Words from Kenya

Seasons on a Parched Equator

Weaver Bird Nests in an Acacia Tree

It is wrong to say there are no seasons here so close to the equator. The hours of daylight may not change more than a few minutes throughout the year and the temperature is always hot or a bit hotter but the environment changes every bit as dramatically as it does in higher latitudes.

The changes that come with the transition from wet to dry season make such utter transformations to the landscape, the colours, smells and sense of the place. From lush verdant land of plenty to bleached out semi desert. In a place where people still live off the land it completely changes the mode and pace of life.

During the wet season some people, till, plant and weed small patches of ground. Livestock live at home and people have enough food, they hold ceremonies and raid livestock from other communities for pride. In the dry season the livestock is herded far from home, many days or weeks distant, in a search for pasture. Only the old and very young are left behind, with the women that tend to them.

Those who move with the livestock live on reducing amounts of milk, and blood tapped from the veins of the cows or camels. Those left behind have nothing to speak of, some have a little they managed to dry and save from the brief growing season, others are reduced to searching for small bitter tasting wild berries that cling to drying plants. Eat too many and they give you stomach ache, don’t eat enough and you’ll get stomach pains anyway.

For those that cannot follow the livestock the dry season can be deadly. If they make it through the six long months the rain will break upon them again in October or November. Sometimes, increasingly these days, the rain comes in overwhelming torrents. Washing away weak livestock and people alike, sweeping away homes and belongings. Every year the rains bring death as well as life and the cycle begins again.

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