Friday, May 14, 2010

Some Adverse Circumstances, Some Healthy Projects

The weather in the Kenyan Rift Valley has not changed much in several months. The rainy season that was expected to end earlier in the year has not let up yet. Many people waited for the rain to ease before planting crops, trying to avoid losing them to flooding. Others took a chance and some crops are growing, some are not. But some crops will eventually need hot dry weather to ripen and dry out for harvesting. And until it dries out enough, we will not be able to finish preparing another field which has had nothing growing in it for over a month.

A lot of areas around the country have had severe flooding recently. There have been 70 or 80 deaths (there is a lot of disagreement about exact numbers) since the beginning of the year and many tens of thousands of people have been displaced. In Mogotio also, over 60 families were displaced in the December/January floods. They have since been living in UNHCR tents, partly because the areas they were in are still prone to flooding and partly because they were squatters and are not allowed to return to where they were. There is a lot of land in the area, unused and underused. But it is 'owned' by a Greek sisal farmer and a handful of other rich people. They are not known for handing over even very small amounts of land. Some of them don't even bother paying their employees most of the time.

We at Ribbon of Hope Self Help Group have had mixed luck during the prolonged rains. We planted an acre of maize and beans. The maize is doing fine, the beans not so good. We plan to harvest some of the beans while they are still green and use them straight away. It's unlikely that they will dry out enough to be harvested, dried and stored, so we have to cut our losses. The maize should be fine, especially if the rain stops, as expected, some time in June. But if the weather continues warm and wet, we could lose everything yet again. Other crops that we planted on smaller patches of ground may be threatened as well.

When it's too dry, at least we can irrigate. But when it's too wet, there's not much we can do. Instead of working on the crops in the last few days, we went to some more villages to assess orphans for the orphan and vulnerable children (OVC) programme that we are starting. But even then we were thwarted by the rain. We had walked quite a long way from the main road through Mogotio to an area called Sarambei when the rain started. We just had to sit for a couple of hours because the dirt tracks had turned to rivers of muddy water. Luckily, we were with some very hospitable people when the rain started, who plied us with tea until it cleared a bit.

All of the children we have seen, without exception, are in bad need of support. Almost all of their guardians seem to be able and willing to care for the children. But when a child is with someone who seems unsuitable, this creates quite a dilemma. When a guardian has a drink problem and seems totally oblivious to a young child's needs, that child is a lot more vulnerable than the ones who are with good carers, no matter how poor their carers are. We have almost reached our target of 20 or 21 children and we'll then have to decide how to approach each family. They will certainly all require different approaches, being dissimilar in many ways.

But some of our projects have been doing especially well. A small group of people started a rabbit breeding project with three rabbits less than two months ago. They now have 15 as two have given birth. In a few months, they should have a fine project and it will probably be split up so that each group member has their own small project. It's expensive to start off with, rabbits need good housing and other things, but it's not so expensive once it gets going. My only worry is that I have still not met a Kenyan who has eaten rabbit or who intends eating one. Apparently there is a market for rabbits but I've heard about markets before that just dried up as soon as you start trying to sell something. Perhaps I'm just too skeptical. Perhaps they will eat the rabbits if they can't sell them, they could do with the protein.

The same group also started a chicken project that was very slow to get going. I've mentioned the group before because they had a leader who seemed hell bent on making sure they never got anywhere. They got rid of him and since, the chicken project has picked up and most people in the group now have enough chickens to eat some eggs and sell the surplus. In fact, even the uncooperative former leader himself has a good flock of hens, thanks to the project. Bad weather conditions and disruptive people cause the most problems with the various projects we are involved in. But despite everything, some of the projects still produce good results, thankfully. Others will probably just take time. Many things take longer than expected here.


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