Words from Kenya

Livestock herders dream of grass like this.

This is what the grass looks like in a conservation area. I am a pastoralist by marriage, we love our livestock. Cows, goats, camels; pastoralists love their animals beyond all reason. And that, I guess, is the trouble. There are now so many animals that there is rarely any good grass to be found any more. Poor rains don't help, but even when the rains are good the grass never gets that way, unless it is in area protected from livestock. The livestock we love is striping northern Kenya bare, and then what will we do? It will be like a drought year every year. We will be picking up animals trying to keep them alive, dragging carcasses out to be scavenged. We will be crushed under the weight ... Continue Reading

Hard times in northern Kenya, the long and the short of it.

For most of northern Kenya the long rains aren't actually any longer than the short rains. This year the long rains (arriving somewhere from late March and rarely staying beyond the first week in May) have been looked for with more than the normal amount of anxious anticipation. Across the north the short rains (usually occurring between late October and early December) were very poor, or failed completely. This disappointment came after an especially harsh long dry season, where many people lost livestock. The livestock that survived, to stagger through the scarcely wet short rains and the subsequent dry months until now, are a skinny and desperate lot. Good rains were needed this April ... Continue Reading

Killing Suspects

The Kenyan press are regularly reporting the death of 'suspected' criminals at the hands of the police or other security enforcement officers. Most of these people are suspected of crimes that would not actually carry the death penalty if they were tried and convicted. KWS for example shoots dead a lot of suspected poachers. Poaching doesn't carry the death penalty here. It seems we have a justice system that runs parallel to, but entirely separate from, the legal system of justice. This parallel justice system is pretty much accepted. Most people don't seem to think there is anything wrong with a death sentence being handed out to people who are 'suspected' of a crime. Or see the ... Continue Reading

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