When you are taking your hot shower tomorrow, remember these women fetching waterfrom a well in Chesakam, Baringo County, Kenya. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Announcement: Getry Agizah, the Coordinator of Friends Church Peace Teams and Transforming Communities for Social Change, will be on a speaking tour of the United States. Here is her tentative schedule:

May 21 to June 2 – East coast from Boston to DC.

June 2 to 7 – LA/Santa Barbara/Pacifica

June 8 to 11 — San Francisco

June 17 to 18 – Portland, OR

June 19 to July 7 – Northwest US or Kansas

Please contact me at davidzarembka@gmail.com if you would like to arrange a speaking engagement for her. At the end of this report, I have pasted the flier for the trip with her picture, short biography, and speaking topics.

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The same word in the United States and Kenya can have different connotations. For example, I remember a few years ago there was a drought in the US corn-belt. Farmers were discouraged because they obtained only 80% of their normal yield. In Kenya a drought often means that there is no yield whatsoever and the farmers have wasted the seeds that they have planted. When subsistence farmers have zero yield for their efforts, they are in a dire situation since their family normally is fed with the fruits of the harvest.

Kenya has two rainy seasons per year – the heavy long rains are between April and June while the lighter, short rains, are between October and November. Some droughts are severe with no or almost no rain, while other droughts are due to late arrival of the rains or inconsistent rainfall during the growing season. The most serious situation is when at least two rainy seasons fail in a row. This is what happened in Kenya in 2016. The long rains were late and inconsistent while the short rains failed – in some places there was no rain whatsoever. As a result the Kenyan government has determined that there is drought in half of the counties in Kenya covering the 80% arid and semi-arid sections of the country. Already 1.5 million people are considered food insecure (meaning they have no food of their own and no ability to buy food). The numbers are predicted to rise to 2 million by the end of February and even more than that afterwards. If the 2017 long rains are late or inadequate the situation will deteriorate even more.

In addition to crop failure drought leads to the death of livestock. As the cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, and camels become thin they either can’t be sold or fetch very low prices so that pastoralists are unable to sustain themselves. The weakened animals are likely to sicken and die. The government in Garrisa, a drought stricken county, has already reported the death of 400,000 goats.

There are also other consequences of drought that affect everyone. Since there is a shortage of food, food prices rise – the rise can equal 25% to 50%. For the poor in Nairobi, who spend 50% of their income on food, a large increase in food prices severely impairs their ability to provide sufficient food for their families.

Moreover the flow of water in the rivers decreases and the level of water behind dams in the lakes declines. This has two effects: First, since 35% of the electricity in Kenya is from hydropower, the flow of water into the turbines that produce electricity is cut and less power is produced. To compensate for this decrease the power company reverts to much higher cost diesel generation – this increase in the cost of generation is passed directly on to all electric customers. Second, the major dam that supplies water to Nairobi is at 45% of capacity resulting in a 15% cut in the water supply to Nairobi. Our son Douglas, who lives in Nairobi reports that while he formerly received water three days per week – with rapid population growth in Nairobi, the city has a water deficit even in normal times – his supply has now been cut to one day per week. Other Kenyan cities report similar shortages.

An additional result is that children in the drought-stricken areas are no longer attending school. One of the major causes of this is that they have to walk long distances to find water and often have to wait in lines for hours for their turn to fill their container. Since the watering holes are scarce the likelihood of pollution from water-borne diseases has increased substantially. Kenya has already reported outbreaks of typhoid fever and other water-borne diseases.

Wild animals are also affected by the drought. Some then stray into inhabited areas. There is nothing a farmer can do when a herd of elephants decides to devour everything in his/her plot. I have read in the newspaper recently about two or three people being killed by elephants who have invaded farms.

The areas most affected by the drought are the pastoral regions. As water and food for the cows, goats, sheep, camels, and donkeys dry up, the herders venture to what they hope is “greener pastures.” Sometimes this is in the area of other pastoral tribes who naturally resist the encroachment on their land. This can lead to violent clashes between the groups. At other times they move their animals on agricultural land and then the farmers become quite irate when all their remaining crops are eaten up.

Kieni Member of Parliament Kanini Kega helps offload relief food at Karicheni Primary School in Nyeri.“GK” stands for “Government of Kenya.” PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Fortunately 2017 is an election year. This means that the national government and local county government officials in drought stricken areas must respond vigorously if they want to be re-elected. The national government has begun some interesting methods of responding to the drought. One is to buy up livestock before it becomes emaciated or dies, slaughter the animals, and feed the meat to the local population as famine relief. So the owner has both money and food. The government is also promoting school feeding programs – I did this in 1965 when I worked as a teacher in a Tanzanian refugee camp where there was starvation. This not only gives nourishment to the students but encourages them to continue to come to school.

There is food aid as illustrated in the picture with a politician making sure his efforts are recognized. Food aid, though, has a problem in that it can be easily stolen. When I was on my return bus trip from the Kakuma Refugee Camp, two sacks of food clearly label as being donated by USAID were leaving the refugee camp to be sold in the nearest major town – the theft was so blatant and common that the “thief” didn’t even bother to put the stolen food in another unmarked bag. Rarely do those receiving relief food receive the amounts of food that the relief agencies report that they are supplying. A new technique which has been developed is to send the vulnerable families a relief stipend by M-pesa (mobile money). In some areas the relief organizations are giving  families $27 per month to buy food and other necessities. While this is hardly enough to live on it certainly helps. The advantages are that the people themselves decide what kind of food they want to buy; it encourages the local economy rather than destroying it when free food is given out; and studies have shown that hungry people receiving the funds use it appropriately.

The Kenyan government claims that there are sufficient reserves of corn (maize), the main food crop in Kenya, to last until June. Therefore there is no lack food. The issue is that poor people do not have the funds to buy the food. Even if there is a lack of food, the Kenyan government can easily buy supplies from other countries. In order to conserve the grain supplies, it has banned the sale of corn to other countries.

Naturally the drought is a major news item in all media. Already some businesses have announced that they are making contributions for drought relief. I myself just received a text message from Safaricom, my cell phone company, asking that I donate 50 shillings (50 US cents) to the Kenyan Red Cross for drought relief. Since Kenyans have the value system of helping those in need – the “harambee” spirit, which means “let us pull together” – I am certain that Kenyans will respond generously, as they have in past droughts, to the need.

Kenya, therefore, is probably going to weather (pun intended) the drought decently well. Next door neighbor Somalia is another case. Parts of Somalia have now gone three years without adequate rain. Four million people out of eleven million are food insecure. Since the Somalian government is barely functioning and the fighting with Al-Shabaab makes large swaths of the country unreachable by relief agencies an adequate response is impossible. During the last 2010 to 2012 famine in Somalia 260,000 people are estimated to have starved to death. The United Nations is requesting $864 million for famine prevention in Somalia. Unfortunately requests like this are usually considerably underfunded because the world has so many other natural and man-made disasters to needing a response.

I looked on the internet to find out the situation in Rwanda and Burundi and could find no reports of drought in those two countries. So I emailed the people I know in Burundi and Rwanda to learn if there is drought there. I received this response form Pastor Parfaite Ntahuba:

The situation is almost the same here in Burundi [as in Kenya] except that we had some rain Saturday night. We have not had enough rain here in Burundi. If the situation doesn’t change, more Burundians might die because of hunger. Actually, the governor of Bubanza province, in the western part of Burundi, has now declared that four people have died because of hunger.

According to the UN Population fund 3.5 million Burundians, almost one third of the population, will need food assistance this year. Burundi is now the poorest country in the world and sanctions against the country because of the current conflict are going to make relief aid difficult to acquire and then distribute properly to those who need it.

In Rwanda, my contacts have responded that there is drought in the southern and eastern parts of the country. The Rwandan government has already supplied relief food to these areas. Food prices have risen and people in the drought areas are fleeing to other places with probably a good many to Kigali.

Drought and famine are creeping disasters and consequently don’t receive the publicity and the subsequent response that more dramatic disasters such a floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, or forest fires bring. Then, when people start to die, the alarm is sounded but it takes months to develop and implement the response. National governments and the international community have been forewarned. We will see what the response is.

Here in Lumakanda we did not have a drought last year. The long rains were actually quite good and a substantial harvest was obtained. The short rains were erratic, but sufficient for a harvest – I was just snacking on some groundnuts that we recently harvested from the short rains. Nonetheless, since the beginning of December, we have had only one light shower with a short downpour the next day. Everything is becoming completely dry – the grass is turning brown, the sugar cane is drying up in the fields, and there is dust everywhere. We can anticipate at least two more months of this dryness. Then, when the rains do fall again, the dogs will bark, the cows will jump up and down, the people will stop whatever they are doing to watch the raindrops, and the kids will run out in their bare feet to wiggle their toes in the puddles.

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Getry Agizah’s Speaking Tour

Coordinator, Friend Church Peace Teams

Transforming Communities for Social Change

May 5 to July 19, 2017

You are the people of God. God loved you and chose you. So, then you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And to all these quantities add love which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12, 14.

Biography:

My name is Getry Agizah Anguva, a 35 years old active and enthusiastic adult. I work as the Coordinator of the Friends Church Peace Teams/Transforming Communities for Social Change in Kenya. I am married to Mr. Joseph Thuita and have three loving children, Dennah Khasiala, 12 years old, Daniel Njuguna, 4 years old and baby Esther Khaluhi 16 months old. I am the seventh born in a family of nine. I was born a Quaker and lived all my life as a Quaker. Being a Quaker, my ministry of peacebuilding has given me a strong background understanding why Quakers have been known as a Peace Church.

Our world is full of violence, and our daily lives can be marred by conflict and turmoil. But God promises His people a peace that surpasses all understanding. Generations come and go and now we are here. This Peace Ministry identifies our Faith and Practice. In our pain we smile because there is a hope. As we see signs of danger and pain, it is a frequent reminder that all will be well. That is where my Faith comes from. The spirit within me looks at loving my enemy and forgiving my transgressors. This is a hard choice to make. But we can’t hide we have to step up and face it. This is in Proverbs 16:7

Speaking topics:

  1. Preventing Violence in the August 2017 Election:

This is 2017 and yet another election is soon happening in August. As we talk of true reconciliation, Kenya is still very far for enjoying peace. FCPT in collaboration with TCSC will be counted as those who played a part to ensure peaceful elections. From the trends to date, we can see a lot of dangerous speeches from our politicians and extreme violence among political parties. Politicians are so desperate to win votes in the coming election. Let us stand up and put the Armor of God to fight the battle. It has to start now. We are looking for support from friends. Let us start now and build a peaceful country before, during, and after the election. What is our Plan of Action? Come and hear more!!!!

  1. How TCSC is developing the Mt Elgon Community Peace Center.

Mt Elgon is a region that has faced big clashes and the residents suffered from the hands of a militia group called Sabaot Land Defense Force. The community faces long challenges on trauma and poverty. In 2013, the national newspapers of Kenya reported that 18 girls who were in primary school were found pregnant and often at a young age they were forced to be married to older men. In 2016, 20 under aged girls were found pregnant in a school called Chelebei. These are just two cases that were brought into the open by the media. Local traditional midwives who give help for a safe delivery to expectant mothers have no skills in midwifery apart from what they learnt from their grandmothers. They then are exposed to cases of breach babies, HIV infection, infant and maternal deaths. The presentation will elaborate how TCSC deals with these issues.

Please contact David Zarembka at davidzarembka@gmail.com to arrange a presentation.

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To be added to this listserve, please send your name and email address to davidzarembka@gmail.com.

Please contribute to Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC). Donations can be sent directly to Kenya through WorldRemit for a charge of one US cent. See http://davidzarembka.com/2016/12/11/world-remit-details/ for details. Alternatively checks may be sent to “David Zarembka” with memo of “TCSC” and mailed to David Zarembka, 8 Midsummer Ct, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues with his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. He is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.

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David Zarembka

Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC)

P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya
Phone in Kenya: 254 (0)726 590 783 in US: 301/765-4098
Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com/

Email: davidzarembka@gmail.com

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