I hate to tell you this, especially those readers who might be in Europe or colder parts elsewhere at the moment – but here in Nairobi we are basking under clear blue skies and experiencing record temperatures. On Monday it was 32/90 degrees which some say was Nairobi’s hottest day ever! Occasionally there’s a light breeze fluttering past but the rest of the time it’s hot, hot, hot.
In this hot weather, I hardly dare admit that our new swimming pool has come into its own – the whole family dip in every day and we lounge around it all weekend – in fact, since it was finished there’s been hardly any need to leave the house. Apart from the occasional influx of visitors bringing kids for a dip, we are becoming hermits. With the solar heating running all day, the water is almost too warm! My husband and I are on a steep learning curve as far as pool chemicals, backwashing and ph balancing is concerned, but we’re not complaining! I bought my husband a barbecue for his birthday (sort of a present for me too!) - so we’ll christen it this weekend with my South Africa friend’s favourite ‘beer chicken’ recipe! (you stick an open can of beer inside the chicken then bbq it on its end).
Family back home are green with envy as we chat on Skype with sheet rain and fog as a backdrop behind them.
‘Please don’t send us any more photographs of your pool!’ They say. ‘We can’t face it.’
It is important to note here that it is summer here, also known as the dry or hot season – so it’s supposed to be hot. Just to make you feel better, July and August in Nairobi can be chilly, overcast and drizzly (sometimes).
But as usual, though these might be perfect holiday conditions to the Western eye, dry weather in Kenya is not really good news at all. Suddenly, everywhere you look, there are people carrying water. Yellow plastic containers, on heads, on backs, carried by children and on handcarts. Roads are jammed by blue, water bowser trucks trundling from place to place, water trickling out from rusty weak points near the bumper. At taps and standpipes there are always queues. On days when the City Council pump their supply of public water, people are already poised at places where there might be breaks or pipes leaking, desperately trying to siphon it hungrily from the roadside. Cows that have been driven from out of town stray into the National National Park in search of pasture or cause roadway chaos as they graze on busy verges. The reality of water being a precious and increasingly scarce commodity is brought into sharp focus here. It makes me fear for the future.
Charities and civil service sectors are already voicing serious concern about Kenya’s current drought. The Red Cross have recently been out in the field to assess the severity of the situation. In some parts of the country there have already been fatalities due to starvation and as we face not just February but March without rain, the numbers are set to rise. Schools are closing as children are sent by parents to search for water, or are too weak to attend. Food aid is already being delivered to areas most badly affected and on the radio today they said that those who manage to have one meal a day at the moment are the ‘lucky’ ones.
We hope that rain will come soon, but there have been predictions that the April/long rains may fail. Let’s hope not. The knock on effect, as usual, would be huge. Rising food and electricity prices (Kenya is still heavily reliant on hydro electric power, the alternative being expensive diesel generation) affect the entire economy.
Kenya almost perpetually seems to be in a state of either flood, or famine due to failing rains. Along with climate change, Kenya is always badly affected by the La Nina and El Nino phenomenon (see previous post). There are other factors too; pressures of an exponential population growth, deforestation, bad governance. However, the Government does seem aware of the situation - so there is possibly reason to hope. Raila Odinga has announced that school fees in the most drought stricken areas be waived during this difficult time so that children’s education is not interrupted (food aid is often distributed via schools). Some of Kenya’s forested areas like the Mau, Aberdares (precious water catchment areas) are now being protected to prevent further destruction and regenerated by the planting of more trees.
While we obviously love the warm weather and the privileges we have, I haven't forgotten that here the heat never comes without consequences. Back home; appreciate the rain and the fact that water never fails to run from the taps. At least you don’t see people carrying water like you do here. In Kenya, for good reason, rain is always seen as the greatest blessing on earth. Fingers crossed for a hot summer in Europe!