25th Jan Blog
Kenya is a land full of contrasts. After arriving in the developed, fairly industrialised Nairobi, we were quite surprised at the rugged, more rural Kitui.
Even the smells are different. In Kitui the air is more tropical, heavy and muggy and temperatures exceed 30° in the middle of the day.
Our first two days in Kitui have been incredibly busy, encouraging and challenging. We have visited CAFOD programmes in eight communities concerning sustainable livelihoods and disaster risk reduction.
Driving out of Kitui town into the wilderness is an adventure in itself. The roads aren’t what you would call roads in England. More like dusty, dirt tracks which we share with cattle and goats passing by. Thankfully we have our very own Jeremy Clarkson, the superb Francis to guide us through the terrain. Francis has a penchant for Dolly Parton and we have spent many an hour listening to the same songs over and over on his CD so much so that we know all the words.
We have been warmly welcomed by all the communities we have visited so far. I believe this is the true heart of Africa – the people who are so generous, loving and joyous at seeing the mzungu (white people)! When we meet people and shake hands it’s not a traditional British polite hand shake. It’s a greeting full of feeling – a proper slap of the hands together – “Jambo! Karibu!” (Hello and welcome!)
The underlining problem throughout the communities is drought. Samuel, a village elder in the Makalongo community said his area of land had not received heavy rain since 1997. This is Climate Change lifted off the page – it is affecting so many people’s lives here and now.
We visited a CAFOD supported project in Kyatune village, about an hour’s drive on the very bumpy road from Kitui town where we are staying. There the community has a greenhouse where tomatoes are grown using a drip water irrigation system – simple, sustainable development that is changing lives.
The ongoing work at Mandongoi farm was very inspiring. Using water drawn from a well the community are growing onions, chilli, tomatoes, mangoes and sukumawiki (cabbage to you and me). The crops are planted in small trenches to trap water and 85 people work on the five acre plantation.
Benedict Momo, who owns the farm, says: “Our dream is to see it as productive as possible. Before the land was bare, eroded and there was no grass. We hope at the end of this year we see a difference. It is not proper for us to wait for a donor for food. The workers are nice and are happy with what they are doing. They love to work because they know what they will get.”
We have been overwhelmed at the problems drought is causing and the severity of the situation. But we have equally been encouraged with the programmes that are supporting communities to adapt and make best use of available resources.
Kwahairy for now and asantee sana for all your prayers and support.
Rachel and Jon left for Kenya in January, accompanied by Rosa Trelfa, CAFOD Lancaster Diocesan Manager, for the overseas part of their Step into the Gap year with CAFOD. Over the course of the next four weeks, they will be visiting various CAFOD programmes and if you’d like to keep track of their progress, you can follow it all here.