Words from Kenya

It’s not drought that is causing the violence in Laikipia

Drought years are happening more and more frequently in Kenya, especially in the northern half of the country. Weather conditions are more variable than they once were, but perhaps more significantly there are a lot more livestock than there used to be. Either way, drought like conditions are now occurring every few years. Every time there are drought conditions pastoralist struggle to find enough grazing for their animals. I am married into a northern pastoralist family and over the years I have become familiar with the drill. First scouting other areas for pasture, then moving the livestock over long distances (often many days travel) to reach it, and then setting up temporary cattle ... Continue Reading

Traveling through Northern Kenya on the Wind Farm Road

In order to get the large lorries needed to carry wind turbines up to the remote shores of Lake Turkana, the Lake Turkana Wind Power company have had to make a serious investment in road care. The old road that led from Laisamis to Loiyangalani was bone jarring at best, at other times impassable due to flood waters from distant mountains or rainy season mud. Long and dusty, it wasn't anybody's idea of a good time. The road they have made, though still a dirt road, is pretty spectacular. You can do tarmac speeds on it and, when you do, all the dust is behind you. To keep this road in good enough condition for the daily convoys of lorries they have had to work on it continuously. Patching ... Continue Reading

Why is it acceptable for schools to be so bad in developing countries?

The photograph is of a well equipped classroom in one of the best government schools in northern Kenya. Every time I visit such a school I always wonder why it is that everybody accepts such ridiculously low standards for education here. Or indeed in most countries across the African continent. The prevailing ideology of development agencies seems to be that if you build a classroom you have a school. Yet we all know that a building is not a school. A building only becomes a school when it houses a collection of things that enable people to learn. Often the most important element in a school are teachers. A teacher is someone who facilitates learning, other things that facilitate ... Continue Reading

Guns in Northern Kenya

I have mixed feelings about all the guns in northern Kenya. It is obviously scary, and when you hear of people being killed over some dispute in a distant village you instinctively feel that if only all the guns could be taken away things would be so much better. Then someone attacks your village, steals your livestock or asserts rights to land or resources that are vital to you. Then you find yourself looking for some protection. If your village is far from a town there is unlikely to be any police to help you. Then you want the men with guns to be 'your' men with guns. The community shares food rations with them, cooks for them, prays for them. Now there are good men with guns and bad men ... Continue Reading

Mount Kenya with Snow

Some days I see my home country everywhere I look. Mount Kenya, covered in snow, on a grey day during the dry season, looks a lot like Scotland; or at least it does to my unaccustomed eyes. The camel gives it away though, I have never seen a camel in Scotland. ... Continue Reading