5 January 2012
I went on tour of the eastern part of KEDA’s catchment area today with Mr Shirima, the secretary, on his bike. It was a very different environment than what I’ve seen so far; very dry, even the trees were wilting. He kept calling it drought, but it’s just the normal dry season, so not really a drought (right?). The first person we visited was the (female) chairperson of a village HIV group. It’s mostly a support group, encouraging people with HIV to live openly and supporting people through all the difficulties of having HIV. KEDA has a project with them to build kitchen gardens, since the vitamins and so on from green vegetables help the ARVs be more effective. They get the ARVs free from the hospital, but there are costs associated with it anyway – transportation to and from the hospital, and drugs to treat other, related illnesses. They have six kitchen gardens in the village. But right now they are wilting from the lack of water. They compost so the soil retains more moisture, but it isn’t enough. And materials for water catchment and storage are very expensive. KEDA is also helping the group start a beekeeping project, as it is a way to generate income that requires little physical work, which is good for people who are weak from HIV. These people are very poor and unable to work because of the HIV. My first taste of real poverty.
Then we continued on in that village to where there were supposed to be some tree nursery projects. They weren’t much, though, partly due to the dry weather, I guess. Then on to the rest of the area, where we met some KEDA folk and saw there farms and the challenges they’re facing. For example, for some people the only thing they grow to make any money from is maize, which they hope to sell enough of to get them through the dry season, when it doesn’t grow and they aren’t really growing anything else. But these places are so remote, and people don’t have vehicles, so getting it to market is nearly impossible. So trucks come and pick it up, but for a farm-gate price that is lower than the market price. It was getting very hot now, and there wasn’t much shade in this area. We went as far as the Kenyan border then turned around. Had lunch in Himo and tried to use the internet but the network was down, surprise, surprise.
Flora brought her friend to see my computer this evening and they wanted to play games on it. Oh no, I’ve corrupted them with American culture!