Southern Kituiuni

Sept. 1997:

In this land, drought and aridity are, a common phenomenon. Less than 20% of Kenya's land is arable. This picture depicts one such dry area of Kenya. It portrays the southern part of the landscape of Kituiuni. The Kilome-Kilungu-Kaiti and Kasikeu area is home to about a quarter of a million people. In Kilungu, there are three rivers running through the area and our desire is to harness the water of these rivers for irrigation of the land. Taking a closer look on the photograph, you can clearly see one of these rivers as it hugs one side of the topography where a streak of green vegetation marks the course of the river. This is the smaller river and is called "Kyamwovi River". Its riverbed has sank quite deep due to erosion of the river bed, rendering irrigation from it impossible. One of the other bigger rivers called "Ilovoto" is not clearly visible as it is hidden on the other side of the ridge but it runs almost parallel to this one from a northerly direction.

The people of this region have always lived in poverty. They work so hard to eke out a living yet the returns are ever too meager even to feed a family and hunger has always lived next door to them. The average family is made up of about 10 members.

In this region you find many faiths; Catholicism; Protestantism; Muslims - the whole nine yard! But the traditional form of worship has all but disappeared. Regrettably the once flourishing traditional shrines called in the local dialect "Kititu" singular or "Ititu" plural, have all disappeared. The old age sacred trees which were untouchable and grew huge unabated on these revered sacred grounds protected by traditional laws and norms, have been razed down in the wake of modernism, although not without a protracted but forlorn struggle to remain as the undying symbols of the African traditional ways of worship. Before the dawn of Christianity and the new ways, tradition revered and protected these grounds very closely and enabled the vegetation growing in the hallowed land to thrive for hundreds and thousands of years. These shrines had a very special place in the African Way of life and Traditions. When there was drought, the elders gathered on the holy grounds and the traditional priest who was also the keeper of the Shrine (or the Kititu) would lead the rest of the elders in a special sacrificial ceremony to appease the ancestors and the gods in supplication for rain. In the course of the solemn prayers, a goat would be slaughtered to spill the blood on the sacred ground in sacrifice, while some particular sections of the goat meat would be burned as part of a sacrificial prayer to the ancestors who, it was believed, watched over the Kamba people and their neighbors over yonder hills. The rest of the meat would be left on the sacred ground for the spirits to come later and feast on, when the elders were gone and slumpered in their supplicatory dreams, so to speak! And would you believe; Because of the people's strong faith in the gods and their ancestral spirits, strange as it might seem, the rains would come after many moons of drought!

In accordance with African tradition, each family owns a piece of land inherited from their ancestors and it is to this land that, most people owe their very livelihood. However, the yields from the soil grew more and more sparse because, over the years, the rains also grew less and less. They became, not only sporadic but for many seasons, they were unreliable and often absent altogether and when they come, they would be, either too little or too late. Yet ironically, during some seasons, the rains actually came in such torrents that they ended up causing famine by washing away everything that had been planted and then disappearing as suddenly as they had come leaving hunger and desolation in their wake.

In the colonial era, coffee had been introduced by Europeans in Central Kenya as a cash crop but it only arrived in Kituiuni area in the early sixties which was actually around the same time when Kenya gained her independence i.e 1963. In the years that followed independence, people in this area , and indeed in the whole country of Kenya, enjoyed almost two decades of relative prosperity when coffee was dubbed the "Black Gold". However, as time went by, this relative period of prosperity in the country's history turned out to be a flash in the pan, for not only did prices in the world market plummet, but corruption in the cooperatives through which the farmers sold their crop became a way of lif resulting in meager returns to the farmer for their labor and produce. Further more, the land on which to grow the cash crop became lesser and lesser due to other competing needs for the land caused by over population. Lack of reliable rain and a myriad of other economic problems made the farmer despair and lose hope in the one time tree of life; turning their efforts elsewhere in their quest to find livelihood.

There are 5 schools in the immediate area of Kituiuni with about 500 children in each of them. One of these being a mixed Secondary School. Children have to pay tuition to attend school and many children from poor families are unable to attain an education because their parents cannot afford the tuition required of them for their children's education. In olden days, government bursaries helped those children from poor families but those programs have either disappeared or been misappropriated so they benefit the wrong people (who knows!). All I know, it is now up to a parent to find their own ways of educating their children and those without the wherewithal, they may as well sink or swim as there are few options available to them and their children. Consequently, a child born to a poor family is inevitably condemned to poverty. There are no opportunities to help a poor child break out of its family's cycle of poverty. The people would be very happy to work and support their children's needs including education, but jobs or other sources of income are unavailable. Most people live off their land but due to many years of use the land has become quite unforgiving and unproductive!

The nearest government health center is 5 miles away and people have to walk long distances for medical services and if one is bed ridden, he or she has to be carried manually on a stretcher because often there are no means of transportation and sometimes, even if there was, the roads are impassable for lack of maintenance and in some parts, of course there are no roads altogether. To alleviate this problem KENYA/USA CHRISTIAN RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT, INC approached sponsors to help in building a village clinic. Today, this clinic has now been completed and once we get funding, we hope to hire full time medical personnel to serve the community. The day when this goal is accomplished, will be a turning point for the dwellers of this enclave of Kituiuni. It will mean the arrival of a new era for the children, the elderly, and the sick of Kituiuni.
For updates on what progress is being made in various areas of development please click here

There being no electricity, such things as TVs are rare to find. Occasionally you see a household with a battery operated TV. But this is a cumbersome and inconvenient power source, because one has to keep on sending the battery away for re-charge. So any amenities, miniscule as they may be, come with a price and is never to be taken for granted.

The better part of people's lives is spend trying to find subsistence. There are no refrigerators so perishable food is usually consumed as soon as possible. However, left over food is never wasted but is stored in pots to be consumed later; thus, hardly any food is wasted. Even basic things like radios are amenities and only a few people own them. This means, even in the 21st Century, information still travels by word of mouth in these rural parts. Newspapers are mainly found in major towns and in these villages such medium of communication is non-existent and even if it was, the cost is prohibitive and where people are scrambling to make ends meet, money for such things as newspapers and the like, would sooner be used for essential things like food, medicine or education.

A few people are able to construct water tanks to harness and store rainwater for domestic use. But most families depend on spring and river water. But with prolonged periods of drought, the water sheds have become almost depleted and the springs are near drying up. It takes a long time to fill a container in these natural water springs; and not infrequently, animals also share the same water resource with the humans because the wells are not constructed to prevent this health hazard and by some strange twist of fate, these folks manage to survive the risks involved.

These are just, but a few facts about the place called Kituiuni, in Kenya!