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Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

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April 1-15, 2010

ISSUE 015

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

Kyondo makes a comeback

Years of drought in Ukambani revamp traditional basket weaving By Muasya Charles For generations, woven kyondos (sisal baskets) played an important part in the cultural life of the Kamba community. The baskets, adorned with traditional designs and motifs, also marked the cultural passage from one generation to another. The Kamba culture dictates that a newly married woman must have a kyondo for use at the market, and another for attending special occasions such as marriage ceremonies among other important ceremonies. As a result of the erosion of cultural traditions and activities in the local community, the tradition of sisal usage for kyondo weaving, had almost become extinct.

History The kyondo evolved from sisal to manila (a synthetic but harder material that was different from sisal) to knitting thread being used as the material for weaving the baskets. An Akamba origin, many other communities learnt how to weave and use the basket for market and storage purposes. In the end weaving the kyondo formed an income generating activity for many men and women. The more advanced evolution of the kyondo was in the early 1980s when it became popular as a handbag for many a working woman.

The kyondo was also particularly popular with the tourists visiting Kenya, and it was not strange to see many foreigners carrying the basket in all its evolved forms. There are also major shops in the United States and Europe that allowed it to be part of their stock. However, with time the kyondo seemed to have gotten lost. Apparently it never died and the culture of sisal weaving of baskets is back again and with a vengeance, thanks to the sisal plant that will survive the harshest of weathers.

Source of income With the rains having failed for three consecutive seasons, the community has turned to utilisation of sisal fibre to weave kyondo among other products as an income generating activity and use the proceeds to buy food. The same happened in 1926 when the region suffered many years of rain failure. “The community has a rich cultural history in kyondo weaving which should be utilised to avert the severe hunger,” says Ms Mary Wambua, a member of Itambya Imwe Women’s Self-help Group in Mulango location. The group weaves kyondos and sells the products in a common market with networks both nationally and abroad. “Traditionally kyondo is an important gift to a new born baby girl, just like a boy who is given a bow and arrows for fighting off the enemy and for hunting purposes,’’ says Wambua.

“Women are being empowered to utilise the locally available resources like sisal to eke a living as a measure of fighting the avenging hunger,’’ — Ms Janet Mumo, Programme Manager of Kitui Development Centre (KDC),

An older woman weaving a kyondo while instructing a younger one on how the age old tradition of basket weaving is done. The basket has returned in Ukambani and women are weaving it as an income generating activity.

There are specific reasons for weaving the kyondo. There is a special kyondo in which gift items for a mother are carried. A kyondo also emphasises the neatness of a woman in addition to giving her status within the society. “Women are being empowered to utilise the locally available resources like sisal to eke a living as a measure of fighting the avenging hunger,’’ says Ms Janet Mumo, Programme Manager of Kitui De-

velopment Centre (KDC), an indigenous NGO that strives to empower women to improve their standards of living.

Designs She says women have special talent in kyondo weaving. They just look at a design from other women in market centres, and the next day they come with a modified outlook. The designs are varied Continued on page 2


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Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

Women’s groups seek markets for home crafts

Kyondo makes a come back Continued from page 1

A woman exhibits some of the home crafts at a local exhibition. Many artisans who make such goods are now looking to expand their markets to the international scene. Picture: Paul Mwaniki

By Paul Mwaniki   Women groups from Mt Kenya region engaged in home craft industry are touring the country in search of markets for their products. The women’s groups are mainly involved in making of wool products, kyondo (traditional woven basket), wood carvings and curio wares among other products. They recently came together under an organisation called Solidarity Association in Kenya (SAK), and resolved to tour the country and see if they can access local markets, and ultimately foreign markets for their artefacts.  Through the organisation, these groups are staging exhibitions during the tours, showcasing their products to potential buyers. Speaking in Nanyuki during one of the exhibitions, Mrs Rosemary Waigwa from Githima Spinners and Weavers in Ol Moran, Laikipia West District, said their major handicap was where to sell the woollen products. “We are able to produce many sweaters, baby shawls, door mats and bed covers among other things but the major problem is where to sell them,” lamented Waigwa.

Poor markets

She said disposal of the wares at village markets was not encouraging as most people prefer mitumba (second hand/used wares and garments) at the expense of new high quality products that are relatively more expensive. She attributed the slow movement of the goods to lack of tourists but appreciated the few who visit a local Catholic church. The group was formed in 1988 as a way of bringing together women who wanted

to start a home-based industry, beginning with manufacturing of woollen products. “We have struggled this far and finally we can see light at the end of the tunnel, because this organisation is geared towards bringing together different groups with same interests of finding a market for our products,” Waigwa explained. During the exercise, over 30 groups from the whole region showcased their products and made contacts with potential buyers from Nanyuki town, best known as a tourist entry point to Northern Kenya. The region hosts the British military who regularly undergo training exercises in Samburu and Laikipia districts. Another member of the group is Mary Tema of the Il Ngwesi Self-help Group, a Maasai women’s group that capitalises in the manufacture of shangas (bead necklaces), beaded lesos (traditional wraps), curio and bead wares.  Tema said their wares only move when tourists visiting game ranches in Lakipia North District come calling. “Sometimes the tourists are taken for village visits and that is when we get an opportunity to sell our products, and this is usually done once in a month,” she explained. However, she pointed out that while the tourists would normally purchase

The bureaucracy involved in selling of such goods in the country, denied the groups’ markets, forcing them to resort to unscrupulous brokers and middlemen.

larger quantities of their wares, this is not the case since most of the game ranches also run curio shops. “For those of us in the rural areas it has become very hard to do this business, but through the SAK we can now hope for better times,” said Tema. The exhibition featured, among others, a group from Kyeni Division in Embu East District, that processes and bottles mango juice straight from the farm. Gatero Mango Farmers’ Enterprises, producers of Karma Fresh Mango Juice, comprises 31 registered farmers. The group came about after the farmers decided to turn tonnes of mangoes that seasonally went to waste into a lucrative business by setting up a juice processing industry, with assistance from the Sustainable Animal and Range Development Programme (SARDEP) in the Ministry of Agriculture. The group’s vice secretary, Mr Robert Nyaga, said the involvement of SARDEP had helped market the mango juice that carries the Kenya Bureau of Standards certification stamp. The SAK coordinator, Ms Jane Kigotho, noted that the organisation brings together small and medium micro enterprises groups from rural areas that have the technical ability of making acceptable goods for local and international markets. She reiterated the bureaucracy involved in selling of such goods in the country, denied the groups’ markets, forcing them to resort to unscrupulous brokers and middlemen. Through SAK, the groups make direct contact with the buyers, thus ensuring good business for all concerned. The exhibitions will be held monthly across the country, with plans for similar opportunities abroad.

and most have proved to be a tourist’s delight. “The new design currently selling fast in both local and international markets is called Mwende, which has good sales in Japan, Italy and Germany. The design comes in small, medium and large sizes,” explains Mumo. The Mwende design is woven from dry banana fibre and dyed with natural colours from the barks of indigenous trees only found in the region’s dry-lands. Margaret Kakunaa, 66, mastered the art of weaving the kyondo at the age of 15. With the fast disappearing culture, she, at one point abandoned the practice, but says she is now back, this time as a trainer of younger women weavers. Kakunna makes a monthly income of KSh15,000 from the sale of kyondos. “I have been able to feed my grandchildren and even some of my children from the sales. I do not need to go and line up for famine relief food,” she says confidently. Her income is relatively huge in this semi-arid area that is rated as among the poorest regions in the country, with 65 percent of the population largely dependent on famine relief food from the Government and other charitable organisations. “We are using locally available resources like the sisal, banana fibre and burnt bricks,” says Mrs Nduku Maluu, a member of a kyondo weaving group. She says a burnt local brick gives pinkish colour which is used to dye strings for weaving. Banana fibre that previously was traditionally used to wrap tobacco snuff, has proved to be an excellent raw material for kyondo weaving. She says indigenous trees are a good source for raw materials if well harnessed. She identifies the barks of local trees called muase and muuku, which are very good natural dyes for decoration of the baskets. She is appealing for conservation of the two trees. The KDC says for the purpose of adding value, several women have been trained on quality control, dye mixing and material utilisation. Says Mumo: “KDC works through a network of women groups to enable its members earn a living through improvising what they have in their midst.” She adds that food aid and other assistance from the Government should come in as a last resort. She says lessons are given to the women on the best designs, shape, size and colours. With help from World Neighbours, an NGO, plans are underway to put up a KSh1 million resource centre in Kitui town to enable the weavers sell their produce through the e-commerce trade initiative.


Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

Plans for micro-financing ruffle tea farmers By Joseph Mukubwa

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he Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) intends to set up micro finance institutions to reduce the cost and interest rates charged by local saving and credit co-operative societies (sacco) on tea production. However, the entry of KTDA in the financial sector might become a nightmare, owing to its current relationship with the farmers as their sole tea marketing agent in the Mt Kenya region. The move is being resisted by tea farmers particularly in the larger Murang’a, Nyeri and Kirinyaga districts, where they view it as a threat to local savings and credit cooperative societies. “This move will kill our institutions that serve our tea farmers in the rural areas,” said Mr Githaiga Macharia, a farmer from Gitugi Tea Factory, Othaya.

Speaking out At a special delegates meeting held by Taifa Sacco members in Nyeri recently, bitter tea farmers unanimously resolved to keep off any financial engagement with KTDA, appealing to the Government to stop the agency from venturing into financial activities. They view as common sense their hesitance to allow the same agency that markets their produce, to control their

When the Kenya Government revived the fallen KCC 2000 and renamed it New KCC, it was to many of the country’s long suffering dairy farmers, a God-sent miracle. The government-owned organisation had, until recently, rescued dairy farmers from the losses they incurred over the years at the hands of unscrupulous milk brokers and un-paid milk deliveries. A majority of farmers especially in Nyandarua District had largely depended on pyrethrum and milk since there was an absence of other viable undertakings. Milk production in the region increased as farmers resorted to uprooting the less attractive pyrethrum crop to plant fodder for livestock. Prices of milk also improved from KSh12 to between KSh25 and KSh30 per litre since 2003. As fate would have it, gone are the good times for many a dairy farmer and it is all thanks to the heavy rainfall that came in the wake of the long drought. The huge volumes of milk from farms and homes as a consequence of ample pasture, caught the New KCC and other milk processors totally off guard. Such was the crisis that a dairy plant in OlKalou in Nyandaru District recently poured out over 10,000 litres of milk following New KCC’s failure to collect the commodity. In that one week alone, farmers who delivered milk to the plant lost an esti-

High production costs lowered tea revenues last year By Joseph Mukubwa

Farmers picking their tea in Nyeri. Many farmers are opposed to Kenya Tea Development Authority being a micro finance institution. Picture: Joseph Mukubwa

money since, they argue, the agency has been paying them poorly. “This is ridiculous. KTDA has exploited us long enough through tea sales, and it would amount to committing suicide if they controlled the little money they pay us,” cautioned Wambugu, a tea farmer from Othaya. However, Mr Esau Kioni, a KTDA director who represents Nyeri, Murang’a and Kirinyaga districts, insists that the saccos are exploiting farmers by charging high interest rates, adding that KTDA

will only be charging them rates of eight percent on loans. “We are not in competition with the saccos, but want to bring down costs of loans and interest for the benefit of farmers,” explained Kioni. But even with the reduced interest rates, many farmers will not be wooed to join the KTDA’s micro-finance arrangement, as they view it as a gimmick, and a desperate attempt to create jobs for directors who might lose their jobs if the Government’s plan to reduce their numbers succeeds.

Milk glut puts dairy processors to task over storage capacities By Lydia Mwangi

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mated KSh500,000. According to the depot manager Mr Joseph Ong’ang’a, the delayed collection of the milk had forced the plant to dispose of the milk as it lacked sufficient storage for the excess product. Ong’ang’a said the Ol-Kalou Dairy Plant storage capacity stands at about 23,000 litres of milk per day. The milk sector in Ol-Kalou town and its environs now lies in jeopardy following the milk glut.

Excess milk But it was not Ol-Kalou alone that faced this dilemma. Milk processors all over the country did not have enough storage for the excess product. The rains that brought about changes had not been anticipated to the degree that farmers and processors were at a loss. The excess milk forced a calling by farmers for prices to be reduced. However, other farmers felt that a price reduction would affect their earnings. Mr Paul King’ori, a farmer, said the decision to lower the cost of milk from KSh26 to KSh20 would impact negatively on the dairy farmer’s earnings. When the Reject visited some dairy farmers, it found most of them feeding their calves on the excess milk with others using it to cook ugali (Kenya’ staple food) or pouring it on their farms. The more determined among the farmers were spotted selling the milk to

town dwellers outside New KCC gate at a throwaway price of KSh10 per litre. Another dairy farmer, Mr Paul Wakahiu feels cheated. During the prolonged drought last year the dairy farmer borrowed KSh200,000 (about $2,667) from a financial institution to sustain his dairy cattle. He hoped to repay the loan once the rains set in and his milk production improved. During the drought, the demand for the milk was strong and prices remained high. The loan from Taifa Savings and Credit Cooperative, coupled with the short rains in 2009, helped raise his production to 60 litres per day. To his dismay, the price of milk has tumbled down at a time when he expected to make good profits. Processors who are overwhelmed by the increased production have been rejecting milk supplies due to lack of adequate storage and processing capacity. “They have given us quotas and they don’t care where we take the surplus. The government must set aside some money to mop up excess milk from farmers,” pleaded Wakahiu. However, what has been seen in the shops is that milk processors are offering extra to anyone who buys more. For instance, in Nairobi and among major supermarket outlets, anyone who buys two 500ml packets of milk, gets an extra one for free. And Kenyans have really tried to mop up the excess milk. Hopefully, milk processors have learnt their lesson.

Low tea production and high manufacturing costs were the main challenges that faced tea farmers in the larger Nyeri District during the last financial year. The tea production for 2009 in the district was lower compared to the previous year, due to among other factors, bad weather and high manufacturing costs arising from high electricity expenditures. During a recent annual general meeting at Gitugi, Iria-ini and Chinga tea factories, the farmers heard that the crop production for the year ending June 2009, was lower compared to 2008. At Gitugi Tea Factory in Othaya, over 7.5 million kgs of green leaf were delivered last year for processing at the factory.  This compares to 9.9 million kgs the previous year. There was, however a marked increase in tea prices, but coupled with an increase in the cost of tea manufacturing that rose from KSh54.40 to KSh57.69 for every kilogramme. At the neighbouring Iria-ini Tea Factory, the production of green leaf was also lower than that of the previous year’s 8.4 million kgs. The factory chairman, Mr Hutchinson Wanjohi, hopes the production will increase this year, given the favourable weather forecast. At the Iria-ini factory the manufacturing costs increased during the year, bringing the cost to KSh94.18 per kg of made tea, against the previous year’s KSh84.17 – an increase of KSh10.01 per kg. The factory produced 8.4 million kgs of green leaf last year, compared to 11.2 million in 2008, a difference of 2.7 million kgs. At Chinga Tea Factory, the crop production for the year was also lower than the previous year. About 10.3 million kgs of green leaf were delivered for processing. The crop production was 10.3 million kgs of green leaf compared to 14.9 million kgs in 2008. Tea price increases during the year hit the 30 per cent mark. Due to the rising energy costs in the country, the cost of production rose at four tea factories including Iria-ini, Gitugi, Chinga and Gathuthi.  As a consequence, the four have agreed to develop a hydro-electric project to be located at Gura River.  The surplus power will be sold to Kenya Power and Lighting Company. The project to cost KSh635 million, will take 67 months to complete and is estimated to yield 17.8 megawatts, out of which 8.5 megawatts will be consumed by the four factories, and the surplus of 9.3 megawatts sold to KPLC. KSh135 million of the total cost of construction, will be paid by the farmers, with the balance will be loan money to be repaid over a five year period. Gura Hydro power Company has already been registered.


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Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

Pineapple farmers set for juicy times By Nicholas Odhiambo

Located in the relatively desolate South Nyanza region, Homa Bay District is sitting on untapped wealth with the potential to significantly enhance household earnings, and vastly improve living standards. According to the District Agricultural Officer, Mr Khisa Protas, an estimated 160 acres of pineapple plantations are churning out tons of fruit that has been going to waste for lack of a market. The most affected areas include Gem, Kanyada, Kagan and Kochia that have for years yearned for a pineapple processing factory. However, help has come their way through the Kenya Industrial Research Development Institute (KIRDI) which will install a new factory with the potential to rival the Thika-based Del Monte facility. “We want to install equipment that will process the pineapples and make business sense out of the fruit,” said Mr Anuro Japheth, research scientist in-charge of KIRDI’s Homa Bay office.

Increase output

The plant, estimated to cost KSh5 million, will process up to 10 tonnes of pineapple daily. “KIRDI is a partner in development and will help the nation achieve Vision 2030 of making Kenya an industrial country,” explained Anuro. As a consequence, the Ministry of Agriculture is now encouraging farmers in other areas including Kobama in the neighbouring Ndhiwa District to engage in pineapple cultivation. To ensure a fair measure of success, the Agriculture ministry is currently addressing related issues including the eradication of pests and diseases that might hinder production of the fruit. Pineapple Leave Spot and Pineapple Mealy Bug are a common threat to the fruit.

A lifeline for Malanga’s orphans By Gilbert Ochieng Proceeds from a Christian-funded beekeeping venture are helping in the upkeep and education of orphaned and vulnerable children in various parts Western Kenya. Through the project, the organisation also aims at empowering the local community to become economically selfreliant, particularly through provision of farm inputs. The bee-keeping project comprises a total of 150 beehives. In 2007, the Western Region Christian Community Services paid school fees and bought school uniform for 11 orphaned vulnerable children in various schools.  In appreciating the organisation’s assistance, the Community Development Facilitator for Malanga in Butula District, Ms Irene Kubasu said as a consequence of its intervention, many in the local community were now economically self-reliant and were no longer seeking handouts from well-wishers.

Rose Podo, the Rangwe Division Agricultural Officer advising a pineapple farmer. Residents of Homa Bay District can tap into the potential of pineapple farming. Picture: Nicholas Odhiambo

Farmers are being mobilised and the KAKAGEKO Horticultural Cooperative Society that brings together members from Kagan, Kanyada, Gem and Kochia areas, has been formed with offices at Omoya Market in Kochia. Africa Now, an organisation with offices at Omoya Market, will install equipment that will assist farmers dry their fruit before it is sold to processing factories in the country. “We want to make sure farmers are helped so that pineapple production is encouraged and farmers benefit from it,” said Mr Justus Ongiri, Africa Now regional representative.

Farming seminars International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has come up with a planning area development committee that will train farmers on pineapple farm management. It is also organising seminars on how to plant pineapples, mangoes, cassava, and paw paw, among other horticultural crops. Pineapple farming in Kochia started in 1987, but was not developed until recently. Messrs Philemon Mwango and Barrack Odhiambo, prominent local farmers, are excited with the latest development and believe they will benefit from the proposed factory.

“We know we are going to have good money in the near future,” said Odhiambo. So far, farmers are getting proceeds by selling the fruits to the local markets and hotels at a cost of between KSh15 and KSh40, depending with the size of fruit. “What we get from this is good, and we have used it in educating our children, but if the new development succeeds things will be better,” said Mwango. Apart from pineapples, the region is also rich in other fruits such as mangoes, oranges, paw paw, passion, water melon and tomatoes, all of which have attracted the interest of KIRDI.

Ministerial directive killing macadamia nut industry By David Kiarie Macadamia farmers from Embu District are a worried lot after the Government gazetted new regulations which ban the export of uncracked nuts. The regulations published recently, require that the nuts be value added by cracking and packaging before they are exported. This is expected to increase the proceeds. But farmers from Embu say the move by the Cooperative Development Minister, Mr Joseph Nyaga is counterproductive, noting that a local macadamia factory where they sell their produce does not have the capacity to crack all the nuts they deliver on a daily basis. A manager with Afri China International, a macadamia factory based in Embu, Mr Jack Guo said the ban on the sale of unprocessed nuts will badly affect farmers since the company will not be able to buy more nuts this year. “The season has just started but it is unfortunate we cannot buy anymore nuts this year because we have enough to

process throughout the year,” he said. He reiterated that the company faced a major market challenge since China, which is the biggest consumer of the produce, may not buy the processed nuts. “If we crack the nuts, the Chinese will not be interested in our produce since they prefer uncracked nuts,” Guo explained.  The gazettement of the new regulations has hit farmers badly, with Afri China International which has been buy-

“If we crack the nuts, the Chinese will not be interested in our produce since they prefer uncracked nuts,” — Jack Guo, Manager, Afri China International

ing between 50 and 100 tonnes of macadamia daily from Embu farmers putting a stop to deliveries until next year. “We do not have the capacity to process all the nuts, and since we have to adhere to the new regulations, we shall only process what we have in our stores so far,” explained Guo. The company has been buying the produce for between KSh50 and KSh60 per kilogramme, but the price has since plummeted to KSh25 following the ban due to reduced demand for the produce. Farmers are now calling for the degazettement of the regulations, arguing that even if the regulations are meant to increase earnings, it has negative economic implications. “If value addition to the crop will hurt us this much, then the minister would rather let Kenya continue exporting raw nuts,” said Ms Teresia Muthoni, a long time macadamia farmer. Over 100 workers at the company’s factory also fear for their jobs since only a few of them would be required to do the processing job.


Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

Compensation that is an injury to victims By Mboya Muthusi Master Munywoki Musyoka has been permanently disfigured after he was attacked and maimed by a lethal savannah cobra which struck him as he slept in his bed. One of the youngster’s arms is paralysed following the attack that also necessitated the amputation of three fingers. His foster-mother, Ms Margaret Kalunda Mutia has been seeking adequate compensation from the Government, to enable her take him to a special school. She dismissed the argument by the Kenya Wildlife Services that the KSh50,000 compensation so far paid out, was excessive. The KWS previously awarded a maximum of KSh30,000 for people killed by wild animals, and much less for those injured as in the case of Munywoki. The amount of compensation has apparently been increased. Mutia was, however, allegedly informed by the KWS to count herself lucky for receiving the KSh50,000 “for a breathing person”. This came from the KSh1.3 million that the Mwingi District Commissioner, Mr Peter Kinuthia received as compensation for 22 victims who were either killed or injured by wild animals in Mwingi and Kyuso districts, last year.

Unrealistic amount The Wildlife Compensation Act has been a bone of contention for the ninth Parliament and others before it. Members of Parliament and the general public have challenged the paltry KSh30,000 the Act allows as compensation for loss of human life, arguing it’s unrealistic. At one stage, MPs had recommended KSh1 million for loss of life. The bulk of the money, according to the Senior Warden in charge of Kora National Park, Mr Mark Cheruiyot, will go towards the compensation of 19 people who were attacked by snakes, mostly the red cobra and puff adder. Two of the victims died. Three others, according to the records at the Mwingi KWS office were attacked and injured by a buffalo, a bat and a wild dog. The compensation cheque for the victims who were attacked between 2006 and last year was presented by Cheruiyot to the Mwingi District Commissioner.

Master Munywoki Musyoka displays his arm that was attacked by a savannah cobra. Many people are complaining that compensation for wildlife attacks is not commensurate with the damage the animals inflict. Picture: Mboya Muthusi

As news of the compensation spread in Mwingi town, there was disquiet among the victims and their relatives who complained that the money was not commensurate to the loss suffered by the victims of wildlife attacks. The foster mother to the 11 year old Class Four orphan says the KSh50,000 compensation was a mockery considering the extent of the permanent injuries suffered. “It could be a bit reasonable if KWS paid the boy at least half a million shillings for the permanent damage that was caused to his arm. It is prudent for Parliament to ensure victims are adequately compensated,” urged Mutia.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka recently expressed similar sentiments, adding that the meagre amounts of compensation also took long before being disbursed.  He made the remarks during a visit to Kalatine, Muumoni Division in his Mwingi North Constituency, where wildlife attacks are frequent. According to the KWS tabulations, relatives of the two victims who died after they were struck by savannah red cobras, would receive KSh200, 000 for each case. The rest of the victims, including those attacked and injured by puff adders a buffalo, a bat, a wild dog and a red cobra, would get between KSh30,000 and KSh50, 000.

Bird shooting takes root in Isiolo By Reject Reporter Northern Kenya could soon attract a new breed of tourists if plans underway take effect. The Northern Rangeland Trust plans to roll out bird shooting exercises in Biliqo, Bulesa Conservancy area in Isiolo District. The exercise will promote tourism in parts of the larger Sera region and enhance income generation from conservancy. Mr Tom Lalampaa, a programme coordinator with the Northern Rangeland Trust, says the exercise will be organised through mobile safaris across the conservancy re-

gions covered under bird shooting blocks. “Tourists from all over the world will access the areas by air travel due to the poor state of infrastructure. There will be bird shooting within certain times,” Lalampaa explained. He added: “Tourists will be shooting in one quarter of the year and will chiefly target sand grouse which are common in the region.” Bird shooting, which was launched two years ago at Melako Conservancy area in the larger Sera region, has started reaping income. The bird shooting exercise has com-

monly been undertaken in Swaziland as tourism adventure and is slowly picking up in other parts of the world. Conservancy managers from 17 regions are expected to submit returns of the exercise to Kenya Wildlife Services in an effort that will ensure funds generated are beneficial to the communities. During the meeting that brought together board members from Biliqo-Bulesa, Melako and Sera Conservancies, it was agreed that conservancy scouts step up the fight against poaching in the region to protect the wild animals.

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New jumbo species discovered By Charles Njeru Kenyan and British scientists have discovered a new animal sub-species of the Elephant Shrew or Sengi near the Kenyan Coast, bordering southern Somalia. The discovery was made using the latest available wildlife tracking technology. The scientists further discovered in their study that the species is a distant relative of the African elephant. The unique species of the Elephant Shrew was discovered in both Boni and Dodori Forests near the small town of Kiunga, bordering conflict stricken Somalia. The discovery comes just a few months after a similar discovery of another subspecies of the same family was made in Tanzania. “The animal is also endangered because it borders conflict ridden Somalia. Bandits and gangs from the war-torn country find entry into the Kenyan border very easily and continuously destroy the Boni Forest areas,” said Mr Risky Agwanda of the National Museums of Kenya in an interview. He added: “Also the Boni tribe, numbering about 2,000, still retains the old tradition of being hunters and gatherers, making the animal more vulnerable to extinction.” According to Agwanda, there is a greater need to beef-up security in the area and elevate the two coastal forests in the area to reserves. Currently the Kenya Wildlife Service is working on a strategic management plan to make Boni a national reserve. Agwanda and Mr Raj Amin from the Zoological Society of London were the leading scientists in this historic discovery. The researchers say final results of the research have been approved and will be published in an international peer review journal in this month. Mr Agwanda does not give full details of the animal species due to issues related to patenting and copyright. However, he said the physical uniqueness and other major characteristics of the animal will be described in deeper detail once the discovery has been published in the international journal. “The animal species of the Elephant Shrew family or sengi has unique characteristics as compared to those of its closes relatives. Even the colouring of its coat is different,” explained Agwanda. He added: “The animal, as we found out, is very significant to evolutionary radiation, and those are some of the most important scenarios of our discovery. The land where the animal lives was once ocean water. It has influenced the direction of different species.” The researchers have not yet given the new species an official scientific name, but they will do so in about two weeks time. Agwanda hinted out that the scientific name will be released after someone or something related to conflict, since the discovery was made near a conflict-stricken region. “Making the discovery was not easy as there were many challenges that came our way. Our lives were always under threat. That border is not even guarded, so bandits enter and leave the country as they please,” he explained.


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Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

Extinct antelope set for reintroduction into Mt Kenya forest

Indian House crow a major threat to agriculture By Charles Njeru

The Mountain Bongo, a breed of the antelope that was declared extinct in Mt Kenya has been reintroduced. Picture: Asha Mukhtar

By Asha Muktar The Mountain Bongo, a rare species of antelope that became extinct in Kenya about 20 years ago, is set to be released into Mt Kenya Forest. The breed was eliminated by poachers between 1970 and 1990. Wildlife experts expect that this time round, the unique antelope that is a tourist attraction will roam the mountain range for eternity freely now that the poaching menace has reduced significantly. Plans to release the animals after successful breeding at Mt Kenya Wildlife Conservancy are complete. The first batch of 20 animals are set for release into the wild any time this month. “We have held several meetings with the Kenya Wildlife Service to ensure that this exercise goes on without a hitch,” says Mr Don Hunt, chairman of the Conservancy. The exercise, dubbed the Mountain Bongo Repatriation Project, begins with the release of 12 male bongos. The animals have been confined to the sanctuary since 2004 when a total of 18 were brought from zoos in the United States of America. Out of the imported animals, only five survived the climate change and diseases. The five gave birth and currently, there are a total of 63 bongos, 20 of which are pregnant. “In the 1960s we became aware of the steady decline of the bongo population in the Mt Kenya due to poaching using dogs. This was a very effective way of killing the antelopes,” explained Hunt. He added: “The Mt Kenya Wildlife Conservancy spent 10 years planning and executing the capture of 20 young mountain bongos which were taken to the US.”

The bongos later increased to 400 after crossbreeding with the American species. As the effort progressed, poachers continued to kill the animals and the remains of what was thought to be last known bongo

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About the Mountain Bongo

he bongo are spectacular animals, characterised by russet red fur with white stripes and ivory tipped horns, and  stand five feet inches tall and weigh 500-700 pounds. Herds of the shy and elusive antelopes were common and important inhabitants of the vast ecosystem of Mt Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain.   The bongo are gregarious and nonterritorial. The adult males are often solitary, while females have been seen in herds with calves. The female groups are led by a senior cow. They become solitary when they near parturition, but within three months after giving birth, the mothers and the calves join the nursery herds. Historically, they inhabited three regions of Africa – in the west, central and east. The lowland bongo inhabited the lowland rain forests of West and Central Africa. The Eastern or mountain bongo, have been isolated to the mountain forests of Kenya — the Aberdare Forest, Mau Forest and Mount Kenya. The bongo are similar to other antelopes; they too have spiral horns. What makes them different from other antelopes are the white stripes on the body. Some bongos have eight stripes while others have 15 to 16.

on Mt Kenya were discovered by the senior warden at the Mt Kenya National Park, a Mr Woodley in 1994.  The animals were also hunted by poachers from other parts of the world, for sale to trophy hunters. “They were also poached as sports animals mostly along the slopes of Mt Kenya,  the Aberdare Forest and Cherangani Ranges in the Rift Valley Provinces,” said Hunt.     The repatriation of the bongos from the US involved 14 females and four male bongo, which were specifically selected for their genetic compatibility, and they spent three months acclimatising at the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation in Florida.   The wildlife manager at the Wildlife Conservancy, Mr Donald Bunge terms the breeding project a success, adding that the number is set to increase to 120 next year. The animals are fed on commercial feeds as grass is not enough for them in their confined enclosure. “We feed them with hay and pellets as the grass is not enough, but the 12 males have been moved to the 100-acre enclosure where they will feed on grass before we release them to the forest so that they learn how to survive,” explained Bunge. Among supporters of the project is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is also supported by Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation (COMPACT) that, according to its coordinator, Mr Fred Kihara, has also so far given $50,000 (about KSh3.7million). Mt Kenya National Park and adjacent forests have now been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. This will ensure a safe future for the mountain bongos which are only found in Kenya on the continent.  

A report released by the Global Invasive Species Program (GISP) has warned the Government of the dangers that are associated with a bird called the Indian House Crow. The bird, the GISP has noted in its latest report, has invaded vast regions of Kenya’s coastal region and permeated parts of the Rift Valley Province after entering the country from Zanzibar. The report says the bird could have been brought into Zanzibar as a pet from India, where the crow is revered as sacred bird. A senior scientist from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Mr Geoffrey Bundotich, told a panel of senior scientists at Mbagathi, Nairobi that the Government needs to do more if it is to eliminate the troublesome bird. “The bird has a very bad reputation on crop destruction in parts of Coast Province and the Rift Valley. It eats up almost all grain seeds,” said Bundotich. The bird is an aggressive and opportunistic feeder and also has a devastating impact on bird populations such as chicken by feeding on their eggs and chicks. It has been known to mob other birds that try to compete with it. “It is called the House Crow because it has a way of entering buildings and has little fear of human beings,” Bundotich explained. An animal scientist with the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), Mr Charles Lange, said there has been some hope in completely eliminating the ferocious bird. “An innovative bounty system has so far been proven highly successful in eliminating the animal in Seychelles. We can apply the same method here in Kenya,” Lange said, adding, “The poison Starlicide (3-chloro-p-toluidine hydrochloride) has been effective in killing the invasive bird.” He explained: “The poison is usually mixed with meat bait, ideally beef, which is then cut into small chunks and fed to the birds at a feeding site near the roost.” Scientists at the meeting said that the Indian House Crow has been known to stage gang attacks on livestock and pets. Records of them feeding on sheep, goats and domestic cats are very common in the Rift Valley. Scientists are further expressing concern at its rapid rate of breeding, hence the call for urgent action to eliminate the breed before it spreads to other parts of the country.


Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

Fishing to eradicate poverty By Ben Oroko There are many avenues in which poverty and food security can be eradicated. Considering that women form majority of the poor and carry the face of poverty they have to be innovative with ways in which they can put food on the table. Women in Kisii Central District have, therefore, been challenged to exploit the Economic Stimulus Programme for socialeconomic empowerment and roll back general poverty among rural folk. Area District Commissioner, Mr Benjamin Njoroge, cited fish farming as one such programme that the government had introduced in all the 210 constituencies. Its successful implementation and sustainability would create employment opportunities for both women and the youth, he said. The DC was speaking at Nyaguta Mixed Secondary School during the official opening of a two-day seminar for fish farming groups from Kiogoro and Keumbu divisions in the Nyaribari Chache constituency.   He criticised the local women’s disinterest in government-sponsored projects saying this led to difficulties in implementation and sustainability of programmes. “I am encouraging women in the area to stand up to be counted in the implementation and sustainability of the government-funded projects which impact positively on the welfare of women, children and the youth,” Njoroge reiterated. The DC urged women to utilise skills earned during fish farming training seminars to practice modern fish farming and

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farming projects?” Moenga posed.  Kisii Central Fisheries Officer, Mr Edwin Muga said fish farming in the country recorded only 2.5 percent of the total production. Under the Economic Stimulus Programme, the sector will be addressed to ensure greater production across the country.  Muga observed that there will be job creation for the youth who will be engaged in digging of the fish ponds at a cost of KSh25,000 per pond through the Kazi kwa Vijana programme.

Challenges

Women in Kisii digging fish ponds to enable them practice fish farming as a way to income generation and poverty alleviation. Picture: Ben Oroko

run the projects as business enterprises, to maximise production for both household consumption and marketing.  Decrying rampant collapse and stalling of government-funded projects, the DC also challenged members of the public to change their warped perception that the projects belonged to the government and not the targeted communities.  “I am reminding you to change the perception that all government-funded projects belong to the State. Instead, you should own and support the implementation of the projects for the common good of local communities,” he explained.  Nyaribari Chache Economic Stimulus

Programme chairman, Mr Jacob Moenga, advised local communities to embrace good fish culture practices to enhance sufficient supply of fish for local consumption and market. He said local people rely on fish from the Lake Victoria and yet they have the ability and potential to produce enough fish to meet local demand instead of depending on external supply.  “If you are capable of supplying the local market with  sufficient vegetables, what is difficult for you to produce enough fish for local consumption and for marketing purposes since you are endowed with natural water sources which can sustain fish

Some of the women involved in the fish project are not particularly amused by the current arrangement claiming men had pushed them to the periphery and kept them in the dark over government-funded projects. Ms Patricia Amenya from Nyaura sublocation, one of the women picked for the fish farming training, called on men to encourage women to participate in the implementation of the government projects. She attributed the non-participation of women in the projects to lack of information and retrogressive cultural practices.  Amenya said women are consigned to the periphery in decision making on issues directly affecting them.  “I am not happy with the number of women involved in the implementation of the fish farming project in our constituency as majority of them still live with the outdated traditions that their role is limited to the kitchen,” lamented Amenya.

Taking disability to competing levels By David Kiarie Walking along the streets of most of Kenya’s urban centres, you will find a number of people seated or lying on the sidewalks begging for money. Most will have some form of disability that has forced them to go into begging as a means for survival. Majority are either unemployable as a consequence, or are shunned at the few available workplaces. The drop of a coin in their bowl, tray or cup that they must carry to their ‘place of work’ is their hope and prayer if they must survive to see another day. Physically challenged citizens are normally maligned, stigmatised, discriminated, disadvantaged and marginalised. But despite the challenges, two young women with hearing impairment from Embu have defied all odds and decided to venture into business alongside their able bodied counterparts.

Overcoming challenges Maasha Saidi, 31, and Judy Wanja, 22, are into tailoring and hairdressing respectively. They have also become an inspiration to many. Saidi, who lost her hearing ability at the age five, has sustained her knitting business for the last seven years, drawing many customers her way. Saidi makes baby clothes, school uniforms and women’s clothes. Her mastery has won her loyal clientele among the

Maash Saidi a lady with hearing impairment knits pullovers in Embu town.

town’s residents, leading to a steady expansion of her business.  “I schooled at Kerugoya School for the Deaf and I am grateful to them for donating this knitting machine to me,” says Saidi. She adds: “Were it not for the skills I got at the school, I’m not sure where I would be today.” She laments the fate of many people with disabilities and particularly those who have no access to education or skills and are forced to rely on others for survival. “Those parents who lock away their

children who have disabilities should take advantage of special schools where they can enrol them to gain skills and be economically independent,” advises Saidi. According to United Nations only about two percent of children with disabilities in Africa attend school, with 98 percent mostly locked in homes.   Judy Wanja is employed at a salon along the same street where Saidi’s knitting business shop is located.  She has been working here for the last one and a half years during which time her workmates have learnt sign language that enables them communicate easily with her.  And just like Saidi, Wanja says customers normally communicate to her in writing to explain the kind of services they require. “There’s need for the government to enhance training in sign language so that many Kenyans can learn to communicate to persons with hearing impairment,” says Wanja. She too has won the hearts of many

“There’s need for the government to enhance training in sign language so that many Kenyans can learn to communicate to persons with hearing impairment.” —Judy Wanja

customers. During the interview, Reject was able to notice that she is doing well given the steady traffic of customers who wanted her services.  “I went to St Luke Primary School for the Deaf in Embu and later joined Rev. Muhoro High School for the Deaf where I learnt sign language alongside the normal 8-4-4 education,” explains Wanja. “I then trained in hairdressing at Karatina Hair Plaza where I gained my skills and I’m glad I am able to put food on the table besides other achievements,” a smiling Wanja told The Reject. She too stresses the need for educating all persons with disabilities to give them a chance to lead a happy and normal life.

UN Conventions There are specific instruments which protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in relation to education. They include UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education (1960), UNESCO Education for All (1990) and UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008). The International Day for Persons with Disabilities is celebrated on December 3.  Despite being among the nine Commonwealth countries that have ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, most of Kenya’s physically challenged people lack access to education and face a lot of discrimination.


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Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

Tragedy of mentally challenged mother

Triplets on 24 hour watch as unprompted violence puts them at risk

Mentally challenged Esther Ngui with the triplets. She is on a 24-hour watch as the children are at risk of her spontaneous bouts of violence. Picture: Paul Kimanzi

By Paul Kimanzi         A casual walk through the Mwingi Hospital Maternity Ward gives the impression of a calm ambience with little activity. Only few screams can be heard from a distance, thanks to the few pregnant women in the throes of labour. But one room at the furthest corner is a beehive of activity. A young woman, who has just become a mother, is seated at the edge of the bed to provide ample room to her sleeping triplets.             Another woman in her late 40s stands right in front of the new mother, with deep lines etched on her face, indicating all is not well. She keenly and worryingly keeps watch over every move the young mother makes. Why? The young mother is not like any other. She is mentally handicapped, hence the worry and extreme caution by all those around her. Such is the unpredictable nature of her actions that the safety of the babies is not guaranteed. 

Violent attacks She at times lifts one triplet and suddenly, and without warning, lets the baby drop on the bed with a thud.  Fears from her mother, watching over her is that she could drop the baby on the floor. Her mother has no option but to keep watch and ensure the babies are safe.        The mother, Mrs Telesia Ngui, from Kyathambu Village, Kavuvwani Location, Mwingi District, found herself on the receiving end of fate when her mentally

handicapped daughter Esther Ngui, 28, gave birth to three babies.      She has since had to spend sleepless nights at the ward bedside, to guard the triplets — her grandchildren — from her spontaneous violent daughter.  Tearfully, she narrates the tough ordeal that includes instances when her daughter has attempted to run away from the hospital and turned violent on any one trying to stop her. The feeding of the babies poses an ever bigger challenge, as their grandmother frequently must force her daughter to breastfeed them.  “I have to stay with my eyes wide open around the clock, keeping her under constant surveillance to ensure my grandchildren are safe,” says Ngui.       In one instance, the young woman, seated at the edge of the bed stares at the babies, giving the impression of a loving and caring mother. The next minute, she turns violent and roughly handles the babies as if they were much older, in an apparent bid to play with them. “If she is not shaking them in her hands,

she is massaging them hard, or interchanging their positions haphazardly,” laments Ngui who also reveals her daughter frequently refuses to eat, hence compromising availability of the babies’ breast milk feeds. Two of the babies are males. The first baby, a male, is named Munyoki (1.9kg), the second is Ngui, also male (1.4), while Tabitha weighing 1.7kg concludes the list. But the midwife who helped bring the triplets into the world, and who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity, says despite their underweight, the babies are in good health.  She adds that a normal baby weighs 2.5kgs. 

Feeding the babies Ngui, a widowed casual labourer, regularly buys specially packed milk for the babies at KSh670. She makes a living by selling small size stones (commonly known as kakoto in Kamba dialect) packed in wheelbarrow. She earns about KSh80 a day. The stones are used in building construction.  Asked how she reacted to the news of the arrival of the triplets, Ngui says she first was full of joy that quickly turned into sor-

She at times lifts one triplet and suddenly, and without warning, lets the baby drop on the bed with a thud.  Fears from her mother, watching over her is that she could drop the baby on the floor. Her mother has no option but to keep watch and ensure the babies are safe.       

row on remembering her daughter’s mental condition. Yes, she had become the proud grandmother to three lovely grandchildren, but how would her mentally challenged mother raise the babies? How will she assist in the upkeep when her situation bordered on destitution? These were realities she had to grapple with soon after the birth of the triplets.

Sad past The tale gets more sorrowful when Ngui discloses her daughter’s recent past.  Prior to 2006, the young woman was happily married and lived a normal life before she was suddenly struck by mental illness. “My daughter married about six years ago and had two children, but sad to say, her husband dumped her the moment she developed mental disorders,” says Ngui Her condition improved in 2008 and soon her husband returned to remarry her. This was not to last, as the man took off again last year when Esther relapsed. She has since been under medication but with no marked improvement. Her hope and prayer to submit the young woman to better medication is but a dream for she cannot afford the expensive doctors and medicines. For the moment, she must make do with the occasional injection she receives at the Mwingi General District Hospital to calm her down whenever she becomes violent.             Ngui’s tragedy is aggravated by her sonin-law’s failure to visit the maternity ward and check on his wife and babies, aside from the pending hospital bills.


Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

On the Road to peace By Joseph Mukubwa A forum to address conflict and campaign for peace in Central Province has been launched. Dubbed the Central Provincial Peace Forum, the organisation aims at peace building in the province through networking and coordination. It will also strengthen capacity of peace building institutions and practitioners, increase awareness of the use of non-violent strategies and inculcate a culture of nonviolence especially among the youth. The launch ceremony for the 300member forum was presided over by the Central Provincial Commissioner, Mr Kiplimo Rugut at the Information Hall in Nyeri town recently.  It comprises the provincial administration including all the 37 district commissioners, civic leaders, local clergy and Kikuyu elders. “The Central Provincial Peace Forum seeks to have a province characterised by Residents of Central Province display a message of peace after launching of the Central a dynamic environment, where people Provincial Peace Forum that was put in place to strategise on making the area residents live can engage in lawful activities confident harmoniously. Picture: Joseph Mukubwa that the institutions, mechanisms and for the youths to benefit. capacities for mediating differences and edge management,” explained Rugut. Other tasks for the forum include support All who spoke urged that the objectives grievance are effective and responsive,” to the provincial security and intelligence of the forum must be met for it to be sussaid Rugut. Central Province is known for the con- committee in defusing tension and facilitat- tainable. Chairman of Nyeri Social Forum, flicts over various issues including land, ing the non-violent resolution of conflicts as Mr David Ngigi said the project must play domestic disputes, illegal sects such as the well as coordination of the work of all the a major role in uniting the Kikuyu with district peace forums in the province. other communities who are living within Mungiki and wrangles over boundaries. Speaker after speaker who spoke at the Mt Kenya region. The forum plans to engage in public edRugut reiterated: “The reality is that peace ucation, sensitisation and awareness crea- forum said that the project has come at a tion about conflict indicators within the time when it was most needed to address the building in all its many forms will only be many challenges facing the area including realised as each one of them (players) steps province and how to ameliorate them. “The forum shall facilitate the organi- the unemployment among the youths who forward and create the part of new environment and new cultures in the daily lives.” sation of sports and promotion of art and opt to join illegal sects such as the Mungiki. The speakers said that reconciliation He at the same time noted that the memusic activities that build friendships, promote trust and goodwill between com- and sensitisation is much needed in the dia can contribute to societal reconciliamunities in conflict, organise training and area due to the increasing numbers of tion, change misperceptions and enhance the understanding of one another, while other capacity building programmes for the youths joining the illegal sects. Mr Martin Njogu from Mathira Dis- the religious organisations can provide district peace committees, and engage in regular meetings with district peace com- trict urged the forum to ensure that in- spiritual nourishment which is a vital committees for experience sharing and knowl- come generating activities are established ponent in peace.

Rogue community policing gangs put on notice By Ben Oroko The idea of initiating community policing as part of the strategy to partner with local communities in enhancing security has not worked well. The people charged with taking care of their village mates have turned villain to the very communities they are supposed to protect. Lives and property are now threatened by rogue and stray community policing outfits that have run out of control. In Kisii Central District, the lives of local residents have been disrupted as stray community policing members have overstepped their mandate, taking the law into their own hands, subjecting suspects to corporal punishment and meddling in domestic and land disputes. The development has prompted the area District Commissioner, Mr Benjamin Njoroge to issue a stern warning against all illegal groups purporting to be community policing members. Addressing a public baraza (meeting) at Omokobokobo, within Mwamosioma sub-

Location in Kisii town, the DC warned the culprits of dire consequences in the event they are found meddling in domestic affairs and land disputes, adding the said issues did not fall within their mandate.  Njoroge said it was wrong for any community policing member to overstep their mandate and take the law unto their hands and administer corporal punishment to anyone. “Community policing members are mandated by the government to work with their respective communities on issues of security, and if they suspect any crime, they volunteer information to the law enforcement machinery for action,” explained the DC.

Warning The local community should, on its part, pass confidential reports to his office for disciplinary action against errant community policing members found to be overstepping their mandate.   “It is illegal for any member of the community policing committee to subject sus-

Benjamin Njoroge, Kisii District Commissioner.

pects to corporal punishment, especially in the presence of their wives and children as it infringes on their constitutional rights,” warned Njoroge. He said the government will not condone questionable characters hijacking and undermining community policing as this would reflect negatively on its image and send a wrong impression about the initiative. Members of the public should on the other hand desist from lynching suspected witches and instead hand them to law enforcement officers for due legal process.

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Forum seeks to steer morans away from cattle rustling By Kimotho Waithaka Cattle rustling has been a form of culture among many a pastoralist community. The young people within these communities are often faced with challenge of paying dowry when asked for a huge herd of cattle for bride price. Their option has remained raiding neighbouring communities and stealing cattle. However, this could soon be a thing of the past as area residents have come together with an organisation that plans on creating awareness among the youth to shun cattle rustling. This will be done through frequent inter-tribal youth forums among the pastoralist communities in the conservancy regions which has been launched to keep them off cattle rustling. The forum under Northern Range Land Trust will facilitate inter-tribal moran (warrior) meetings, marathon, ball games and visits with the aim of having the young people discard outdated cultural practices that hinder development in pastoralist areas. According to the project Coordinator, Mr Tom Lalampaa, the organisers and notorious cattle rustlers from the affected conservancy regions will be identified and engaged to ensure that they stop cattle raids. Biliqo-Bulesa Conservancy chairman, Mr Rashid Demo regrets that cattle rustling has taken a new dimension in pastoralist areas and many innocent people have lost their lives and millions of livestock lost to armed morans. “The formation of the forum will not only help to educate and prepare youths to discard outdated cultural practices, but engage them in income generating activities,” explained Demo. Speaking during a joint board meeting between conservancy areas, Demo called on members to mobilise their morans to enrol for free primary education to benefit from the programme. He noted that hundreds of youth were out of school chasing livestock, compared to young people from other districts who were struggling to excel in education to brighten their future. A conservancy donor Mr Ian Craig, who attended the meeting, appealed to district security committees in Isiolo, Samburu and Laikipia to allow him use his plane to trace stolen livestock during the raids. He said timely use of planes would help trace stolen livestock and ensure immediate recovery through the conservancy scouts. “Land cruisers from the conservancy areas would be used to mobilise security arms to help track the cattle rustlers with the help of the plane,” explained Craig.


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Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

Devastating floods of Ewaso Nyiro

Residents of Maralal accompanied by security forces take a look at the Ewaso Nyiro River that burst its banks following the heavy rains that have hit the country. Picture: Hussein Dido

By Hussein Dido More than 500 families affected by flash floods in Northern Kenya are in danger of an epidemic if the waters they are taking are not treated. A possible outbreak of cholera and other killer water-borne diseases is imminent in Gafarsa, Malkadaka and Bassa where the families had their homes submerged or washed away when Ewaso Nyiro river bust its banks in Garbatula. Death now stalks an estimated 500 families who were recently rendered homeless by the massive flooding of the Ewaso Nyiro River, following days of heavy rainfall in most of Northern Kenya. The recent floods swept away tourists lodges along the river and washed off raw sewage into the river water which herders use for their animals and domestic needs downstream.

Residents’ fears Fears of a disease outbreak are rife among residents who are urging the Maralal County Council to speed up restoration of supply of clean drinking water to the town. The fears have been raised following the recent death of nine residents, who succumbed to cholera following a similar occurrence.  Most of the victims were women. Hundreds of other families from Dukana Village in Marsabit North District face similar threats as heavy rains in the Ethiopian Highlands send massive volumes of water into the semi-desert Kenyan terrain, sweeping in their wake goats, sheep and other property.

In the meantime, five people who went missing in Gafarsa during the floods have been found near the river banks, exhausted from days spent without food and water. They were rescued by a search party mounted by locals and Administration Police officers. The terrified survivors narrated how they spent a day on top of a tree in the middle of the flooding river and another day spent wadding through the muddy river basin without food or water. One of the survivors, Mr Abdikadir Molu, who was awakened by noisy confusion of the herders when floods suddenly engulfed their makeshift huts, says his first reaction was to climb a tall acacia tree in the middle of the river in anticipation that the floods would pass after an hour or two. However, this was not to be and he ended up spending two days.

“I was awakened by the roaring noise of the flood and the confusion of the villagers. My first action was to climb a tall acacia which can withstand massive floods, in the hope that it will pass quickly.  But it took  two days before I saw a human being, let alone have access to food or water,” says Molu. The World Health Organisation medical teams have stepped in to spray the school toilets and distribute water purification medicines to families. The WHO officials are also supplying medicine to support the local dispensary that lacks the capacity to handle an outbreak, especially when the supply of clean drinking water is disrupted. The head of the medical team, Dr Argata Guracha, also sensitised the locals on personal hygiene, as a way of keeping cholera at bay, considering that the area is in a cholera prone zone.

“I was awakened by the roaring noise of the flood and the confusion of the villagers. My first action was to climb a tall acacia which can withstand massive floods, in the hope that it will pass quickly.  But it took  two days before I saw a human being, let alone have access to food or water,”

He said the area lacks safe drinking water, forcing the residents to consume flood waters which are contaminated with raw sewage from the tourist lodges that were destroyed by the flooded Ewaso Nyiro River, upstream in Samburu East District. “The outbreak of water borne diseases is imminent here and people should treat water before drinking to prevent recurrence of cholera at this time when sources of domestic water supply points have been destroyed by floods,” warned Guracha. He added: “We have put the community on high alert and sensitised them to watch out for signs of several water borne diseases and to report any symptoms to authorities for action.”

—Abdikadir Molu

Clean water

Area chief Mr Adan Abgudo says the local people are contemplating shifting from the town to safer grounds away from the river banks. “Last week’s floods which came during the dry season scared the villagers and they are even contemplating to relocate to another site, far away from the river banks,” says Gufu. Isiolo District Commissioner, Mr James Mwaura visited the affected area and pledged to marshal government support for families who lost property to the floods. He urged residents living along the river basin to move to higher ground and keep away from river banks until the threat of flooding subsides. “Move away from river basins to higher grounds as we expect more rains upstream. Do not take your animals near the rivers for grazing since the  waters might soar anytime as more rains continue to fall in the Aberdares Forest,” Mwaura cautioned. He was speaking in Loruko, one of the villages affected by the floods when he toured the tourist lodges destroyed by the water. Transportation has been restored to Archers Post after the bridge which connects the trading centre with the rest of the country was washed away by the flooded Ewaso Nyiro River. China Wu Yi, a Chinese road construction company has since restored services after repairing the bridge. Also destroyed were Telkom telephone lines, severing land line communication. Uaso District Officer Moses Mwaura called for a speedy restoration of the services as they were critical to operations in government offices.


Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

ISSUE 015, April 1-15, 2010

11

From the streets to an accomplished artist

Mutua’s finds direction after finding refuge within homeless children’s facility The centre has since taken in the young man and he is currently acquiring skills on fine art. He now draws pictures using pencils or paintings which his teacher sells on his behalf. Mutua has immensely featured at the institution as almost all the drawings on the walls at the centre best describe how creative he has become. The institution has a proactive approach to recruitment of students. Its representatives normally go out into the streets to recruit urchins and other disadvantaged children. “If we find these boys, we usually introduce ourselves to them, seek to know their background and rehabilitate them,” says Ms Lucy Wairimu Mbugua, the institution’s manager. She says they train the boys above 15 years on various skills that include carpentry and art, while those below 15 are enrolled in primary school. The centre rehabilitates only boys with age limits not exceeding 17 years. The assistance is not confined to boys alone as the home is also involved in helping destitute girls gain admission to relevant homes. “In case we come across needy girls, we liaise with other childrenís homes to rehabilitate them,” says Mbugua. The manager discloses that upon receiving the young boys, they clean, shave and kit them along with the provision of all other basic needs in a manner that affords them a semblance of homely love and care.  “By so doing, we try to show them that someone cares for them,” she says. After the training, the boys go for one month attachment before returning for further training. The exercise takes about two years. Mbugua says the centre thereafter keeps contact with the boys and their guardians for follow up and later to monitors their progress, especially after graduation.

Former street boy, Mutua, has been rehabilitated and is now horning his skills in art. Below: Ms lucy wairimu mbugua, manager of the Mary Immaculate Rehabilitation Centre. Pictures: Paul Kimanzi

By Paul Kimanzi

A

dream is usually a vision that comes to somebody when they are sleeping, and when they wake up they realize that itís not the true state of affairs. However, there are other dreams that come true. And these are those that one longs and prays for and when they happen, then they are true dreams that have been realized. While children long to have parental love from someone to call mum and dad, not many have this privilege as is with the case of John Mutua, 18.

Street life Born in the sprawling Mukuru Kwa Reuben slums, Nairobi, Mutua has been subjected to all manner of misery, ranging from perpetual hunger to suffering serious illness.  
His situation was further aggravated when he was orphaned at age 8, but soldiered on, bare foot and hungry always hoping in a change for the better. “My siblings and I depended on an aunt

whose income was not any better,” Mutua recalls how they grew up suffering. After completing Standard 8, the third born child in a family of four, says he has since then walked almost all the streets and lanes of all the slums in the city as he scrounged for survival. He says: “Life outside had reduced me to a beggar. Very few people can extend their philanthropy to you when you seek for their help. That made my chances of survival next to zero.”
But one day, a series of good fortunes knocked on Mutua’s door.

New home “A certain boy who used to be my friend in the slums came to me with good news in 2008. The good news was that a certain children’s home was rehabilitating needy children,” Mutua remembers. This same home that had helped rehabilitate Mutuaís friend. This is the Mary Immaculate Rehabilitation Centre, located at South B Estate, opposite Mater Hospital, Nairobi, which Mutua now describes as the “home for the homeless”.

Bright future

“We train boys above 15 years on various skills that include carpentry and art, while those below 15 are enrolled in primary school. The centre rehabilitates only boys with age limits not exceeding 17 years.” —Lucy Wairimu Mbugua, the institution’s manager

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello-Orlale Programme Coordinator: Wilson Ugangu Programme Officer: Florence Sipalla Programme Assistant: Mercy Mumo Editor: Jane Godia Designer: Noel Lumbama Copy Editor: Frank Ojiambo Contributors: Muasya Charles, Paul Mwaniki, Lydia Mwangi, Joseph Mukubwa, Nicholas Odhiambo, David Kiarie, Mboya Muthusi, Charles Njeri, Asha Muktar, Ben Oroko, Paul Kimanzi, Hussein Dido, Kimotho Waithaka and Gilbert Ochieng

Mutua compares the two sets of life, saying that life outside is a living hell as compared to the life at the Mary Immaculate Rehabilitation Centre which is better and promising. “Whenever I woke up in the slums, the first thing I could see was sewage. My next step was either to go to the streets to beg, or collect plastic containers from a garbage dump to sell for a song,” Mutua says of his life. ìI now wake up and take a pencil to draw, not to mention the heavy breakfast I take every morning,î he boasts. Mutua’s star is shining. He has been appointed the head boy. He now believes his future is as bright as his works of art that are making headlines in the art scene.

www.mediadiversityafrica.org Write to: info@mediadiversityafrica.org The paper is produced with funds from Ford Foundation


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