01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Deforestation, power rationing and drought in Kenya 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Deforestation, power rationing and drought in Kenya

Have been criticised for only writing about shopping, (had thought mitumba phenomenon might be interesting to some - perhaps hit the wrong note on that one) here's some miserable Kenyan news for those readers who like to pull me up on being too vacuous and those who haven't already read all about it in the papers.

Yes, there is no water in Kenya - the situation around and particularly north of Nairobi is DIRE. In Turkana the drought that began in 1999 has hardly let up. People are desperate and needless to say dying. A friend of mine who has friends living in that area told me that lorry loads of donated maize are being looted from trucks by local people in that devastated area and they then use it to make into changaa (fierce local brew). The finished product is sold on which apparently makes more sense than eating it. The current atmosphere in the area is understandably hostile and highly uncomfortable.

The deforestation of the Mau forest (described as one of Kenya's four main 'water tower's') is scandalous - the forest has been utterly decimated over the last ten years by people simply burning down acres of ancient hard wood trees to create land for farming. Due to the rains failing this year and the subsequent drought, suddenly people in towns are taking notice.

Moi - who gave away thousands of hectares of Mau Forest land to 'friends' during his presidency, has stayed strangely silent on the topic. Raila Odinga published a 'shame' list of names of the beneficiaries of illegal Mau land in the Kenyan papers. The subject is belatedly getting attention because it has become a political issue - plus major lakes and rivers that have never before dried up are dry this year, which has finally forced people sit up and smell the coffee.

For instance, the Mara river is currently all but a trickle. The famous migration looks a little different this year with Wildebeest walking across ankle deep - or not bothering to cross at all. Crocodiles are going hungry. Kericho - tea country - that generally has the highest rainfall in Kenya is not getting rain, which is causing farmers to worry deeply. Drive out of Nairobi and it looks like a desert, Naivasha, Nanyuki even Tsavo. Kenya's 'bread basket' the Rift Valley is suffering from drought. Post election violence that caused people to down farming tools and relocate has contributed to the problem of lack of food. I learned today that our Nairobi neighbour's bore hole, that they use as their main water source, has now dried up.

Due to the lack of water there is power rationing being implemented from this week - which we are assured will not affect Kenya's predicted 3% economic growth. However, as an aside on the radio news today, it was said that banks are being encouraged by government to lower interest rates (currently around 13%) in order to help local businesses.

A power rationing schedule was published in the paper last week - but everyone is a little confused. We were supposed to be without electricity today - but it is still on. Others who expected to have power, have been cut off. It seems that there is an organisational issue somewhere. The Nairobi dams need fixing (now would be a good time since they are empty) and there is talk of others being built at some point in the future - prob. to be funded by an international donor.

On the up side - Mombasa has been getting tons of rain for ages. At the beach it's raining every day - just like England. Also, there are rumours (still speculation apparently) of a mini 'El Nino' hitting Kenya in September that is predicted to cause bumper, unseasonal rainfall and then more 'El Nino' weather next year - so perhaps record amounts of rain will wash away all the current environmental concerns, and put off the evil hour for the Government to have to get their act together and face up to their real problems for another few years. Alternatively, we could end up with no power or water in Kenya in a few more months!

We are also very excited about the fibre optic cable possibly making Kenya/Nairobi a world call centre hub. Apparently the Kenyan style of speaking English is a lot clearer than the Asian version. The system is in place and currently being tested - due to be online soon.

Hillary Clinton was here largely to meet with Somalia's incumbent leader and discuss the unleashed beast of el-Shabaab, not just scold Kenyan politicians about their failure to deliver on any of their promises post the 2007 elections. Sudan's problems were apparently not to be a focal point for Hillary this time, there is a US special envoy on Sudan visiting seperately this week.

So there it is - that was cheery - I feel much better now. Think I might just go and bury my head in the sand again until it has all gone away.

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