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ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth


March 16-31, 2013


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

Forgotten Kenyans left behind In Laisamis even the most basic health care services are missing

By JONATHAN NAMUNAI Residents of Korr in Northern Kenya are yet to see proper health care facilities built and equipped to cater for them 50 years after independence. Located close to 500 kilometres north of Nairobi, Korr is a densely populated region in Marsabit County at the heart of the vast Laisamis Constituency. The Rendille, who are pastoralists, dominate the area and largely depend on livestock for their livelihood. However, in this lack of basic health infrastructure it is the women and children who are most affected. Many women interviewed said they risked their lives when being attended to by traditional birth attendants. ”We have seen other women succumb to death from birth related complications, said one woman.


Most of the women decry the long distances they have to walk to access health care services. The nearest health facility is Ilaut Health Centre which is situated 50 kilometres to the West of Korr. Those living in very remote villages face the challenge of getting transport to enable them access the centre.

The only other available health facility in Korr is a one-roomed dispensary building being run by a Catholic mission. Residents claim the facility is not big enough to cater for the large number of people in Korr. They say it also lacks drugs and major treatment services. Many have succumbed to illnesses due to delay in accessing skilled care health services on time.


Some patients are forced to risk their lives and brave walking the 50 kilometres on the harsh desert climate to the neighbouring Ilaut trading centre to access health care services. Laisamis Catholic Hospital, the nearest major referral facility is located 72 kilometres away. Residents have to put up with the poor road infrastructure and lack of ambulance services, which has led to many cases of patients dying enroute to the hospital. According to Lucia Orguba, a Nairobi-based gender rights activist who also hails from Korr the situation in the region is bad. Orguba notes that many women in Korr still lack crucial health services like reproductive health care, ante-natal, prenatal, and family plan-

ning services. “Many pregnant women in the area give birth at home without the services of qualified nurses and or midwives. This poses health risks not only to the birth attendant but also to the life of the mother and the new born child,” reiterates Orguba. A rise in cases of maternal deaths related to birth complications in Korr have been reported. Many children are also exposed to preventable diseases due to lack of immunization. Robert Dogo, a youth Korr, has on several occasions been involved in social work in his neighbourhood and sees the danger of HIV and Aids sweeping across the region. He notes that the HIV and Aids awareness levels are low in the area.


“Many people are not aware of their HIV status as we do not even have Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) centres and health facilities which can help people know their status,” explains Dogo. His sentiments are supported by Stephanie Leisoro, a social worker with Food for the Hungry organisation who says that many people are at risk

Rendille women in Korr area Marsabit County with their children. Women decry the long distances they have to travel to hospitals saying most mothers die in the hands of TBAs due to birth related complications. Pictures: Jonathan Namunai of being infected with HIV because of cultural practices among the Rendille community such as girl beading. Girl beading occurs when a moran (young unmarried man) picks a

maiden from within the community, and gifts her with beads so that he can be having sex with her before he/she gets married. The man can then move Continued on page 4

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ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Othaya coffee farmers find direct markets for beans By JOSEPH MUKUBWA Othaya Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society has identified more than four foreign countries where they will be selling their coffee directly. Speaking during this year’s Annual General Meeting, the society’s chairman Newton Ndiritu said with the assistance of Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters (KCCE), they have identified several direct markets in United States of America, Switzerland, Korea and Norway. The society started selling the coffee late last year in the mentioned countries and expected to get good returns Ndiritu noted that many other countries such as China, France and Germany have expressed interest in buying their coffee. “The challenge is upon us since we are facing low production. I urge farmers to work hard so that we can increase production and satisfy the growing demand for coffee,” Ndiritu said. Coffee production for the last one year as at the end of January was 1.7 million kilogrammes. The production decreased due to adverse weather during the year.

Reduced losses

An advance of KSh15 per kilogramme has been paid against the total kilogrammes delivered as at January 2013. “The new mill has crushed d


Coffee farmers prepare coffee beans in Othaya. The coffee will be sold directly in the foreign markets. Picture: Joseph Mukubwa coffee for three seasons and the coffee for 2012-2013 is being processed. We continue to enjoy reduced milling losses as opposed to the past. We have taken control of our coffee product,” reiterated Ndiritu. The society is also in the process of computerising all its 19 coffee factories in Othaya by the end of the year 2013-2014. “Once the computerisation is completed, members would be served

Female students advised to embrace family planning By HILDA ATIKA Female students in higher institutions of learning have been urged to visit health facilities and seek advice on reproductive health matters. The students have been called upon that they needed to consult for better methods on family planning methods to curb unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV Infections. Western Provincial Public Health Nurse Assumpta Matekwa raised concern that students were blindly falling into the trap of unwanted pregnancies forcing them to drop out of college or seek abortion. Matekwa asked the students to feel free and visit doctors who will offer advice on better methods of family planning as well as available preventive measures. She reiterated that most female students purchase contraceptives only when at risk of getting pregnancies.


Ministry distributes machines to manufacture fish feed

“Use of family planning methods will avert unwanted pregnancies during their studies decreasing the high fertility rate among women in western Kenya,” Matekwa said. She noted that myths and misconceptions about family planning are widely spread by women who say that users will end up with health complications. About 74 per cent of women in Kakamega access family planning from public facilities, while 11 per cent seek family planning services from private facilities. The Ministry of Public Health through the National Council of Population and Development (NCPD) has established that the total fertility rate in Kakamega is 4.05 per woman adding that the highest age specific fertility rate is among women aged 20-24. Matekwa noted that over 60 per cent of those uptaking modern methods of family planning are women aged between 30-34 years while the highest number of non-users were women under the age of 19 years.

at their various factories instead of them have to travel long distances to the headquarters in Othaya town,” he noted. However, the society is also faced with many challenges including coffee hawking and thefts. Ndiritu lamented that some members continue to hawk their coffee which is a great threat to the society. “Hawking encourages theft of cof-

fee from the shambas. This is a trend that must be stopped under all circumstances since it is illegal business,” Ndiritu observed. He stressed: “Members should decide on the course of action to be taken against coffee hawkers and those who divert their beans to other cooperative societies.” Ndiritu also called on the Government to help curb the menace.

Medic delinks family planning from Islam By CAROLYNE OYUGI Islam is not against family planning and people should stop using religion as an excuse to spacing births and having a limited number of children. According to Dr Mohammed Sheikh, North Eastern Provincial Director of Public Health and Sanitation, some residents in the region were misleading the public with myths and misconceptions around contraceptives. “The Holy Quran is in favour of healthy families, healthy children and a healthy community,” said Sheikh. He noted that the holy book clearly instructs mothers to breast feed their babies for a minimum of two years, which by itself is seen as a family planning method and way of spacing children. According to the 2008-2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey released last year, North Eastern Province, which is also one of the country’s poorest regions had the highest fertility rate. The total fertility rate for the region is 5.9 children per woman compared to the national figure of 4.6.


In the province, the mean ideal number of children for women aged between 15 and 49 years was also the highest in the country at 8.8. Nairobi had the lowest figure of 2.8. However, according to Sheikh, between 1,000 and 1,200 women die during delivery per 100,000 births in North Eastern Kenya, compared to the national rate of 488 deaths per 100,000 deliveries. Sheikh said this when he addressed participants at the First National Conference on Health Leadership, Management and Governance, a joint undertaking of the Ministry of Medical Services and the Ministry of Public

Dr Mohammed Sheikh, North Eastern Provincial Director of Public Health and Sanitation during the interview. Picture: David Mbewa Health and Sanitation with support from Management Sciences for Health through the USAID-funded Leadership, Management and Sustainability Project in Kenya (LMS/Kenya). The event brought together local and international experts, leaders, managers and practitioners in healthcare sector to share their knowledge and expertise to the leadership, management and governance challenges faced in the Kenyan health sector today. It underscored the critical role that leadership, management and governance plays in improving the quality of health service delivery in Kenya. According to Ahmed Murama, Director SIMONO-Garissa, many women are not allowed to use contraceptives by their spouses while others strongly resist due to the myths and misconceptions around family planning. However, other than family planning, there are also other challenges related to reproductive health which

the region faces. “In Garissa, and North Eastern Province in general we lack basic maternity facilities and requirements like water,” said Murama. UNICEF has supported the establishment of the maternity shelter in Garissa as part of its efforts to focus on ‘high risk’ areas. Sheikh noted that he was happy that they have maternity shelters next to hospitals where expectant women with high-risk pregnancies can stay for monitoring and quick access to the provincial hospital when they are close to delivery. With this they do not have to travel long distance when in labour and this saves both the mother and newborn.


“We also have mobile clinics that move around with the nomadic families. It is a standard clinic which can conduct deliveries and minor surgeries,” he said. The region is now trying to look at how other regions that practice Islam in the continent are dealing with the issue of contraceptives and spacing children. “We are working hard to improve the situation and we started by visiting some universities in Egypt to understand what they do because we have a similar culture and religion. We are yet to share the report of our findings so that more people can learn,” he said. In March 1953, the Fatawa Committee of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt gave their opinion about birth control and according to the opinions of the Shafi`i Madhab, it is not forbidden to use medicine to prevent pregnancy. “Surely Allah wishes ease for you and does not wish difficulty upon you,” Surah al-Baqarah, Verse 185.

Fish farmers have reason to smile after the Government distributed 54 mini-fish feed production machines worth KSh46 million. The machines were distributed by the Ministry of Fisheries under the Rural Fish Feeding Programme and are expected to reduce the price of fish-feed by about 30 per cent. Speaking during the official launch of the Rural Based Fish Feeding Programme recently, Fisheries secretary, Prof Charles Ngugi announced that the machines will serve over 51,000 fish farmers countrywide. “Fish-feed has become too expensive for local consumers. The quality of the fish feed they get is also poor and as a ministry are concerned that it is preventing the proper breed of fish from being achieved,” noted Ngugi. The ministry has already distributed more than 30 machines throughout the country to fish farmers.


Ngugi noted that the ministry wanted to reduce the cost of pellets to at least KSh50 per kilogramme from the current KSh100 which was not economically viable. “Majority of the farmers are currently undergoing losses due to the high cost of feeds and we want to regulate this as the profit margin becomes lean,” he added. Ngugi called on farmers to form cluster groups that will be enable them make the pellets and cut feeding costs. “We are going to send over 286 extension officers who will ensure that the machines are in good condition and can also help farmers to use it effectively,” explained Ngugi.


The mini feed machine can produce more than one tonnes of fish food. The pellets are produced through mixing of wheat bran rice bran and cotton feed cake. They are then mixed in a mixer then finally ground together. Fish farmers welcomed the initiative saying it was going to make fish farming more interesting. According to Wanyoike wa Kiungu, a farmer who welcomed the initiative, majority of farmers in Naivasha have opted for fish instead of flower farming due to its accrued benefits. “We will now be able to produce and process fish without worrying about the feeding costs,” noted Kiungu. However, Ngugi cautioned residents of western Kenya to desist from stealing motorcycles belonging to the fisheries noting that there was an increase in such cases. “We have tracking devices in all the 108 motorcycles and we will be able to know where they have ended up,” said Ngugi.

ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013


Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Senator Philip Lemein: The forgotten nationalist By JEFF ole KETERE Even as Kenya’s political system goes back to establishment of a Senate assembly, those who were there before might have a few lessons to teach the incoming group of senators. As Kenya prepared to get its independence in 1962 it had a 117 member House of Representative, which was the Lower House with members from single member constituencies and 41-member Senate which was the Upper House with one member from the 41 districts. However, in 1963, all these houses were amalgamated to form one house. Octogenarian Philip Toikan Lemein is a proud man as he looks back half a century ago when as a senator he joined other nationalists at the Lancaster Constitutional Conference in London. Locally in Narok where he resides Lemein is fondly referred to as “Mr Senator Sir!” Eighty-six year old Lemein stands tall as he recalls how he was among the who is who in Kenya’s history who attended the Lancaster House conference over 50 years ago. Lemein’s journey in politics began when he was in college training to be a teacher at a college where Kenya’s second president, Daniel arap Moi was also a student. Lemein was born in 1926 at Melili area in Narok North District and was among the pioneers of Government African School, now Ole Sankale Primary School in 1933. “After completing my Kenya Africa Preliminary Education (KAPE) in 1941, I attended Government African School and Teacher Training College, Kapsabet for my P4 teacher’s course. There I met retired President Daniel arap Moi, then in Standard Eight,” says Lemein.


He recalls: “Despite being my junior, Moi wielded immense authority as he was in charge of the dining hall which served both primary and teacher training sections.” After teaching for 20 years in various schools, it was Moi and Justus Kantet ole Tipis, then MP for Narok North, who prevailed upon Lemein to resign from teaching and join politics. “I subsequently became the treasurer for Kenya Africa Democratic Union, Narok branch in 1962 and later joined the delegation that went to negotiate for Kenya’s independence in London.” He recalls his days at Lancaster and in the Senate with pride. “My three months stay there transformed my personality. I mingled freely with such great personalities as Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (founder of the nation) and Tom Mboya (later appointed a Minister for Economic Planning) among others,” he says. The other Maasai senators were Geoffrey ole Kipury representing Kajiado and J. K. Lenyiarra, representing Samburu. “Our work in the Senate was to approve or reject Bills passed in the House of Representatives (Lower House). Bills rejected by the Senate (Upper House) had to garner 90 per cent support if they were to be passed, which was no mean feat,” he says. This bureaucracy, plus the

Senator Philip Lemein with some of his family members. He was among Kenya’s first senators. Picture: Jeff Ole Ketere cost, led some to agitate for its scrapping which came in 1966. The Upper House (Senate) was scrapped following a Constitutional amendment. From there Lemein vied for a Parliamentary position and served for one term before he quit politics and decided to go back to teaching and also serve the community as an elder. Not much was heard of him as he went about his business in the plains of Narok County, which is the wheat and barley basket of the country in addition to being home of the world famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve. However, when violence broke out in 2007-2008 following disputed presidential results, Lemein joined efforts to restore peace and reconciliation by accepting to be nominated as the secretary of the Narok Peace Committee. The former Senator wears many hats. He is the secretary of the Maasai Council of Elders as well as having been a member of several Boards of Governors in different schools. During the 2010 promulgation of

the new Constitution ceremony at Narok Stadium, Lemein showed his patriotism when he shed tears of joy before a large crowd that turned up for the event.


Lemein narrates the days when he and other nationalists successfully negotiated with the colonial powers to hand over power to Kenyans. The Lancaster conference in London is what gave Kenya its first constitution. “Kenyans’ joy of freedom had been short-lived due to poor governance that left many to poverty. The Lancaster Constitution which we mid-wifed, despite its imperfections was a good document,” explains Lemein. He adds: “Unfortunately, it was mutilated beyond recognition over time to create a monster that suited the whims of the ruling elite.” “However, with the current stage in our history, the Senate adds value to democracy as it strengthens Parliament,” observes Lemein. After the Senate was scrapped in 1966, he stood for election in the then

newly created Narok South Constituency, which he represented for three years until 1969. “I then shifted base to Narok North where I lived as it was no longer tenable to represent a constituency where I was not a resident,” he says. “However, Moi, then Vice President and President Kenyatta prevailed upon me not to challenge Tipis for the Narok North seat, who was then a powerful Minister in the Office of the President,” he says. With no choice left, Lemein went back to teaching where he was to work for the next 13 years before retiring in 1982. “Our efforts were rewarded when we won by a margin of more than 20,000 votes in Narok North Constituency,” says the retired teacher. Today Lemein is a pale shadow of his former self as he stares into the horizon from the comfort of a traditional stool under a tree outside his outside his Narok home.

“Our work in the Senate was to approve or reject Bills passed in the House of Representatives (Lower House). Bills rejected by the Senate (Upper House) had to garner 90 per cent support if they were to be passed, which was no mean feat.” — Senator Philip Toikan Lemein


“The fight to liberate Kenya began before independence and it has come to fruition with the ushering in of the new Constitution. It is as if I have seen independence twice. I am honoured to be alive at this time,” says Lemein who now keeps himself busy herding his cattle. Lemein says the most progressive sections of the new Constitution are those on the Executive and the Bill of Rights which recognises among other things marginalized groups like the elderly, women and the disabled. A father of six, Lemein has been a teetotaller like his

former primary schoolmate, retired President Moi, and never drank alcohol nor smoked. “As a former scout I also walked a lot not only because I do not own a car but because I love it,” says Lemein, who looks physically fit and much younger than his age. The former Senator is also humbled that many of his former students have since made a mark in the country’s history and these include Moi University Chief Academic Officer Prof Karei ole Karei, Prof Sarone ole Sena founder of ‘University Goes to the Village’ programme US based Prof Meitamei Olol Dapash and former Permanent Secretary Ambassador Peter Nkuraiya.


David ole Sankok, a former leader of the Student Organisation of Nairobi University says: “In the old dispensation, the truth was punished while lies were rewarded. I am upbeat that this new order will recognise heroes like Mzee Lemein.” He adds: “It is a pity that Mzee Lemein has had to fight for the passage of the Constitution so that his basic rights as a senior citizen are recognized 50 years after helping bring Kenya’s independence from the yoke of the colonialists.” A staunch Christian, Lemein was the third Maasai ever to wed in church in 1953 when he married Zipporah Naisiaye. His best man was his colleague, neighbour and former long serving Cabinet Minister William ole Ntimama. His parting shot: “My happiest day will be when this great country discards politics of self-aggrandizement and embraces the spirit of uhuru: politics of service that puts the country before oneself.”


ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Narok County at a crossroads over dealing with HIV By JOSEPH MUNENE The number of orphaned and vulnerable children in Narok is high and most are neglected by the society. While quite a number are adopted and supported by the community and relatives, others have dropped out of school. This is especially true for girls who are married off by guardians who cite lack of finances to educate them. “Orphaned and vulnerable children’s situation in Narok is not a happy one to tell. Many are still practicing retrogressive cultural practices that negatively affect needy children in society,” says Joyce Kiereini, head of Olmarei Lang Self-help Organisation. Although some guardians do their best to support them, poverty levels force them to give them away for marriage.


“We receive very many cases where relatives plan to give away young girls. The worst affected areas are rural places that are hard to access,” Kiereini laments. Many young girls are given away as a way of raising money to educate their brothers. “Many a time hapless widows are prevailed upon by greedy in-laws to marry off their daughters,” notes Kiereini.

She cites a case where a woman sought their help after her in-laws who had already given away two daughters for marriage and wanted to force another who was about to sit for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education drop out of school for marriage. For the past 13 years Olmarei Lang Self-help Organisation has served the residents of Narok County well. Kiereini says it has not been easy but they have managed to make some break through on HIV and Aids awareness programmes with the support of the Constituency Aids Control Council. They have also extended their services to support orphans and vulnerable children in the county. Since the county is expansive, poor infrastructure has hindered many organisations working in aid of orphans to reach most rural areas. Over 1,000 children are being supported through the organisation including 60 who are living with HIV. Though there are several organisations offering support for vulnerable children in Narok, Kiereini notes there is need to build the community’s capacity in helping needy children. “Some people take advantage to be helped in everything when it is them who should be offering support to the children. Some even threaten to give them away if not accorded support forcing charity organisations to chip

in,” notes Kiereini. She adds: “Many residents in the county are not free to talk about HIV and Aids. Stigma is still rife and many people suffer silently to the extent they do not enrol for anti-retroviral drugs.” According to Kiereini, those who are living with HIV go as far as Loitokotok to collect their ARVs rather than getting them from the nearby Narok District Hospital for fear of being identified.


There are also those who take medication in secret and often end up not taking them as prescribed. Others out of ignorance opt not to take them arguing that the drugs do not cure. Kiereini observes that some married people also opt not to disclose their status to their partners when they test HIV positive. Lack of enough health facilities, especially in rural areas, exacerbates the risk of new born babies contracting HIV as mothers give birth at home. However, through the help of churches and well-wishers Kiereini says they have been raising the awareness on HIV and Aids though a lot needs to be done. She is appealing to the Government, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to

Joyce Kiereini at her office in Narok. She heads the Olmarei Lang Self-help Organisation which caters for the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children in the county. Picture: Joseph Munene intensify HIV and Aids awareness campaigns in the county. “If more health centres, boarding schools and rescue centres are set up all over the county, children

Boy vanishes for fear of facing the knife By JONATHAN NAMUNAI For the past year Mzee Ltoolen Ubanja has had sleepless since his son fled, too terrified to face the circumciser’s knife. Since then Mzee Ubanja has looked everywhere and sent word to anyone who can help him trace his son but in vain. Circumcision among the Samburu paves way for a boy to become a man and be able to fend for himself. Boys aged 12 years and above start to face the circumcision knife as per the cultural values of the Samburu. Indeed, Mzee Ubanja has lost all glamour because of walking hundreds of miles crossing county borders, plains, forests and towns on a dedicated mission of frantically searching for their 14-yearold lost son. The boy escaped from the Lependera Village, Ngurunit area on the remote border between Samburu and Marsabit counties in northern Kenya for fear of facing the knife. Ubanja and his friend Nakuume Nabosu have since then walked around Marsabit, Samburu and Laikipia counties in search of 14-year-old Ltesyan Ubanja, whom they believe is still alive. They are hopeful that one day he will return home. On the ill-fated morning of December 23, 2011, Lteseyan and his friends in Lependera Village were bracing themselves for a memorable day that would mark their transit into moranhood, a stage that qualifies one into adult life. Lteseyan seems to have pan-

will benefit a lot,” says Kiereini. She notes: “Communities need to be enlightened to shun backward practices that are hindering development in the area.”

In Laisamis even the most basic health care services are missing

Continued from page 1

to another girl and leave this one who will be taken over by another. Leisoro says: “There is no protection to the sex that comes with beading and this places both partners at high risk of HIV infection.” Another challenge Leisoro says, is the lack of health facilities of VCT centres. “It would be important to establish more facilities that encourage HIV testing in this region,” she says. The situation has been worsened by high levels of stigmatisation placed upon people living with HIV and Aids considering the fact that a majority of the residents here are enslaved to traditions and cultural values which are not friendly to people infected with the virus. Another hitch in the war against the HIV and Aids is lack of anti-retroviral drugs that are need by HIV survivors. The Laisamis Constituency Development Fund, which Korr region stands out to be one of its beneficiaries, was on the spot following the assessment of this situation.


Ltoolen Ubanja (right) with his friend Nakuume Nabosu take a break from the search mission for his lost son Lteseyan. Picture: Jonathan Namunai icked on the 11th hour shortly before his turn and escaped without notice causing and uproar in the village where it is very rare for a boy escape from facing the knife. Since then no one has heard nor seen the teenager. Meanwhile, his father remains a frustrated man and blames culture for the disappearance of his son. “I will not rest until I see my

child dead or alive,” says Ubanja. When the elderly man spoke to the Reject, he was with Nakuume Nabosu who has been with him on the search mission. They were in Maralal town in Samburu County after walking part of the way from Rumuruti town in Laikipia County, a distance of about 120 kilometres after receiving word that Lteseyan had been spotted in Maralal. However, their mission was

futile as the information was not reliable forcing them to proceed to Mount Kulal, some 200 kilometres away, north of Maralal. Even without a picture to identify the lost child, the two men say they are not sure if he is dead or alive but are hopeful that they will one day find him. “The only appeal we make to the public is to bring back Lteseyan to us so that our hearts can rest,” says Mzee Ubanja.

It has since been established that the construction of a one-roomed dispensary building Balah area, in the outskirts of Korr town seven years ago has since been halted after being marred by political intrigues. Area residents have expressed their concerns over the construction project saying it may turn to be a white elephant. With just two years to the deadline set in meeting Millennium Development Goals, Kenyan Government is yet to declare its stand on the health care development in Korr region even after rolling out the Economic Stimulus Programme that involved construction of health centres in Ngurunit and Logologo areas. Most resident blame poor leadership and political representation for the current state of marginalisation in the region. As Kenyans embrace for the new political dispensation under the new Constitution residents of Korr wonder why they have been forgotten.

ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth


Garissa women ‘see the light’ after decades in the dark By ABJATA KHALIF As the scorching sun sets in the horizon, a group of eight pregnant women walk into Hasna Muktar’s expansive compound housing her delivery, consultation and traditional training room. Here she educates both pregnant and other women on behavioural change and family planning as well as carries out deliveries. Her traditional facility is built with sticks and grass and the only source of water is from a nearby shallow well. There is no connection to the national grid for electricity. She has to rely on moonlight or kerosene lamps when she can afford to buy the paraffin. Muktar’s condition replicates that of other traditional birth attendants in the region. In order to survive, Muktar, who has been a traditional birth attendant for over 25 years uses a kerosene lamp at night to attend to emergency cases. She has also risked her life wading through wild vegetation and being prone to dangers like snake bites, attack by hyenas or stepping on thorn trees used for fencing when the women cannot get to her.


“For 25 years I have been using kerosene lamp and sometimes moonlight,” says Muktar. She adds: “I have been bitten three times by snakes and that affected my work because then many pregnant women in Sankuri village could not access my services.” According to Muktar, using the kerosene lamp has health problems both to her, the expectant mother and new born baby. “I have contracted respiratory infection on various occasion because of the smoke emanating from the lamp,” she says. Muktar notes: “Using moonlight is also challenging as I have to conduct deliveries outside in an open space.” She says: “I use moonlight only when kerosene is out of stock or when I am suffering from a respiratory illness.” However, things have changed for Muktar and other traditional birth attendants as their work has been made easy after being provided with solar lamps. The TBAs no longer have to grope in the dark or use kerosene lamps to do their work. They were supplied with lamps which use solar energy that is in abundance in the arid lands of northern Kenya. The lamps come with a connected solar panel which is directed at the scorching sun and it takes five hours to take full charge which lasts 12 hours. The solar lamps were donated by AfriIreland, a non-governmental organisation based in Ireland through its local partner Pastoralists Journalists Network (Pajan) Kenya. Muktar and her colleagues who number about 30 now have less to worry about after they received solar led lamps that enable them carry out deliveries. Muktar, a resident of the far flung Sankuri Village in northern Kenya now uses the lamp in her “traditional delivery room”. Sankuri village is 300 kilometres from Garissa town and has poor communication and transport network. The residents are forced to use carts driven by donkeys and camels to ferry patients to hospital. A journey from the village to Garissa town which has medical facilities with skilled care takes seven days. Most of the patients die along the way before reaching a health facility.

Traditional birth attendant Muslima Ali during the training and distribution of the solar lamps in Sankuri Village, Garissa County. Below: Hasna Muktar, a birth attendant displays the solar lamp to be used during deliveries and women education. Pictures: Abjata Khalif The crude mode of transportation and duration it takes to reach any health facility is unfriendly to women, especially those who are already in labour or are having complicated pregnancies. Indeed, the weeklong trip is a recipe for obstructed delivery that causes fistula as well as mother and infant mortality. “Solar lamp has made deliveries and women education work simpler as I charge it during the day and start using it at night. Since I was given the lamp I have used it to attend to 185 deliveries in Sankuri village,” says Muktar. She adds: “In the past we used to worry about the cost of the kerosene but that is a thing of the past now.’’


Due to the high cost of kerosene Muktar would charge the women KSh425 for every delivery. However, with introduction of solar led lamps she has reduced the charges KSh255, which is about three dollars. Pajan Kenya, has been educating traditional birth attendant on how to use the solar lamps in a project termed using green energy in empowering local and grassroots women in contributing to Millennium Development Goal 5 and curbing

child mortality in remote areas with no health facilities. One of the groups comprising pregnant women led by Halima Bishar flocked the solar lamp powered delivery shelter and the attendant handled their cases separately and professionally. Halima, a 28 year old mother gave birth to her two children in the same traditional facility. Two thirds of Kenya’s maternal deaths are attributed to postpartum haemorrhage (severe loss of blood during or after labour), sepsis (bacterial infection in the blood), eclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy) or a ruptured uterus. According to the last Demographic Health Survey, released by the Government, Kenya has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world at 448 per 100,000 live births with 70 per cent of women in northern Kenya being delivered under the care of traditional birth attendant while 30 per cent give birth at hospital. However, Muktar is proud of her record saying that she has never lost a mother or a baby during her 25 years of service to women in the area. “I have offered services here in Sankuri Village for 25 years and I have

“For 25 years I have been using kerosene lamp and sometimes moonlight, I have been bitten three times by snakes and that affected my work because then many pregnant women in Sankuri village could not access my services.” — Hasna Muktar

not recorded any death. I understand my customers, their background and pregnancy timetable. I have received training and equipment to make my work professional,” she notes. Muktar has received various skills that enable her observe her clients closely and arrange their referral if they show signs of anaemia or ante-partum haemorrhage. Ballooning maternal deaths and other challenges have forced health

stakeholders to build the capacity of traditional birth attendant in line with modern maternal health standards and quality delivery services. There is an urgent need for stakeholders to off TBAs knowledge through training on crucial maternal health components such as ante and post natal care, referral system, family planning, managing labour, sterility, asepsis and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.


ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Campaign to promote diabetes awareness launched By HENRY OWINO Efforts to reduce the high incidence of diabetes in Kenya have received a boost following the launch of a three year awareness and prevention campaign in all public health facilities. This has been made possible through collaboration with Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre, Ministry of Medical Services and Merck Serono, a division of Merck, Darmstadt in Germany. The countrywide Diabetes Awareness and Prevention Campaign aims at reaching the public to provide the right information about the condition. Dubbed ‘Get Informed, Get Active, Get Healthier’, the campaign aims at reversing the worrying trends by preventing or delaying development of diabetes in the country. The Minister for Medical Services, Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o, in a speech read on his behalf by Dr Francis Kimani, Director of Medical Services, urged the private sector to prioritise diabetes prevention, care and treatment to stop the disease from turning into a national epidemic.


Nyong’o said the initiative was a move in the right direction in tackling diabetes and emphasised on the need for Kenyans to adopt healthy lifestyles, besides getting regular medical checkups to prompt early detection and treatment. “We cannot continue to have people losing their limbs, eyesight or suffering from kidney malfunctions from a condition that is both preventable and manageable,” noted Nyong’o. With its strong heritage in diabetes management, beginning in 1957 with the development of Metformin (Glucophage), Merck Serono seeks to raise awareness of diabetes among Kenyans by

educating the public on ways to prevent, diagnose and manage the condition effectively. The initiative comes at the backdrop of warnings from the Ministry of Health that diabetes is becoming a major health threat with approximately 1.6 million Kenyans living with the condition. It is estimated that 90 per cent of the affected persons are in the productive age range of 18-60 years. “As a Government, we are committed to tackle the problem through supporting initiatives such as; Get informed, Get Active, Get Healthier campaign that are aimed at creating public awareness among the masses on prevention and control of diabetes and its complications.”


According to Dr Stefan Oschman, Chief Executive Officer Merck Serono, the rising numbers of diabetics all over the world, was a warning that diabetes care and awareness programmes must be prioritised to prevent it from turning into a national epidemic.  “This campaign will seek to improve healthcare sector in Africa through educating and empowering those affected by diabetes in one way or another on how to manage and prevent it,” stated Oschman. His sentiments were echoed by Richard Lesiyampe, Chief Executive Officer Kenyatta National Hospital, who noted that the cost of managing diabetes places a huge burden on an already strained healthcare system. Lesiyampe said that lack of awareness on the symptoms makes many diabetes patients to be diagnosed late when they have already developed complications such as blindness, foot ulcers or gangrene and heart diseases among others.  

The team of diabetes experts who will lead the nationwide campaign. Picture: Henry Owino “Kenyatta National Hospital will continue to ensure that the public is provided with the right healthcare information as part of our initiative to provide specialized quality healthcare,” assured Lesiyampe. According to Darryl Langford, General Manger South East Africa, Merck Serono, the initiative will focus on improving the quality of life and reducing complications and premature mortality in people with diabetes. Langford said they decided to pilot the project in Kenya, given that it is one of the first countries in Africa to develop a diabetes strategy in collaboration with other partners.

Pharmaceutical firm out to shield patients from unscrupulous dealers By HENRY OWINO A leading healthcare firm is out to save patients from counterfeit drugs doing the rounds. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) limited has stepped in with security measures due to the rising number of counterfeit medicines circulating in country. The firm has introduced new short message system (SMS) based platform dubbed Hakikisha Dawa 15629 aimed at enhancing patient’ safety. This means that all medicines’ boxes and packs will have security labels applied to them to curb the menace. On the other hand, the consumer will be required to scratch and reveal the unique code to verify if the purchased medicines are from the company. The process is done using a mobile phone at the point of purchase, while the SMS verification is free of any charges. Steps to be followed: Each medicine box or pack has a security label on it with a hidden unique code that the consumer has to identify first, then scratch the label on the pouch or blister to reveal the unique code.


Doctors, nurses and nutritionists will communicate face to face with people in order to inform, test their blood sugar and educate them on how to manage or prevent diabetes,” said Langford   On her part, Eva Muchemi, Executive Director  the Diabetes Management and Information Centre (DMIC) cautioned that if the current trend continues, there will be an estimated 2.5 million people in Kenya living with diabetes by 2025. The success of the campaign in the country will at the end have informed the expansion plans to other sub-Saharan African countries.

South Africa to host Aids conference By Reject Correspondent Africa’s largest Aids Conference is set to be held in Cape Town in December. The 17th International Conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa (ICASA 2013), Africa’s largest AIDS Conference, will offer a unique platform ahead of 2015 to assess progress and developments in relation to HIV and Aids The conference will be held in Cape Town, South Africa from 7 – 11 December 2013 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). The meeting is being held two years to 2015, the target date for the UN Millennium Development Goals. The conference will be important in assessing the achievements made and the challenges ahead.


The third step is sending the unique code via SMS to 15629. The verification system checks the unique code for authenticity and sends back a message via SMS to the customer. The customer will then receive a confirmation message from the verification system and in the event of verification failure; the call centre will contact the customer with further instructions. According to Dr William Mwatu, GSK Director and Regulatory Affairs for Developing Countries, this project will enable patients to verify that the medicine they are purchasing has been supplied by GSK.

John Musunga, General Manager GSK Pharmaceutical with Richard Lesiyampe, CEO Kenyatta National Hospital trying out the newly launched SMS platform dubbed Hakikisha Dawa. Picture: Henry Owino The director revealed that the project’s aim is to differentiate products supplied by the firm from counterfeiters in order to promote customer confidence, safety and trust. According to Mwatu verification of the product enables authentication thereby giving consumers confidence that the product purchased are from GSK and meet the required standards of quality and safety. The project will involve two GSK prescription products — Augmentin 625mg and Zentel 400mg tablets — in Kenya.

“Patients focus is one of GSK’s core values and ensuring patient safety is a key priority for the company. Consumers have expressed concern and need for them to be able to verify that the products they use are of the right quality and safe,” Mwatu explained. He spoke during the launch of the GSK’s SMS platform. He stated that GSK was running a similar project in Nigeria and that research conducted in Kenya confirms the need and concern that patients have.

The theme Now More than Ever: Targeting Zero, speaks directly to the message the 17th ICASA International Steering Committee which seeks to promote and is derived from the UNAIDS vision of striving for: “Zero new HIV and TB infections. Zero discrimination. Zero Aids -related and TB deaths”. The conference will be chaired by Professor Robert Soudre, President of the Society for Aids in Africa (SAA) and co-chaired by Professor Ian Sanne, the CEO of Right Care and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand. “By drawing the world’s attention to HIV in Africa, where the progress made since the International Aids Conference in Durban in 2000 is threatened by the global economic downturn, this ICASA is an opportunity to renew the global commitment by donors, private sector, community leaders, media and academia,” says Professor Ian Sanne, co-chair. “Our continent is at a crossroads, this is the time for efficiency, innovation and pragmatic approaches to tackle the issues surrounding HIV. About 10,000 of the world’s leading scientists, policy makers, activists, government and civil society leaders are expected to join the debate,” says Prof Robert Soudre, conference chairperson.

ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth


Kenyan economy financing Tanzania’s bhang trade By ODHIAMBO ODHIAMBO Illicit drug trade along the KenyaTanzanian border is big business and involves the high and mighty in Government and politics. It is not uncommon to hear that the police have impounded a vehicle ferrying the cannabis sativa (bhang) among other drugs being transported from western Kenya to Nairobi, Mombasa and beyond. A visit to Migori, Rongo, Awendo and Isebania police stations, located along the Nairobi-Musoma highway reveals the intensity of bhang trade in the region. Here one will find many cars parked. At first glance one might mistake these to be very busy police stations having many visitors. But on looking further, one realises that these vehicles have been parked for many days. These are cars that have been impounded when the drivers were found to be ferrying bhang. Most of the confiscated vehicles comprise saloon cars  and top–of– range vehicles. Police  estimate  that at least three vehicles loaded with bhang transit the region to the big towns for sale every day. There is no time limit to when the consignments are transported and this could be either during the day or at night.


Large scale dealers have been arrested and charged in court and fined but the business still goes on. Some unlucky traffickers have been nabbed in the area while others have been arrested in Kericho, Nakuru and Narok. However, there are also those who have abandoned the vehicles upon seeing the place and taken off. Vehicles belonging to an assistant minister and a son to a current  Cabinet Minister are among those that have been impounded with bhang in Migori while on transit to Nairobi. In the past two year alone it is estimated that the authorities impounded bhang in the region estimated at worth KSh50 million. It is believed that most of the bhang volumes consumed in the country is obtained from Tanzania because the authorities there are not tough on the growers and traders. According to investigations, the consignments are usually packed in sacks in Kenyan homes within Migori and Kuria West districts, which are situated along the border of the two countries to await collection at night. While the bhang dealers are out to make money, what worries is the target consumer. Traffickers target secondary school students, tourists and college students in major towns who are the major consumers of the drug. Parents have had their very bright children drop out of school due to bhang smoking. Those who smoke bhang end up being criminals as they seek to find ways of sustaining the habit once they get addicted. “Crime is on the rise in Kenya today as a result of bhang smoking not to mention the increasing number of school drop outs who also engage in acts of lawlessness,” said a police officer working in Migori and has been actively involved in the anti-narcotics swoop. In Nairobi and Mombasa one stone bhang costs between KSh800 and KSh1,000 although the dealers buy a stone from the growers at KSh20. This makes bhang business to be lucrative for those keen on making quick cash. The consignments are packed neatly in bags that are sprayed with a perfume to cover the scent of bhang.

Former Migori DC Julius Mutula (second right) confers with senior police officers during the counting of over 2000 rolls of bhang that was nabbed while on transit to Mombasa from Tanzania where it is reportedly being grown in large scale. Picture: Odhiambo Odhiambo Mode of transportation changes from time to time as the traffickers struggle to escape police dragnets. From bicycles to charcoal-carrying lorries to Mercedes Benzes, matatus and Toyota Prados, the huge consignments of bhang still find their way into the country’s major towns, schools, colleges and markets where there are consumers waiting to grab them at any cost. Car hire firms have lost new expensive vehicles impounded by police while transporting the illicit drug. Those who hire the vehicles pose as business executives wanting to go to upcountry. The expensive vehicles are preferred by the dealers because they are rarely stopped at the police roadblocks. “In fact, the police will only impound such a vehicle if they have been tipped off. Ordinarily, they will only salute you at the roadblocks from Nyanza to Nairobi and Mombasa,” says one dealer who was charged in court recently. There are small scale traders who carry the drugs in suit cases while some, particularly women, strap them around their waists.


Three women were recently charged in a Migori court for transporting bhang but their mode of transport perplexed everybody in court. Several stones of bhang were tied around their waists, protruding their bottoms. They covered the cargo with a shuka and then carried newborn babies borrowed from neighbours so that they do not raise suspicion. The babies are meant to draw sympathy from the police so that they are not subjected to the thorough checks on the road blocks conducted on public modes of transport especially the big buses that ply the Migori–Nairobi highway.

However, hawk-eyed officers noticed that the women looked abnormally big and asked female officers to check them. What emerged were tiny women and several stones of bhang. The women tried to defend themselves saying they were doing the business to pay school fees for their children. A few months ago, a Migori Police Station commander Charles Chebet led a team of officers to the border of the two countries to destroy a bhang plantation. However, the mission flopped when a group of youth emerged from the bush carrying poisoned arrows and dared the officers to a fight. The armed policemen decided to retreat when the situation appeared volatile and passed on the matter to their seniors for action. Traffickers arrested by police have confessed that they get the bhang from Tanzania where the crop is grown in large scale. Dealers in the country have middlemen in Tanzania who harvest the crop from the farms and then dry it before packing it in sacks to await collection. An official from Tanzania who requested anonymity said it is not illegal to grow the crop in their country and it is treated the way Kenyans treat miraa (khat).

“A suspect arraigned in a Tanzanian court for handling miraa is handed a stiffer penalty than somebody found smoking, growing or selling bhang,” said the official. As a result of this, several highlands in Mara Province in Tanzania are dotted with plantations of bhang that are grown mainly for sale to Kenyans. Angered by the continued smuggling of bhang between the borders of the two countries, three Kenyan authorities from Migori and Kuria have been meeting their colleagues in Tanzania to thrash out the matter. Kenyan and Tanzanian governments resolved to put up a fight against cross-border drug trafficking to save the youth in the region from moral decay.


Illegal entry points at the border through which consignments of bhang pass have been sealed and security officers posted to man them. Parents have complained that the drug was pushing their children out of school and most of them were now engaging in reckless alcohol abuse. According to John Owiti, a reformed street boy, he left school when his peers introduced him to bhang smoking.

“Our porous borders have presented the traffickers with the opportunity to play hide and seek with our security officers. We need to quickly agree with our neighbours to destroy the farms because bhang is a drug that has been declared illegal internationally and Tanzania is a signatory to that agreement.” — Mohammed Shidiye, NACADA

“It gave me a false illusion that I could make it in life without necessarily going to school. I wasted my time smoking bhang in the streets. I wish I could get young again and go back to school," says Owiti. Owiti, now 35 and is carpenter in Migori town. He learnt carpentry in a rehabilitation centre in Nairobi after dropping out in Standard Five. The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) has called on the police to thoroughly check all vehicles at the roadblocks that could be transporting bhang from Nyanza and Rift Valley to other parts of the country. Acting Migori District Commissioner John Fed vowed to fight drug trafficking in the region at all costs. He has directed security officers working in the area to be more vigilant and ensure that no stone of bhang passes through the local highways. Recently, a high powered team from the Kenyan visited the popular bhang farms in Tanzania following increased trade and consumption of the drug in the country. They came face to face with the green farms of bhang in Tarime District where the neighbours were growing the drug in large scale. The provincial administrators said previous attempts to have the crop uprooted hit a snag following lack of adequate co-operation from Tanzanian authorities. “Our porous borders have presented the traffickers with the opportunity to play hide and seek with our security officers. We need to quickly agree with our neighbours to destroy the farms  because bhang is a drug that has been declared illegal internationally and Tanzania is a signatory to that agreement,” said Shidiye. However, Migori deputy  police chief James Mwangi noted that the traffickers live in our midst and the public should tip-off police to get them.


ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Dr Segenet Kelemu From a village girl to a leading scientist By HENRY OWINO She has defied many odds to become a leading scientist in Africa. Having grown up in a remote village in Ethiopia, she has had to contend with doing odd jobs assigned to women. She had to weed, pick coffee berries, collect firewood, fetch water and the work was endless and going to school was just an afterthought. Dr Segenet Kelemu recalls that most young girls were married off but she was lucky because her parents could not find a suitor. “I was in the unmarriageable, undesirable category. I was too rebellious and defiant for any parent to want me as their daughter-in-law. I could easily imagine that this was perhaps distressful to my parents at the time, but I knew all along that I was lucky. I now understand that some of my behaviour earned me a ticket to freedom,’’ says Kelemu. She notes that there are many people who have contributed to her education and professional journey and that she has lived to their expectations and become outstanding in her studies. There are also many factors that influenced Kelemu’s life. Education was free in Ethiopia and her parents bought her the necessary stationery. Above all, her own determination and hard work helped Kelemu attain her goals. “The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ really applies to me. It takes a village to make someone successful,” observes Kelemu.


Kelemu studied agriculture when her parents really wanted her to be a medical doctor. Today, she has experienced the challenges and successes associated with agricultural research in developing and developed countries from a variety of perspectives. Over the past two decades, Kelemu’s own research and that of teams

under her leadership have helped address agricultural constraints in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and North America. She acknowledges that these research efforts generated a series of discoveries that have contributed to the global scientific community’s ability to address some key agricultural constraints. “I am grateful to my staff, my graduate students, and the various key research partners for the successes that have helped my career along the way. Give credit to people where credit is due. You gain a lot by including people who have contributed; you lose everything by being exclusive and not giving credit to others,” she observes.


“The best I can do is to be the best I can through hard work and to try to change a few ignorant minds around me that still perceive women as failures and those that cannot fathom black people as successful scientists, effective managers, directors or anything else if given the opportunity,” notes Kelemu. She is now more than two decades old in team leadership, management and research experience which have spanned academia, national agricultural systems and two CGIAR institutes. This includes leading the Crop and Agro-ecosystem Health Management Program at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and serving as director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub at the International Livestock research Institute (ILRI). “I navigated both of these roles through times of uncertainty and complex transitions, helping these institutions to flourish and gain international acclaim in the agricultural development and scientific communities,’’ Kelemu discloses. The agriculturalist notes that these efforts were guided by design and

implementation of concerted research, resource mobilization, partnership, communication strategies and delivery of products. All underpinned by cultivating inspired and cohesive teams to collectively achieve their goals.


“What worked for me and for my staff was my strong personal conviction that an empowered staff is the indispensable foundation for any success. I believe in empowering people by increasing each individual’s belief in their potential, integrating and inspiring people to work together with mutual respect,” she notes. Kelemu admits that cultivating such a culture of empowerment and respect within an institution is critical to achieving impact for the disadvantaged people beyond its gates. To every manager, supervisor (man or woman), her message is this: “Your power as a boss can only come from the support of your staff and not just from having a great relationship with the ‘big boss’,” she says. “If your staff members have the confidence in your leadership and your judgment, if they trust you and support you even when they do not like the decision you make, if they speak highly of you, then you are in business,” she advises. It does not mean that you become a wishy-washy boss who says “yes” to everything employees want you to do in order to get their support. No, that does not work. You push them to be the very best and encourage them to push their limits and to generate a lot more than they have ever imagined possible. But in doing so, you have to push yourself even harder. You have to be transparent, fair, and honest. You have to earn their respect. You have to let them tell you that you are wrong when

African woman Agricultural Scientist and AGRA Programs Vice President, Dr Segenet Kelemu. Pictures: Henry Owino you are wrong. Be their colleague. You have to give it all and create that enabling environment for them to do their very best. “My staff members have worked their tails off and generated everything I have been credited with. They make me look better and smarter than I am. I can honestly say that my staff at Colombia gave me the job as Director of the BecA Hub. My staff at BecA gave me my new job as the Vice President of Programs at AGRA. These are some of the ingredients of my success,” she explains.


Over the past few years, I have had the great honour of working with the AWARD team. The programme is effective and it is really making a difference. It is very important to have a programme that is especially focused on African women scientists and thank goodness someone had the courage and vision to do it. It has become a prominent and respected programme in a very short time. Kelemu is now the Vice President

of Programs at AGRA. She is very grateful that Award partnered with BecA and placed AWARD Fellows with them for advanced science training long before they made their name and became prominent. “AWARD loaned its name to us. Now, BecA and AWARD are great partners and they have entered into co-funding mechanisms supporting Award Fellows who are placed at BecA,” she clarifies. AWARD also announced 70 winners of its 2013 AWARD Fellowships in the ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya. The outstanding women scientists were selected from among an impressive cadre of 1,094 applicants from 11 African countries. The winners will benefit from AWARD’s two-year career-development programme that is focused on building their science and leadership skills. The fellowships are granted on the basis of each scientist’s intellectual merit, leadership capacity, and the potential of her work to improve the livelihoods of African smallholder farmers, most of whom are women.

Hooked to the dream of becoming a cartoonist By DAVID KIMANI

For Jane Wambui, time has come for women to join male-dominated professions such as that of cartoonists. The 20-year-old artist is ready to go the road less travelled and show that even women are artistically talented. In a recent interview, Wambui said: “I realised that I was talented in drawing in 2003 while in class three, back. I had come across a triangular packet of milk and made a replica model of it.” Her mother, who was a nursery school teacher supported Wambui by providing shading material needed for drawing. Looking back, Wambui, who lives in Kinungi, Kiambu County is proud to say that the outcome overwhelmed both of them. “My mum was impressed and amazed at my drawings. She highly commended my work stating that was a talent she had not realised was in me,” explains Wambui, who drew her inspiration from the late Ghanaian cartoon-

ist Frank Odoi. From that point Wambui carried on with making replicas of drawings she came by in books and newspapers until in 2004 when she perfected her art in making drawings of caricatures. Wambui reminisces a collection of drawings she had in class seven that many of her class mates envied and one of them later went as far as “pinching them”. However, Wambui was not deterred and is glad to reveal that was the best collection she ever had. Initially the soft spoken artist’s ambition had been to study and she would continue to draw as a hobby. She even thought she could be a lawyer. However, it was in Form Three that she really felt drawn to drawing. “Talent is something ordained by God and it would be imprudent to waste it,” says Wambui, adding this was her turning point. She changed from law and decided to pursue a course in arts and design after graduating from secondary

school in 2009. Things have not been easy and she says the biggest challenge has been lack of college fees. Wambui confesses that some of her friends have discouraged her in what she does describing it as ‘boys’ work. However, she reiterates and says nothing will stop her from scaling greater heights with her talent. “Gender roles have misled many because they have drawn up a boundary between what males can and what females should do which ends up not only limiting one’s potential but being a total wastage of talent,” says Wambui. Another challenge she faces is lack of access to proper art materials due to the high costs. “This problem has escalated due to unavailability of a market where I can sell my work. If I can get a ready market, I will be able to buy quality tools,” says Wambui. Apart from drawing, the 20 yearold designs cards for birthday, greetings and other special occasions coming up

Jane Wambui practising on her drawings at home. She has been drawing for the last ten years. Picture: David Kimani with appealing messages written in an equally creative typography to suit the

recipient of the card or occasion.

ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth


Fake hybrid seeds blamed for crop failure By BEN OROKO Irate farmers are still counting their losses following a massive maize crop failure in South Rift and Kisii. The failure is being blamed on suspect hybrid seeds. Even government and research institutions officials are still grappling with the cause of the maize lethal necrosis disease, farmers in Kisii County, are pointing an accusing finger at unscrupulous traders who sold the counterfeit seeds. Farmers who spoke to the Reject accuse fraudsters for contributing to the disease, following their packaging of counterfeit hybrid maize seeds and wrapping them using fake packages of renowned seed manufacturers before selling to unsuspecting farmers. According to Ruth Joseph, a subsistence farmer the fake seeds could be contributing to the spread of the maize disease which threatens corn production in agriculturally endowed food baskets in the country. This could lead to food insecurity in the country. Joseph blames the situation on lack of accessible extension services from the Ministry of Agriculture which has left farmers exposed to the snares of fraudsters who hoodwink them into buying counterfeit hybrid seeds. “Lack of agricultural field extension officers at the grassroots level is partly to blame for sale of counterfeit maize seeds to unsuspecting farmers which

lead to crop diseases or poor yields,” notes Joseph. Her sentiments are echoed by Moses Onchabo, a peasant maize farmer from Sameta District who says that lack of information on the location of approved stockists and dealers of certified hybrid maize seeds continues to expose farmers to household food insecurity due to poor harvests. Onchabo advocates for intensified grassroots farmers’ education on the approved stockists from where to purchase certified maize seeds to avert falling prey to fraudsters. However, Kisii County Agricultural Officer, John Katimbwa says farmers should buy hybrid maize seeds from certified and registered stockists to avoid getting fake seeds from unscrupulous middle-men.


Katimbwa regrets that questionable hybrid maize seed dealers had taken advantage of the ignorance of the farmers to sell them fake seeds during planting season leading to poor yields or infected crops. He advised farmers to report incidents of fake hybrid maize dealers to relevant authorities for action to protect them against falling prey to questionable cartels dealing in fake hybrid maize seeds. “As a Ministry, we have always advised farmers to procure hybrid maize

seeds from certified and registered stockists. This will enable Government make follow ups in case one buys bad seeds,” explains Katimbwa. However, he encourages farmers to diversify farming activities and embrace alternative crops instead of over-relying on maize. Diversification, he says, will boost food security at household and national levels. He urged farmers to plant drought resistant crops alongside maize to cushion them against food insecurity in case the crop fails or the yields are poor. The outbreak of the disease has been a serious threat to food security in the country, as it has exposed several families to food insecurity due to increasing demand for the commodity, translating to shortages and prohibitive maize prices in the local markets. The farmers’ outcry follows new scientific findings by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)NARL, the Ohio State University in the United States and FERA (UK), establishing that the disease is caused by a combination of viruses, the main ones being the maize chlorotic mottle virus, that had not been reported in Kenya before and the sugarcane mosaic virus which combine to cause maize lethal necrotic disease. The researchers found that the disease is transmitted through seeds and maize pests such as thrips stem borer,

Ruth Joseph at her maize farm in Kisii county. Lack of extension services is exposing farmers to fraudsters. Picture: Ben Oroko rootworms and flea beetle among other insects. The disease was first reported in lower Longisa division, Bomet County in September 2011 and contributed to the loss of over 62,400 bags of maize estimated at a cost of KSh218 million. Later it spread to the neighbouring Sotik, Konoin, Chepalungu, Trans-Mara, Borabu, Kisii, Bureti and Kericho. Affected maize crop is identified as having yellowish leaves and stems with stunted cobs that do not produce

grain, while in other cases the crops are stunted. The maize lethal necrotic disease can be managed through cutting and burning maize crops and planting alternative food crops on the affected land. Crops that can be planted include sweet potatoes, cassava and peas for the subsequent two to three crop seasons as part of the efforts to reduce the spread of the virus while providing alternative food sources.

Families switch to poultry farming to boost food security By KEN NDAMBU Scores of women and children in Katulani District no longer have to go to bed hungry because of a crop failure. Several women in the area have diversified poultry farming to promote food security and increase their income. One of the women Jennifer Mutia, a resident of Yakalia Village Kitui County whose homestead had been described as one of the poorest in the area two years ago has seen positive changes. Mutia was struggling to make ends meet after conventional farming failed due to inadequate and unreliable rains that characterised Kitui County. Like Mutia, Vivi Mbai from the adjacent Kaumba Village also suffered frequent pangs of hunger due to crop failure. However, things changed for the women and their families when they decided to engage in poultry farming. These women have taken poultry keeping as an enterprise to improve their standards of living. The residents have found hope in an indigenous nongovernmental organisation that is mitigating high poverty at household level by promoting poultry keeping through upgrading of local breeds. Leading the path are women who are not only role models but have also taken up the responsibility of veterinary doctors to monitor and treat disease outbreak.


“I started small with five indigenous chicken layers which were then cross bred with improved cockerel but today we have enough chicken for consumption and sale,” says Lena Maleve who is a role model chicken-breeder. Despite the challenges that come with poultry farming, the women are not giving up because it is a better alternative to crop farming. Mutia is now a para-vet and treats her stock as well as that of her colleagues within the project. “Chicken rearing is a very lucrative business but disease outbreak impedes farmers to progress,” notes Mutia adding that she has now mastered the chicken diseases calendar to the relief of other keepers. Her sentiments are echoed by Maleve who notes: “Whenever there is an outbreak of chicken

diseases, all the flock die and it becomes difficult for one to put food on the table.” “Chicken breeding is the only available account and promotion of the enterprise is the best mitigation that will empower women in arid and semi-arid lands,” says Muteti Mutisya, Monitoring, Evaluation and Advocacy officer with Kitui Development Centre. Mutisya notes since the organisation moved into the two districts in 2006, breadwinners in households can now provide for the family through the poultry keeping enterprise. With proper feeding, the chicken take at least three months to get the required weight needed for sale. “Poultry-keeping for communities in regions prone to drought is the best mitigation measure to over dependency on rain-fed agriculture,” notes Mutisya.


The organisation has adopted a self-help group and cluster level association approach for sustainable support and care. Mutisya says that so far 164 self-help groups with 3,214 women were reaping maximum benefits from poultry keeping. He notes that when women benefit, this trickles down to the whole family adding that culture recognises chicken as the household’s current account managed by women. This, therefore, leaves the indigenous chicken enterprise to be practiced by both women and children. Among the cluster level associations are Mwambililyo, Uvuanyo, Kanaani, Vumilia, Kuma, Mwathani, Uathimo and Mutavanya all in the newly created districts of Katulani and Nzambani. According to Sharon Munyao, officer-incharge of the project, the cluster level association representatives have been trained on better husbandry on the local breed so that they can train other members in the self-help groups. “The trainings are centred on feeding, housing, breeding, pests and disease control,” notes Munyao. So far 5,164 chicken in the project area has been vaccinated against dangerous diseases like Newcastle, Gomborro and typhoid. To tap the demand for indigenous chicken, 1,200 hybrid kenbrow cockerels have been sourced to improve the local chicken production to hybrid chicken that mature early.

Indigenous poultry keeper in Kitui County Munyoki Mwangangi feeding his flock in Migwani Location. Below: KDC community facilitator Jennifer Mutia who also serves as a para-vet vaccinating the chicken. Pictures: Ken Ndambu The organisation has acquired 264 artificial eggs hatchery for demonstration purposes and also to ensure that farmers get their supply within easy reach. “The hatchery has managed an 85 per cent success and this has necessitated need for a roll out plan to buy more hatcheries for the self-help groups and cluster level associations,” says Janet Mumo, Project Manager at Kitui Development Centre. She notes that an additional 18 hatcheries will replicated for farmers with chicks at the household level. To cut down on the cost of feeds, farmers have been trained on local poultry feed formulation using sunflower seed cakes, sorghum, maize and green grams which need less rain to grow.

“The training enhances community knowledge on poultry feeds formulation which is essential for increasing chicken production in addition to helping the community to access quality and affordable chicken feeds,” explains Mumo. To market the chicken products effectively, plans are under way to construct a slaughter slab to sell ready products to the mushrooming supermarkets in Kitui town and for other customers.


ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Peace building efforts before and after elections bear fruit By OLOO JANAK Nationwide peace campaigns during and after the just concluded General Elections are being enjoyed by all and sundry. Many peace campaigners are still earnestly praying that it holds despite the electoral disputes that have emerged after the polls. In Migori, most residents have lauded the peace efforts that were made before the elections because Migori County has remained calm with people going about their businesses as usual. “We plan to have more peace initiatives now after the elections although there are challenges brought about by disputes after elections. People have begun to ask us as peace makers, very difficult questions, claiming we are ‘lulling’ them to sleep as elections are stolen,” said Jackton Minyiria, chairman Migori Civic Local Affairs Network (CLAN). Prior to the election day, CLAN led Migori residents in a major demonstration to sensitise the people to maintain peace in a town which in 2007/2008 witnessed massive destruction, looting, death and injuries. Hundreds of people fled from some towns in Migori County including Migori, Rongo, Awendo, Sori, Muhuru, Macalder and sections of Nyatike Constituency.

Waki report

Human rights groups and the Waki report estimated that at the time, more than 36 people were killed, mostly through police shootings during the chaos that resulted from the disputed presidential results. From Nyatike, eight councillors who were elected unopposed by default on the Party of National Unity (PNU) in an area that was supporting the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and hundreds of their supporters fled to Tanzania in fear where they stayed for two months until the National Accord that brought back peace was signed on February 28, 2008. Two days to the March 4 Elections, Migori CLAN, in partnership with other local groups including boda-boda operators, held a peaceful demonstration in the town, on a five kilometre stretch along the town’s main highway to

Tanzania with messages of peace. The hundreds of demonstrators that were drawn from Migori town, Kuria, Awendo, Rongo, Nyatike, Uriri and other areas of the county who gathered near the Migori Teachers’ College from where they marched through the bus stage, to the outskirts of the town at Banana/Kimaiga area before congregating at the Posta Recreation Park where they were addressed by local leaders and officials of Migori CLAN.

Peace groups

The security team provided a police outrider to control traffic, in recognition of the important role the local peace groups and demonstration would contribute to peace ahead of the elections. Migori CLAN and local groups received support from the Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK) and its partners and Amkeni Wakenya UNDP Programme which contributed banners and other IEC materials focusing on peace and voter education. These were distributed to the residents during the event at the Posta Park. “What we witnessed in 2007 and early 2008 should never happen again and we want to appeal to all of you to send this message far and wide,” Omolo Awange, a local elder, told the gathering after the demonstration. The youth, led by the boda-boda (bicycle/ motorbike) and taxi operators pledged to maintain peace both during and after elections. The banners with the messages of peace and calls on the people to come out and vote were displayed at the Posta Park for two days till the evening prior to the elections, attracting many other people who also picked the voter education material that were being distributed by Migori CLAN staff and volunteers. “We recognise the value of peace and we want to thank the residents of the County for

A peace caravan and demonstration held in Migori town led by Migori Civic Local Affairs Network with support from Peace Initiative Kenya and Amkeni Wakenya in efforts towards peace building and conflict mitigation before voting involved boda boda taxi operators and area residents. Pictures: Oloo Janak turning up to participate in this exercise,” said Anne Ngetich, Migori County Commissioner who also joined the team later and officially received a police patrol boat that was brought from Kisumu.

The patrol boat is to help the police effectively man the Kenyan waters on the Migori side of Lake Victoria, including Migingo Island, which has been claimed by Uganda for some time now.

Violence on the eve of voting leads to poor voter turnout By DIANA WANYONYI As Kenyans participated in the elections, Mama Halima Osman, a housewife in Kilifi County watched the queue from the veranda of her house. To Osman, safety is more important than participating in the exercise. “I was afraid of stepping outside my house. We were still in shock after what happened. What if we were attacked by the raiders while waiting to vote? I could not take the risk,” she recalls. On the eve of March 4, five police officers and two civilians were murdered at Chumani and Chonyi areas in Kilifi County. The attack left two police officers and several IEBC officials admitted in Kilifi District Hospital sustaining deep head, leg and hand injuries after they fell victims of raiders suspected to be members of the outlawed Mombasa Republican Council (MRC).

During the attack, one IEBC clerk went missing after they were ambushed at Chumani Secondary School which was the polling station and tallying centre for parliamentary results in Kilifi North Constituency. Kilifi North had 69,151 registered voters. At the Kilifi District Hospital, casualty section, doctors and nurses in solidarity treated the injured. Fifteen victims were taken to hospital; eight of them were admitted in stable condition.


Speaking while undergoing treatment after sustaining deep head injuries, Benjamin Yongo (not his real name) a policeman, explained that they were attacked and car-jacked by the raiders at Chumani area while on their last trip of dispatching ballot boxes in the respective polling stations at 2:30am. “I was escorting the last trip of the ballot boxes after we had dis-

patched several to different polling stations when suddenly our vehicle was surrounded with more than 40 men who were armed with machetes, bows and arrows. We were forced to surrender for our dear lives, they quickly dragged us out of the vehicle and started beating us,” explains Yongo, closing his eyes in pain. After minutes of silence, Yongo opens his eyes with difficulties, tries to utter something but no words came out. After a short while he gains his confidence while folding his right fist, though he is thankful that he is still alive, he is worried about the driver of the car saying that he cannot remember what happened to him after the attack. “They questioned me on why I went against their wish but I had no idea what they were talking about. The next thing I felt was a sharp pang on my forehead then blood started oozing out. I fell down unconscious that is when they robbed me off my

possessions including an AK 47 rifle, uniform, identification card and mobile phone. When I regained consciousness, I managed to escape after fighting one of the raiders who was keeping watch over me,” he says. Outside the casualty section another police officer narrates how his two childhood friends, who were also his colleagues, were brutally murdered by the raiders.


“I still cannot believe what happened, the previous day we talked on phone and we agreed that we would meet after election because we were assigned to different places,” he explains, rubbing his eyes as he tries to hold back tears. Opposite Kilifi District Hospital is Uwanjani Polling Station in Mnarani Constituency, seven kilometres from Chumani. Here at least one could see a long queue of voters. At the Chumani Polling Station, the voting exercise did not take place

due to security reasons. In Mkunguni area all ballot boxes went missing while at Kiwandani one set of ballot box could not be found. However, for fear of further attacks, there are polling stations which were forced to close early. Four other polling stations that were closed down before 2:00pm were Mkongani, Mzizima, CRS, Jezasdzomo and Mkangagani. This was due to the insecurity that was witnessed in the area. Charo Tsuma, a resident of Jezasdzomo area said he did not participate in the voting exercise for security reasons after they heard gunfire shots from a distance. “From my house to the polling station is a walking distance but I could not risk my life. I have two wives and children to take care of,” said Tsuma. Kilifi County has seven constituencies namely Kaloleni, Rabai, Ganze, Malindi, Magarini, Kilifi North and Kilifi South.

ISSUE 079, March 16-31, 2013

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth


Media challenged head of historic elections By ODHIAMBO ORLALE The Kenyan media must be praised for the way it behaved during the few days to election, on Election Day and the days before the final presidential results were announced. However, during a public forum to discuss patriotism, the media and elections on the eve of the historic ballot, the general view at the monthly Media Roundtable organised by Media Focus in Africa was that the Fourth Estate had done much better in terms of fairness, accuracy and balanced reporting of most of the leading candidates and political parties than it did in the controversial 2007 polls. Most of the over 50 participants meeting at Alliance Française in Nairobi, commended the local media for a job well done on peace-building through the print and broadcast outlets in the runup to the first polls under a new Constitution.


The public forum was the second this year. The first one held in January was titled: “Are the guidelines for Election coverage being adhered to/ are they enforceable; and do the results of opinion influence the airtime and space given by Media houses to the presidential candidates and the coalition in this election period?” The panelists were: Angela Ambitho, CEO Infotrak Research and Consulting; Brice Rambaud, director, Democracy and Governance Internews in Kenya; and Linus Kaikai, Managing Editor, NTV. While the moderator was Stephanie Muchai, Article 19. Currently there are more than 90 FM radio stations, 14 TV stations and unconfirmed number of print newspapers and magazines, which include four dailies namely Daily Nation, The Standard, The Star and People Daily. Vernacular or community-based languages are commonly used in broadcast media, mostly on radio. In the second forum on patriotism and the media, the media was criticized for failing to openly promote nationalism. The national broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) was no exception.


The forum was moderated by Henry Makori of Fahamu while the three panelists were Ken Njiru of Uungana Initiative; Prof Levy Obonyo, head of communication department at Daystar University and KTN Managing Editor Joe Ageyo, who was unable to attend. Said Njiru: “When we talk about patriotism we should give the bright-

Ken Njiru, an official from the Uungwana Initiative and Professor Levi Obonyo of Daystar University during the Media Round Table on the eve of the polls. Picture: Courtesy, Media Focus on Africa er side of Kenya’s history. Our local media is good at peace-building stories and but not in promoting patriotism.” The official argued that Kenyans cannot have a nation without values and asked a rhetorical question: “Do our leaders have values?” In the polls conducted just before the elections, the eight presidential hopefuls who included one woman, former Constitutional Affairs minister, Martha Karua, were covered by the local and international media extensively with the climax being the two historic three-hour two live presidential debates, organized by the Media Owners Association, the Private Sector Alliance and Ford Foundation among other partners. They were each put on the spot and had to answer specific questions on land, corruption, governance and ethnicity as they used the forum to woo voters to support their race to

State House. Obonyo noted that as most media houses were privately owned, their main motive was to make a tidy sum of profits first and look at national interests of the country second. He said: “It is a fact that the motive of all media houses is to make profits first which could affect national interests. What are the national values of Kenyans? We must also ask ourselves what is the profile of an average TV/radio or newspaper reader/viewer and listener?” According to a research, he quoted, Obonyo noted that 96 per cent of Kenyans can access the radio; 80 per cent have access to cell phones; 56 per cent can access newspapers and magazines; 37 per cent can access television while only 23 per cent can access social media through the internet. He told the forum that it was im-

portant to distinguish between the social media and the other media (TV and FM stations), saying the latter are held in trust on behalf of the public by the media owners. Turning to the issue of patriotism and the role of the media, Obonyo said: “But we must also be careful about agenda-setting by the media versus the three arms of Government namely the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature.”


Other pertinent issues raised by participants during the open session included: why are some FM and TV presenters allowed to incite the public by their choice of words and topics; the conflict between public good, advertisers and the media houses; where do you draw the line between press freedom, fair comment and patriotism? Should we ignore the skeletons in the closets of the leaders in

“It is a fact that the motive of all media houses is to make profits first which could affect national interests. What are the national values of Kenyans? We must also ask ourselves what is the profile of an average TV/radio or newspaper reader/viewer and listener?” — Prof Levy Obonyo

Executive Director: Arthur Okwemba

our pursuit of promoting patriotisms as journalists? However, the outcome of lections showed a responsible media that did not act out of context. Patriotism of the media was seen when they gave 24 hour service, without putting profits ahead of them to cover elections until the final day when the president elect was announced after tallying of presidential results. The media, is also noted to have set up a huge media centre at the Boma of Kenya where presidential results were being tallied. This enabled the journalist to be put at one station without having to go through traffic to reach their media houses to submit stories. This effort by Kenya Editor’s Guild was supported by Ford Foundation, IFES and Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The media centre allowed Keg to work in conjunction with the IEBC in ensuring that material for press briefing was right for public consumption and did not antagonise either side of the political divide. One thing that stands out with the media during this period is that they refused to give live coverage to the coalitions even when it was seen that anxieties were rising and people wanted to speak their minds before the end of the process.

Write to:

Editor: Jane Godia Sub-Editors: Mercy Mumo, Carolyne Oyugi and Faith Muiruri Designer: Noel Lumbama

Contributors: Jonathan Namunai, Oloo Janak, Diana Wanyonyi, Nicole Waithera, Joseph Mukubwa, Hilda Atika, Jeff ole Ketere, Joseph Munene, Abjata Khalif, Henry Owino, Odhiambo Odhiambo, David Kimani, Ben Oroko, Ken Ndambu and Odhiambo Orlale.

The paper is supported by the Ford Foundation

Reject Online Issue 79  

Unfiltered, uninhibited... just the gruesome truth The Reject is a bi-monthly publication of the Media Diversity Centre, a project of Afri...

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