Last night, Rachel got quite sick and had to be taken to the hospital. Dan took her and Joyce went along. She had an allergic reaction to something we’d had at supper – probably cashews.
We had supper at some fancy Indian restaurant near here. We’d invited several people who work with CFGB in food security in the region – people from MCC, CRWRC, Dorcas, etc.
This morning we were up early again and on the road shortly after 6:00. Rachel and Joyce were still at the hospital and Dan stayed behind to help sort things out.
We dropped off Solomon and picked up Bernard somewhere downtown. Jim Bowman from MCC also came along today. We headed up to Munandani Region. We stopped at Machakos for tea and some delicious donut-type things called mendosas.
Awhile after we stopped for tea, we picked up Cyrus and Matthew who represent SASOL, and organization which develops sand dams. Cyrus is the leader. He’s an interesting fellow with a fascinating past and lots of stories to tell. He spent 10 years in the 70s living in the states. He attended the University of Florida in Miami and was the first black person there. he was associated with the Black Panthers, but he didn’t tell us much about what he was involved with. He studied political science and also taught in University. He married a black woman from New York and they have 3 children, all of whom now live in the U.S.
When they moved back to Kenya, he was managing editor at the Daily Planet, during a time when it was quite dangerous to be a journalist. Journalists were often thrown into prison for writing negative reports against the government.
I asked why he’d gotten into development work, and he laughed at me. I guess he’s been asked that a lot. He said he saw a need and felt it was his turn to give back.
The first sand dam we visited was a new one. It had only been built in November. They hadn’t managed to get much water from it yet, because silt had settled instead of sand. They assured us though that the silt will wash away and the sand will remain (because sand is heavier).
The second sand dam we visited was built in 1999. It wasn’t funded by CFGB, but he wanted to show us a successful project as a demonstration.
It was quite remarkable how the sand dam had changed the vegetation and availability of water in the region. They’d built 14 dams in a row along one stream, and all along the length of them, people had dug wells and had sufficient water available for livestock, gardens, and human consumption.
We climbed a hill to visit a farm. It was terraced across the hill. The woman who farms it was not expecting us, but she welcomed us nonetheless. Her name is Beatrice. She told us about how the water had changed their lives – made it easier to grow crops, increased the value of the crops, helped them make bricks for a new house, etc. She laughed when she said it allowed her to live like a white person. In other words, she now had some leisure time. She was relaxing when we arrived at her farm.
We were told that in regions where sand dams had been built, many families were able to reduce the distance they had to travel for water from 10 kilometres to less than 2.
The sand dams were built by community effort with outside sponsorship for material inputs. Matthew is in charge of community mobilization. He told us how they meet with the community and get them involved in the project. Anyone who does not contribute labour has to pay to collect water there. With the most recent project (the first one we saw) CFGB provided food for food-for-work, and materials to build the dam.
Beatrice seemed like a remarkable woman. Not only does she run a fairly large and diverse farm, but she is also chairwoman for the 14 dams in that region, and chairwoman of the Catholic Women’s League. In addition to her own well, she has also dug a well on her property for the Catholic Women’s League, and provided them with land for a nursery.
It was certainly nice to meet a strong woman who is a good farmer and a leader in her community.
After the sand dams, we headed back to Nairobi. It was a bit of a wild trip, coming back into town during the heart of rush hour. At one point, we were going up a hill behind a slow moving truck, and everyone was pulling out to pass in all directions. Suddenly, a 2 lane road became a 4 lane, with no logic to the direction of traffic. It was every man for himself..
Inside the city it wasn’t much better. Everyone was quite aggressive, shoving their way in everywhere whether or not they had the right of way. Two lanes became four lanes, or whatever would fit.
When we got back to the guest house, pizza had been ordered, so we all got together in the sitting room for supper and some wrap-up time. It was our last evening together since Tim is going back home tomorrow, a day earlier than everyone else.
There were a lot of mixed feelings in the group. Though we’ve had an amazing time, it won’t necessarily be easy to communicate this experience to other people or let it change our lives in a significant way. Joy expressed it well when she said making a change or entering a new phase in your life is like getting out of bed – you know it’s a good idea, and you know life will be more interesting, but it’s just so comfortable in bed!