Good Deed.

“We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all”.

Wangari Maathai

I am a lover of nature. When I started building my house, I planted some trees. Some are alive and some died, reasons I do not really know. Things have changed, my father gave me a different piece of land to start it all over again. I felt it was good to plant a tree.

I scouted the location, the stones represent the location where a tree once stood. This was my prefered location with the hope that things will be different this time round.

I visited a small tree nursery which is a few minutes from my fathers house. There were many trees there I was spoilt for choice. My wife looked at this pine, she fell in love with it. We made a decision, to carry it. It costed us Ksh.150 about $2.

 

With the position ready, it was time for me to sink the tree to the earth. With pride I did it, and nurtured its surrounding to make it comfortable in its new home. When you plant a tree, and care for it, it will one day provide a shade, firewood to keep you warm, welcome rain at your doors or even roof your grandson’s house. It’s good to plant trees.

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It’s a reality Check!

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I woke up today feeling good, it was 630am and my wife was doing her usual, commanding me to take up my duties of making sure she is at the bus stop just in time for her bus to work. I have been doing this for many months now though sometimes I wonder why, not in a bad way. Ideally, it’s a moment that is meant to enhance our marriage.

So, wife on her way to work, I embarked on preparing for my visa appointment. Everything was going great, until I was unable to locate the bank statements. So I did what most married men do, I called my wife, who took me through a painful lesson of how she never knew whatever it is I was doing. But promised to find it in the evening.

I had to plan things with my current situation right? I mean, one way or the other……is the bank statement going to show-up in the middle of nowhere? And since I had lost it in the house, I felt like……back then, I used to live in a house, but now I live in a jungle. Later on my wife has reminded me of how much I have cultured myself to forget.

It’s not even funny, most of the time when I say I forgot, its because I forgot. When I say I don’t want to forget, its because I am worried that I might. When I say I might forget, its mean I am so afraid that shit might happen. Then I will have to apologize to someone.

My reality check is that I am “getting old”, and this things are not going to go away, as a matter of fact, they are going to increase. You know those small stuff you forget doing and everything is okey! When it comes to forgetting, try forgetting your kids in the bus, I mean, just one time………then you will know how messed-up life can look, and if you have to explain it to your wife you might be doing it halfway your grave.

Scientific American writing on “Why do we forget” says that the brain can store a vast number of memories, so why can’t we find these memories when we need to? Our brains are crammed with a massive amount of memories that we have formed over a lifetime of experiences.

These memories range from the profound (who am I and how did I get here?) to the most trivial (the license plate of the car at a stoplight). Furthermore, our memories also vary considerably in their precision. Parents, for instance, often know the perils of a fuzzy memory when shopping for a birthday gift for their child: remembering that their son wanted the Nintendo rather than the playstation portable could make an enormous difference in how well the gift is received.

Thus, the “fuzziness” of our memory can often be just as important in our daily lives as being able to remember lots and lots of information in the first place. So this is me now, still never managed to find my bank statements and still forgetting other stuff……some of them as important as forgetting my kids at the bus, though we jokingly refer to these as ‘senior moments,’ they happen to everyone — from the very young to the very old.

So if you go into the kitchen to write something down on your grocery list, don’t answer your cellphone or let your mind wander to a meeting that morning. Mentally rehearse what you’re doing, and hold it in mind, until you’re finished with the task. You might feel like me, old, or whatever. The truth is that the there is something that needs your attention, before its too late.

The story ends when my wife gets home and she will kick every corner of the house trying to find it, whatever it is. Then she becomes the hero, one who know where everything rests. Unfortunately for her today, there was nothing. Just like they say, “what’s dead is dead” and that includes my bank statements.

 

 

Supreme Court Aftermath.

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I wrote an article about elections in Kenya days after we went to polls. Most of us have survived, while a few are dead. We thought we had a “winner” so they announced, it was about 8pm in the evening. If we lived in those darker days, ……’darker because those days we are living in are dark’….We would have somebody declared winner and sworn in the next minute. It will not matter if it was dark. But thanks to those who fought for the new constitution, and those who died protecting her survival…….our days are dark and not darker.

Once the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s declares a winner, any person may file a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the election of the President-elect within seven days after the date of the declaration of the results of the presidential election. Within fourteen days after the filing of a petition under clause (1), the Supreme Court shall hear and determine the petition and its decision shall be final. If the Supreme Court determines the election of the President- elect to be invalid, a fresh election shall be held within sixty days after the determination.

News flash, this is where we are today. In a historic ruling and a first in Africa, Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified on Friday the re-election of a sitting president, ordering a new vote to be held within 60 days after finding that the outcome last month had been tainted by irregularities, a stunning move by the judiciary.

But this time, figures across the Kenyan political landscape, including the president whose victory was wiped away, appeared to accept the decision and called on supporters to do the same.

The ruling also offered a potent display of judicial independence on a continent where courts often come under intense pressure from political leaders, analysts said.

The Supreme Court decision came as a surprise, even to Mr. Odinga and his supporters, who had complained about election irregularities. A top election official in charge of voting technology was killed about a week before the election, and although the casting of ballots went smoothly, the electronic transmission of vote tallies was flawed, leading the opposition to assert that as many as seven million votes had been stolen.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which was in charge of the vote, “failed, neglected, or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Constitution,” the court said.

The six-judge Supreme Court found no misconduct on the part of the president, Mr. Kenyatta, but it found that the commission “committed irregularities and illegalities in the transmission of results” and unspecified other issues.

“Irregularities affected the integrity of the poll,” Justice Maraga told a stunned courtroom.

A new vote means that candidates will have to start campaigning again and possibly raise millions of dollars: Elections in Kenya generally cost about $1 billion, including spending by the candidates during the campaign and by the government to hold the election.

Kenyans have long complained that getting any official business done requires a “kitu kidogo”, Swahili for “a little something” or bribe, a frustration that is echoed across Africa.

But Kenya has slowly rebuilt confidence in its judiciary after the post-2007 vote violence. A new constitution in 2010 demanded reforms of the judiciary and other public institutions.

Maraga, who has risen the ranks as those reforms have been implement, was known by colleagues for his strict adherence to the rules even as a young lawyer.

A devout Christian of the Seventh Day Adventist tradition, he built his practice in the Rift Valley city of Nakuru rather than to Nairobi where he where he could have secured more high profile cases and would have more easily rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful, his colleagues said.

There is no doubt that Kenya has risen to a new day, other African countries are following in a distance. The new elections might cost us 1 billion shillings, or even more, but let’s not forget that the results should reflect the will of the people, the true will of the people. And then, after we will dance with the winner to the podium while we console the loser.

Plastic Bags Ban in Kenya, Few Years Too Late.

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For decades now, disposable plastic bags have been a hot item for shoppers thanks to their cheap and lightweight nature. But environment managers across the region say littering of waste, mainly domestic waste, is the biggest challenge facing residents in many urban centres.

This is not helped by the fact that polythene waste can take hundreds of years to decompose which makes it a more visible, unsightly component of litter in the environment.

When plastic bags litter enters water streams and drainages, clogging of the public and municipal drainage results into localised flooding prompting local governments to spend millions of shilling every year to pick up this litter or to unblock the drainage systems to maintain the sanitary conditions of the area.

It is such problems associated with the use of plastic bags that many countries have begun restricting or prohibiting their use. Environmentalists say the global shift away from the use of these convenient carrier bags is clearly informed by failure even of well-established and elaborate systems put in place to collect, treat and dispose the unwanted plastics.

This week, a #PlasticBagBan took effect in Kenya and many are crying foul to this new direction by National Environmental Management Authority – NEMA. Those who depend on plastic bags for business have their fingers roasted. Myself, even though I am rejoicing, I feel that it’s coming many years too late. Our government has fallen victim to curtails in this industry who have always protected it at the expense of the environment.

The dangers of plastic bag use are even more evident in Kenya and Africa as a whole than in other parts of the world. For us to have waited for this long is unbelievable, despite there being alternatives our government could look at. Its has been up to the government to take the courageous action and put a total bun, while giving guidelines on the way forward.

For the many women who are working in small projects creating handmade bags, this is their time to break through, while the manufacturers are still in limbo. The  Sisal  Sisters for example are a group of women in Kakuyuni, Kenya who make handbags out of sisal and wool.

This handicraft is indigenous to their village, originally used for carrying vegetables, coffee and even as a muzzle for a donkey.  Each bag is beautiful and unique to the individual weaving technique and expertise of the woman who makes it.

You can use the bags for a handbag, a beach tote,  grocery bag, plant holder or anything you can think of, this is the future we want in our country. If the government does not give guidelines, the same companies will look for cheaper way of making bugs that might not work really well as reusables and cause the same environmental damage.

Kenyans producing, selling or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000 from Monday, as the world’s toughest law aimed at reducing plastic pollution came into effect.

The east African nation joins more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.

Many bags drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.

“If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish,” said Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the UN environment programme in Kenya. Its important for us to examine and consider with courage the damage we have already done to the environment by the use of plastic Bags. If we can make a turn around today, it will be for the better.

Plastic bags, which El-Habr says take between 500 to 1,000 years to break down, also enter the human food chain through fish and other animals. In Nairobi’s slaughterhouses, some cows destined for human consumption had 20 bags removed from their stomachs.

We hope for a better environment, we hope that this will be the beginning of a total ban on all plastic use. We will reclaim the lost environment back. This should be the first step in that direction, but we want more regulation. It might have taken us 20 years to do this, we dont have twenty more years.

Familiar Scenes in Kenyan Elections.

IDLO-Kenya-Elections-2017

Elections in Kenya have never been credible, not even fare nor free. The multi party democracy in Kenya started when Kenneth Matiba was arrested and detained on July 4, 1990 together with Charles Rubia, and then political activist Raila Odinga, (also a candidate in this years elections) for demanding the re-introduction of multi-party democracy. At that time, the repression by President Daniel arap Moi’s (Nyayo was his other name) regime was at its peak.

The Cold War had collapsed and many Africa strongmen, including Moi, found themselves under pressure from donors and development partners in the West, as well as from home-grown movements, to allow multi-party democracy. The arrest of Rubia, Matiba, and Raila were to pre-empt a rally that had been planned by opposition leaders at the Kamkunji grounds in Nairobi on July 7.

The rally had been baptised Saba Saba. The group was led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Masinde Muliro, Timothy Njoya, James Orengo, Paul Muite, Gitobu Imanyara, and Martin Shikuku, among others, to press for greater democratic space and a stop to human rights abuses. Despite the ban by the government, thousands of Kenyans marched in defiance of a previously unchallengeable regime to make their way to Nairobi’s Kamukunji grounds to press the case for democracy……(Kenyans forget history very fast).

This is the second election since the passage of the new constitution in 2010, and the votes will likely be a referendum on some of its successes and failures of President Uhuru Kenyatta….son the the first president.  It was being watched closely from all ends of the world. But Kenya has faced myriad obstacles to peaceful elections in the past, and there are three main issues which were at watch as August 8 approached: ongoing healthcare strikes, the role of false or defamatory news, and the potential for vote rigging…..the later being a common occurrence during elections.

Another issue of great concern was the growing prevalence of election-related mudslinging. In an already tense environment, the distribution of defamatory headlines about candidates was contributing to fears about potential electoral violence. The spread of fake news is particularly rapid in Kenya, where articles can be shared widely due to the high rate of mobile and internet access, a relatively youthful population, and a large volume of Twitter use. So days before the elections, people shopped, they wanted to make sure they had enough food….or call it more that enough, others travelled to safer places…..I mean places they felt safe.

When I travelled to Kisumu on the weekend before the election, I visited a major supermarket store and on that day they had recorded sales of 12 million two hours before they close of their business, more that double what they normally sale. There was great demand for transport to the country sides and the fares were doubled and in some places tripled. After violence following a disputed election in 2007 left approximately 1,400 dead, Kenyans are always afraid when election knocks on their doors. So afraid that those who were able, booked flights and jetted out of the country minutes before others queued to cast their votes.

Its calm today, elections have come and gone. IEBC, the body that oversees the election says that the incumbent won, they have also admitted that there was attempted hacking of their system……lets just call it hacking, I am a techie and I know there is nothing like attempted hacking…..and they need time to produce form 34a even though they have all the form 34b which are supposed to be generated from the former. Forms 34A are filled at polling stations to show how votes were cast before they are transmitted to the constituency level where the results are filled into forms 34B.

There has been demand from the part of public not to look into what happened during and after they cast their vote saying…….they would like to move on with their lives. Business stopped for one week and the roads were empty….so empty that I enjoyed biking 46 km two days after I cast my vote. It took three days to get the winner. People in some areas had run out of patient and collided with the force of police. Innocent lives were lost, lives of small children…….shot by police at close range. I restrained myself from watching news, from being on a political side and from wanting to know who had won.

It’s been 11 days since we went to the polls, NASA the opposition coalition have declared they will go to the supreme court….the highest court of the land. The move has been welcomes by those holding the government. IEBC on the other had still maintain their stand that the election was free, fair and credible, even with all the allegations that have knocked on their door. Some people have celebrated the innocent lives taken by the police, they have had a big laugh in death. The president came out and called for peace, and asked police not to use brutal force, but the damage is already done. If those victims will ever get justice remains to be witnessed.

Life has moved on very fast, people are going to work, others are pretending to be friends again. Husband and wife are talking again…….everything will go well for the next five years, then we will be at it again. Rigging elections, fleeing danger, overshopping and losing innocent lives…..all that while we call ourselves brothers and sisters.

The one who rigs best wins. The winners have their way and their say also.

 

 

Sinking in tradition, with a Glass of Mursik.

mursik

Mursik is sour milk with a sharp almost bitter taste popular among the Kalenjin community. To the newbies mursik may look “dirty” until they get a good taste of the beverage.

When hit on the palate by the sweet crispy flavor most overlook the “dirt”, which is actually a herb that is burnt and ground to charcoal powder and blended in the milk during fermentation. The milk is typically served from colorful gourds or sotet, a tradition that has fast been elevated to the national psyche as a ritual in honoring Kalenjin heroes and athletes for astounding achievements.

Due to widespread awareness on hygiene standards and changes in lifestyles, pasteurization of milk as a first step is requisite. Earlier on direct milking was done into a treated gourd then the milk would be mixed with blood and stored in a cool place to ripen.

Fresh boiled milk is covered to avoid contamination and allowed to cool down before pouring into a treated sotet. The sotet is then corked tightly with a treated lid and stored in a cool place for several days, usually three but can be up to one week, to allow it to ripen.

New and old gourds are first cleaned and left to dry in the sun for a few days. Cleaning is done using bow shaped branches of palm trees or sosiot whose edges have been pounded until they become brush-like. The inner linings of new gourds and the coating of previous milk stored in old gourds are removed to prevent passing bitter taste to mursik.

Treating the sotet is the hard part and requires extreme care and skill. The skill is passed from generation to another.  Cassia didymobotrya (acacia) or sertwet is the preferred tree for imparting preservative and aromatic effect to milk. The sertwet herb added to the milk helps in quick fermentation and has medicinal value.

Other popular ones include simotwet and wattle but Senetwet is by far the most commonly used because of its availability. Burning embers of sticks from the tree branches are put inside the clean dry sotet and shaken vigorously to drop the charcoal formed and to avoid burning the gourd.

Using the iitet, a tool used as a mortar in many mursik preparation sessions, the embers are methodically pressed and ground against the wall of the sotet in a circular in and out motion of the hand, an action described as suutet. This action is repeated until the charcoal powder is evenly distributed on the walls of the gourd. Excess and large particles of charcoal are discarded and the gourd is allowed to cool down. The sotet is now ready for the freshly boiled cool milk.

The gourd can be filled in one or several portions depending on availability of milk. One portion filling is however the most preferred because it avoids many problems related to milk quality, flavor and exposing to harmful bacteria.

Serving mursik

serving

Shake the sotet to stir the mursik into fine sour milk with smooth and uniform consistency.  White globules of butter occasionally float at the top of the gourd when milk is ripe. A good ripe sotet should produce a popping sound upon tapping the lid, allowing excess air to escape. Mursik can be taken on its own or served as a supplement cold with hot ugali.

Mursik has been around for the last 300 years as a traditional method of preserving excess milk. Popularity of mursik has surpassed all the other versions of sour milk and has become part of the national heritage.

The growing market for traditional foods puts mursik as one of the products that can be harnessed and value added to fetch stable income for the producers.  Issues on quality and acceptability of the “charcoal” by a wide range of consumers can be sorted out.

If you happen to be in Kalenjin land, you have to follow my footsteps, sink in this tradition with a glass of Mursik.

Learning Organic Farming in Eldoret.

 

A welcome to Eldoret takes me through the maize plantation, few miles drive and the home is waiting. Countryside is different, maybe unique in many ways. People live easy life, they have little to worry about pollution, weather carbon or noise. They eat organic, drink organic and breathe the same. This is Eldoret, the home of the famous Kenyan long-distance athletes. Here is the town where Kenya began to cultivate her greatest claim to international fame. Here Kipchoge Keino, Moses Kiptanui and Paul Tergat honed their natural talents, to become colossuses in their fields.

There is not much to do here, to be honest. Eldoret is an extremely functional town, filled with agro-vet shops and wholesale dukas run by descendants of south Asians brought in as cheap labour during the building of the “Lunatic Express”, the railway that was to link the coast of Kenya to the rich hinterlands of Uganda. There are no galleries, no parks, no theatres, or museums. There is a vibrant nightlife, however, and Kenyans here do not disappoint, night clubs like Spree and Signature competing for custom with typical gusto and verve; drinks and meals are affordable, at $3 for an ice cold beer and about $5 for a full meal at a decent cafeteria.

 

Under this trees 54 different species of birds dwell. They have mastered the art on community coexistence. They live and work in common grounds, and do it with high level of efficiency. Weaver bird is what they are called, they design and build intricate nests. When the nest is complete, the male will announce an open house by fluttering his wings. He invites a female home and hopes she approves. If she does, there will be eggs in the nest within days. If she doesn’t, the nest is usually abandoned. A male will often make multiple nests over the course of the mating season. In most instances, most weaver males never become parents.

 

Our stay at the Water Crest Guest House was full of fun. The rabbits danced to us every morning and all day long. The walk freely on the green lawn looking for food and interacting with nature. They are very beautiful to watch. We also enjoyed good hospitality and a wonderful breakfast.

I have a close relationship with Lel-met who is now a mother to Baraka turned 5 days today and Lel-gina. Baraka is trying to adjust to his new life. He sleeps alot and when its time to play, he loves to do that. He also jumps to eveny opportunity to have his share of milk from his mother.

The dwelling of the bees is in the hives, but finally I found the place where they are spending all their time, here at the sunflower garden. Bees see all colors except the color red. That and their sense of smell help them find the flowers they need to collect pollen. Not only is pollen a food source for bees, but also some of the pollen is dropped in flight, resulting in cross pollination.

Honeybees produce honey from pollen and nectar of the plants they pollinate. They store the honey in honeycombs in their nests, which they use to feed their young in colder months.

Considered by animal behaviorists to be smarter than dogs, pigs are clever animals who are also friendly, loyal, and intelligent. They are naturally very clean and avoid soiling their living areas. When they are not confined on factory farms, pigs spend hours playing, lying in the sun, and exploring their surroundings with their powerful sense of smell. On this picture, the story is almost the same, the female are seen here comforting each other with warmth as they enjoy an afternoon nap while the men on the other hand fight for food.

If you look at Sugoi, you might think that he is the mother to Chepkorgen. But the truth is that Korgen lost her mother a few days after she was born. The story is that after she was milked, she just collapsed and died, yea. For the months that followed, she had to depend on milk from other cows for her development. She can now graze on her own, and her health is getting better.

Kasuye also just got a new baby days ago. We named him Andeso, it means small……really small. Together with their friends they feed along the maize plantation. Sometimes they get naughty and get themselves to areas they are not allowed to occupy, its always a push and pull scenario.

Long time ago this was bubblegum for my wife. They loved to play around this tree and feed from the glue it produces. Things have now changed for her, I married her and took her to the store. Now she knows where to get bubblegum. When she was here, she reminded herself of those good old days.

The things that make an animal farm work are simple….or sometimes complex mechanical, civil contractions. The shade for milking, the place you stop by every morning and evening to earn them milk. The borehole, you need a constant supply of water, my father told me that water translates to milk……..he wasnt wrong one bit. Fences act like fire walls, if you don’t have on, are not planning to invest in one, you will always have hackers in the animal farm and once the data is invaded, you will need sometime to recover from the lose……..time is always precious. Last you need accessibility, controlled movement with small gates that can close at a small human effort. Now it’s closed…..now it’s open.

The tree is under siege, with caterpillars all over it, not the shoes but the insects. Caterpillars that defoliate trees in your home landscape can be invasive and sometimes require control measures. The first option is to do nothing. Healthy deciduous trees usually survive defoliation and grow back a second set of leaves.

Manual control on individual trees includes hand removal of egg masses, inhabited tents and pupa, and installation of sticky tree wraps on trunks to capture caterpillars as they move up and down trees. Do not leave egg masses on the ground; drop them in a container of detergent. Do not attempt to burn tents while they are on trees. This is hazardous to the health of the tree. But still here we see insects overpowering the caterpillar on ground….today, you are our food.

 

Navigating the animal farm is tricky, the ground is always maddy especially when it rains and covered with animal  remains……cow, pig, sheep goat, chicken all combined, every morning you wake up. My father-in-law has found a perfect shoe that fits the job. Looking at them, they has seen better days, they rest on dry ground after a morning of duty and they know, another day awaits. It reminds me of a song “ask my shoes” they always have a story to tell. My wife walks the ground with her purple espadrille……yea I thought so too. She is not on a spanish holiday.

The rewards of organic farming are very evident, if you stop for one minute and enjoy, you gather strength to wake up tomorrow and push some more. So there I was, leaving Eldoret with a pack of all goodies from my mother-in-law. Sour milk with black charcoal AKA mursik, Fresh lemons and more than enough cereals, all from the organic farm.

#OrganicFarming