Words from Kenya

Storm Clouds and Uncertainty over Northern Kenya

The weather in much of northern Kenya is giving all the signs that the seasonal rains have started. This is great news for the many pastoralists that have been struggling to keep their livestock alive through an especially harsh dry season. It is a little surprising though, as the rains here aren't due for nearly another 2 months. A few weeks ago, when we were still firmly in the grip of the long dry season, I was in a village on the east side of Lake Turkana, in Marsabit County. There I listened as a Turkana man in his 90s told us about how the weather patterns had changed during his life time. He remembers the rainy seasons being more reliable, predictable almost to the day, you knew ... Continue Reading

An Isiolo Story

“Have you heard the story?” That is how people normally start. A story in these cases is really a news bulletin, passing on the latest information about a local event. However this translation into English as 'story', a word that can imply a work of fiction in British or American English usage, is telling. The 'story' is normally at least some part fiction and in some cases is little but fiction. The spread of modern technology, such as mobile phones, hasn't change the accuracy of the story much but it has change the speed at which the story (or rather stories, there is always more than one version) is spread. You would think that you would have a good chance of separating truth from ... Continue Reading


Sometimes I am absent from this site for quite some time, as they say here in Kenya, 'I've been lost'. It's not just from this blog either but also from Twitter or even email. People send me messages through Twitter or Facebook and expect an almost instant response. Others send me emails and wonder that I don't reply for days, on occasions even weeks. People living in a connected world are quite put out about this. I think they feel I am being rather rude. However, it is not that I don't care or even that I have nothing to say (never that!) But rather it is something much more pragmatic and related to where I live. The truth is that simply getting connected in most parts of northern Kenya ... Continue Reading

Can we help rural primary schools do better?

I have spent the last six weeks with two other people sharing knowledge and skills with the staff and students of Olng’arua Primary School, a remote school in Isiolo County. Like many primary schools in northern Kenya the school has young and untrained teachers with little experience outside their communities. The school operates on a meagre budget, the teachers don’t have access to computers or the internet to help them develop teaching skills and the school only has very basic equipment. With little experience of the world, or teaching, it is hard for these young teachers to come up with creative solutions to overcome the lack of resources. This seems to be especially the case in ... Continue Reading

Flooding in Isiolo Town

Over the last two days the town of Isiolo has experienced damaging floods, though little rain has fallen on the town itself. This strange phenomenon of floods without rain is not so unusual here. Isiolo is located on the northern base of the slopes of Mount Kenya. To the south the land rises and is much more rain prone than the dry and semi desert environment at the foot of the mountain where Isiolo lies. Heavy rain to the south can cause flash floods that pour down the mountain and often pour right through the town. It is odd, on a completely dry day with blues skies, to find the centre of town awash. The water flooding through the main streets and right across the main north road that ... Continue Reading