and asked that medical practitioners’ to get their dues. “Doctors and nurses should get what they are asking for. We want everyone work-

ing in the medical field to be properly remunerated,” he said. Speaking during the ceremony, Dr. Ekesa Mulianga, the Medical Superintendent and District Medical Services Officer (DMSO), reiterated the same remarks saying that he knew some nurses and other medical practitioners across the country were on a go slow. Although the doctors union led their members to strike, a similar industrial action which was to be taken by other medical practitioners’ was called off by their union even as the disgruntled nurses complained of their poor working conditions. Some of the demands of medical professionals include better pay and better working conditions. They want the government to buy the necessary facilities for hospitals, employ additional staff and to invest in the training of the medical practitioners. The government has however been dragging its feet on the demands made by the doctors’ union thereby putting many lives at risks.


ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

15

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Bananas in Maragua By Parsai Joto A retired primary school teacher from Kagurumo Village in Makuyu, Murang’a County did not know of any other strategy to sell bananas harvested from her farm. Like the rest of the smallholders, the mother of four, relied on eyeball estimates that peasant farmers drawn from the area had grown up believing was the only way bananas could be weighed. By relying on eyeball estimates, she never quite pulled herself completely out of poverty and enhanced nutrition at the household level. Brokers who exploited her, often held back Mwalimu Esther Wanjiku Munyua, 61 from progressing financially. Wanjiku ferried her bananas to the local open-air market at Saba Saba along the KenolMurang’a road where middlemen would dictate the prices. However, seven years down the line, Wanjiku who is a mother of two girls and boys, is satisfied to earn close to KSh20, 000 from the sale of bananas. “I now sell my bananas in kilogrammes rather than eyeball estimates as I am able to achieve over 100 per cent price increment,” she says. “Like the rest of the smallholder farmers, we meet buyers in advance and agree on a favourable price unlike the open air market and earn extra income by adding value to bananas.” Wanjiku’s fortunes changed when she became a member of the Sabasaba Multi Purpose Co-operative Society, a growers and marketers group formed in the area in 2004.

Profit

“Without weighing scales farmers earned as little as KSh3 per kilo of bananas instead of almost KSh10 and KSh14 for grade one,” says the chairman of the society Joseph Wanyoike Ngamau. “This is how we managed to fend off brokers. Acreage under bananas also increased per household as farmers secured loans from financial institutions to plant more. Our members have also been trained on marketing and financial management which resulted in a sound culture of savings among them.” The purpose of the group was to attract large-scale buyers who would buy the produce at better prices. TechnoServe and Africa Harvest supported group formation and development with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. Currently, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is funding the project. “We have funded the two organisations to consolidate the gains made in the banana value chain and benefit more rural households,” ex-

plained AGRA executive assistant, Sheila Komen Keino. Sabasaba’s members came from Kamahuha Banana Growers and marketing self help group who previously found it tiresome to transport their bananas to the market every fortnight.

Great potential

TechnoServe’s Olivia Karanja says banana potential in the country remains high and regrets the neglect by the public and private sectors to harness it. Karanja says the main focus in Kenya and the East African region has been on traditional ‘cash crops’ like tea, coffee and pyrethrum, resulting in banana sector being operated at subscale level. The ministry of agriculture estimates total banana production in Kenya at over a million metric tones – including all types of bananas and plantains. Farmed primarily by women, bananas are used to feed families and also to derive marginal income to support family needs, especially for children. On the produce, Wanyoike says the society is in the process of contacting the Kenya Bureau of Standards to approve value added banana products and the Banana Growers Association to negotiate for better prices.

Links with banks

Assistance has been channeled through the banana commercialisation project with help from Technoserve. “It has helped us get market and financial linkages to urban traders with Equity and KRep Banks,” explained Wanyoike, who steered the self help group towards the getting registered as a cooperative society in 2008. He reveals plans the society is working on that will lead to the establishment of a Village Loans Association through which members will access loans at low interest rates. The group has organised itself into four steering committees - marketing and commercialisation, finance and audit, investment and welfare, production and grading - which update farmers on current issues in the different areas.

A small holder banana farmer inspecting her crop in Gucha District in Kisii County. Picture: Ben Oroko According to Wanyoike, a market service centre the society has been constructed and has improved linkage and networking with traders in Nairobi who at times place orders and pay via Mpesa then send lorries to pick the bananas. The market centre acts as a hub for inputs and outputs markets and is formed by one or more producer business groups. The group hopes to buy vehicles to collect bananas from the catchment area and expand dairy farming to get more manure for fruit farming. At the Sabasaba market, built by the society on a one and a half acre piece of land that the society bought with a loan of KSh1.08 million, farmers sell their produce instead of in the open-air markets. Officials conduct business in a small office while farmers access other services like credit,

“Traders have built confidence in us for being in a market centre from where wholesalers fetch the produce to sell to retailers in major cities and towns. They have faith about the maturity of the bananas they buy from us.” — Joseph Wanyoike Ngamau, Society Chair

fertilisers, irrigation equipment and market information. “Traders have built confidence in us for being in a market centre from where wholesalers fetch the produce to sell to retailers in major cities and towns. They have faith about the maturity of the bananas they buy from us and nonmembers who prefer that we sell for them,” says Wanyoike.

Investment

“The income from the bananas has had an economic impact on members in terms of expanding our businesses, education for children and investment in real estate,” says Paul Muturi, a producer based member in Githembe. Branch Secretary, Edward Kimuhu says at the village level, members are able to get soft loans in an organised manner without the normal hussles of collateral or document demands. Kimuhu explains that small holders invest the loans in other modes of farming like dairy for the purposes of diversification. A major challenge has been lack of enough rainfall or water to irrigate the banana farms, leading to lower yields and income. “To mitigate this, some members secure loans from financial institutions like K-Rep for water pumps and tanks which they back from the sale of bananas,” Kimuhu says.

Disaster preparedness through resource centres  

By KARIUKI MWANGI

  Residents of Embu and Meru counties stand to benefit from a KSh3.4 million resource centre which has been set up by the St John’s ambulance in Embu County. St John’s ambulance chairman Marsden Madoka said that the council is planning to open up other resource centres across all the forty seven counties so as to manage road carnage and other disasters effectively. Madoka said that the youth and community resource centre is aimed at empowering the youth and the members of the community on the various disaster management methods so as to enhance disaster preparedness. “This multi-purpose resource center will also offer recreational facilities as well as being a center for dissemination of skills for the youth and the community at large,” he said. The chairman said the center would also promote appropriate and productive behavior among the youth adding that it is also expected to bring about self reliance and innovativeness.

He said the center will harness the youth’s energy and time for production and therefore preventing them from getting involved in idleness and crime. The center will also be open to the public and shall also expose the residents on simple ways of preparedness and response to emergencies like fire and road accidents, which have claimed the lives of many in the region over the past few months.

Employment

Eastern provincial commissioner Claire Omollo while opening the centre said the region has numerous challenges posed by various forms of disasters saying that the center would alleviate some of them. She said that the youths particularly should take advantage of the centre and learn more on entrepreneurship urging that with the increased unemployment, self employment for them would be good for their development. The PC said the increasing disparity between the output of school leavers and job cre-

Eastern PC Claire Omollo and St John’s ambulance chairman Marsden Madoka officially open the KSh3.4 million resource centre. Madoka said that such centres will be set up in all the forty seven counties. Picture: Kariuki Mwangi ation in the country’s economy has resulted to high unemployment levels among the youths saying that the project will be of great help in improving the employability of the youth through the essential training as a catalyst to creating the demand for youthful job seekers. Omollo said the high number of the unemployed youths in the country poses a security

threat to the country adding that the center will from this year admit 5000 youth into weekly educational programs to reduce crime. The centre will also offer trainings and programs in peer education, community home based care, life skills, first aid training, psycho trauma counseling, career guidance, leadership and entrepreneurship.


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ISSUE 058, March 16-31, 2012

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Rich in minerals, Taita Taveta County languishes in poverty By ROBBY NGOJHI

southern sector, Samuel Rukaria says fencing the area to separate the community and the park is the only solution to the conflict. However, he says locals are against the fencing project claiming that their land might be taken away by KWS. “We spend huge sums of money in flushing out elephants from the park almost every year. There is a week we spent KSh2.5 million to chase away the animals using a chopper. However, this should never have happened if we had introduced a fence as it was done in Aberdares. Instead the KSh2.2 million could have been used in some community project to eliminate poverty,” observes Rukaria.

For a first timer in Mwatate town in Taita Taveta County, the  virtually inevitable clamour from the sugarcane hawkers sounds annoying. As buses and matatus whip in and out of the town, the hawkers rush to the vehicles holding pieces of sugarcane that have been peeled and packed in tiny plastic bags. The visibly underprivileged hawkers stretch their hands to reach the passenger through the windows as they fight to persuade the travellers to buy their juicy pieces. This is the scenario that welcomes one into this town. Scores of jobless women in the area rely on this business as their source of livelihood to supplement family income as their husbands hustle in the mines. “I do this business because I have no other job to do. Although it is not a well paying occupation, I am happy because from it I eke out a living and get something to settle the school fees with for my daughter who is currently in Form Three at Senior Chief Mwangeka Girls’ Secondary school,” explains Elizabeth Mzungu, a hawker.

Mining  

Taita Taveta is known as a region which is vastly endowed with valuable resources which singles it out as one of the richest counties in the country. For example when you visit most low land areas of the region, you will find hundreds of men working in private mines looking for precious stones like asphalt, iron ore, green garnet, ruby, Tsavorite, blue sapphire and change colour garnet. These are the hidden treasures which partly define the economic potential of this county. The gemstones are extracted in the low lands areas such as Kasighau, Chunga Unga, Kamtonga Mwachabo, and Mkuki but just like the women selling sugarcane at the matatu stage, poverty is rife among the men who toil in the mines day by day. Locals complain that they hardly feel the benefits of the mineral resources because most of the local mines have been invaded and owned by prominent business persons and politicians who are people from outside. Those who work in the mines often complain of poor working conditions coupled by insecurity and low wages. Several mining prospectors have declared interest in investing billions of shillings in the area but politics have often marred their plans. In 2009, a Scottish mining prospector known as Bridges Campbell who discovered Tsavorite was attacked and killed by a gang of youth as he was on his way to his mines in Mwachabo area in Mwatate Constituency. Infamous for iron ore at Kishushe, residents

Sugarcane business

On a lucky day, Mzungu takes home KSh200. She is among other hundreds of women who have constructed small vibandas (kiosks) by the roadside where their day begins at 6am and ends at 6pm. “We have been practicing maize farming for many years with hopes of getting bumper harvest but time and again our dreams have often been thwarted by immense crop failure due to unreliable rainfall coupled with human wildlife conflict,” she says. Mzungu says every time they plant crops in the farm, jumbos come and destroy them leaving the villagers with no food crop. “Elephants have been crisscrossing around since the planting season, and now they are back again to destroy the plants before they mature,” says Flumence Mshila, Maktau Ward Councillor. She poses: “They have completely destroyed the cowpeas, pigeon peas, and maize crops. Where are we going to get food to feed our families?” Mshila reiterates: “We do not want to continue being dependent on the Government relief food which is never enough for our families.” The residents bewail the elephant menace which has left learning in several schools paralysed after hundreds of affected students fail to turn up.

“We have been practicing maize farming for many years with hopes of getting bumper harvest but time and again our dreams have often been thwarted by immense crop failure due to unreliable rainfall coupled with human wildlife conflict.”

Compensation

Resident’s dreams of being compensated by Kenya Wildlife Service for their damaged property remain shuttered since the policy only gives consolation fund for injuries and deaths caused by wildlife attacks. “Under the current policy we give KSh50,000 to injured victims of wildlife attacks and KSh200,000 as consolation to the bereaved family members who have lost a loved one through the attacks,” explains Christine Boit, a senior warden in charge of community in Tsavo conservation area. KWS senior warden in charge of Tsavo West

— Elizabeth Mzungu, hawker

could have sent decades of poverty into the dustbins of history but politics surrounding the project have worsened the situation. Apart from mining, the region is endowed with great tourism and agricultural potential. The areas of Werugha, Mwanda, Mghange and Taveta are known to produce milk and vegetables which are consumed in some big hotels in Mombasa and other parts of Coast Province.

Forests

The region also boasts of mountain forests such as Ngangao, Fururu, Chawia, and Mbololo which are said to be the only homes to some unique birds and butterflies. Residents have been witnessing droves of researchers visiting the area to research on endemic birds such as Taita Apalis, Taita white eye and Taita Thrush which are only found in Ngangao forest. However, according to a local investor Pascal Mtula, the fact that most businesses are not structured, it is difficult to say goodbye to poverty in the region. “Most people do vegetable farming but they have no proper defined market channels where they can sell their produce and earn constant income. They carry the vegetables to the market and pray that customers come and buy,” says Mtula. Poor infrastructure in the area  has also been cited as another catapult to poverty in the area. Initially farmers used to rely on the railway line to transport their farm produce outside the county as the railway links the area with other towns such as Mombasa and even Moshi in Tanzania.

From top: Mining in progress at the Chunga Unga mines in Mwatate. Elizabeth Mzungu, one of the women in the sugarcane trade in Mwatate. Despite the immense riches in the region, they struggle to make ends meet by selling the cane. The abandoned railway line in the area that has contributed to poverty. Pictures: Robby Ngojhi

Suspended services

However, railway services along the track were suspended years ago and today you will only find shrubs between the rails, a sign of years lapsed since the train last used the tracks. Consequently, traders who used to rely on the railway services to operate their business were forced to shelve their trade as road transport became unfriendly due to the controversial Voi Taveta road. According to former Voi Mayor Anisa Hope Mwakio, residents might never rise above the

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello

Editor: Jane Godia

poverty line if they do not put effort in education. Referring to last year’s KCPE results which placed the county at position 46 out of 47, she says such kind of performance is a social time bomb which might in future explode and send locals into dens of poverty with irrevocable finality. “We always complain of poverty but very few struggle to succeed academically and end poverty. Kenya today has become a highly competitive country. It is very difficult to survive without impressive academic credentials,” notes Mwakio. Write to:

info@mediadiversityafrica.org

Sub-Editors: Florence Sipalla and Mercy Mumo Designer: Noel Lumbama

www.mediadiversityafrica.org

Contributors: Kigondu Ndavano, Duncan Mboyah, Lucy Langat, Jans Atieno, Lydia Ngoolo, Caroline Wangechi, Robby Ngojhi, Ben Oroko, John Syengo, Fred Okoth, Dorcas Akello, Titus Maero, Henry Owino, Wangari Mwangi, Benard Kimani, Kariuki Mwangi, Parsai Joto, Ken Ndambu and Joseph Mukubwa.

The paper is produced with funds from


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