Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A Trip To Kajiado

Wednesday 7 July 2010

We had to take Esther, the girl we re-homed from Maasailand to Kisii, to court in Kajiado to give evidence in the case against her former employer for employment of a minor. As the trip is almost 400 km and there is no direct transport, we hired a car.

We left Kisii at about 6am and made good time to Narok, where we stopped for breakfast.

We sailed through Nairobi, comparatively speaking, hitting only minor jams and soon we were at Athi River. This is where the trip got complicated. The main road had been slightly re-routed, but the road to Kajiado only joined the old road, so we missed it – several times.

Eventually we found a road and we were on our way again, but we were too late for the court case, when was adjourned. Not wanting the trip to be totally wasted, we visited the Kajiado Children’s Home, where Esther had stayed for her time in Maasailand. It is a wonderful establishment, but all the children are Maasai and of course, Esther is Gusii.

I learned something during our visit, when greeting a Maasai child; you place your hand on their head. They even bow their heads forward so accept this greeting – cute.

Before leaving Kajiado town, we called in at a bank to pick up the money I had arranged to be sent to me from the UK to fund the trip and other things.

Outside Athi River, we found a good eating house and ate excellent nyama choma, chips and a coke. It was superb. Vincent was especially pleased as they played Kenny Rogers CDs while we were there.

On the road again and we hit Nairobi at rush hour – and got lost. WE went round and round and eventually found the Uhuru Highway that would lead us to the junction we wanted for Narok. As we climbed the escarpment, we ran into mist and rain, and we missed the turning we needed to go to Narok.

After a quick discussion, we decided to continue on to Nakuru, through Kericho and then to Kisii. It is a good road for most of the way and with the weather threatening to close in, it seemed a good option.

As it happened, as we descended into the Rift Valley, the weather cleared and we made good progress and soon reached Nakuru.

But about 30 km outside Nakuru, in a small village, as we approached the brow of a hill, two sets of headlights appeared in front of us two vehicles side by side.

There was nowhere to go to the left, just a steep embankment, nowhere to go straight ahead other than a head-on collision, so I veered to the right, hoping to find a way past the two oncoming vehicles. I didn’t.

When I came round, we were stationery, the windscreen was a mess and the airbags had deployed. But Vincent was not in the car next to me. There was a lot of shouting in Swahili and I saw that there were twenty or thirty men gathered round, some trying to get me out of the car. I could feel hands in my pockets. They were not my hands. When I stood up, my legs were not my own, I could barely think, but I was aware that my pockets were empty, my recently drawn money, passport, wallet, cell phone, even the loose change. But I wanted to find Vincent, and I remembered that there had been someone else in the car, but who?

Vincent was on the ground next to the car. He had a nasty gash on his forehead and he told me that his leg was broken – this was an understatement. Esther was, of course the other passenger and I found her being comforted by two women.

I went back to the car and borrowed a torch as mine was missing. The briefcase was not in the car, but this was of little consequence. The satnav was also missing. I looked for anything that belonged to any of us, but there was nothing as far as I could see.

We had been cleaned out.

A man who stated that he was a policeman kept telling me that this was a bad community, in other words, don’t make a fuss. He then handed me my video camera bag. I looked in it and the camera was still there, with all the DVDs. I was thankful for that.

A coach stopped and the three of us were bundled aboard and not too long after, we were at Nakuru hospital.

We were taken to casualty and Vincent was whisked off to x-ray. Esther was examined as was I. I was so lucky. I had nothing but cuts. Bruises and sprains as far as they could tell. I refused x-rays for my shoulder. I knew it wasn’t broken. It was painful but not painful enough, so I was discharged. ‘Where was I going to stay?’ I was asked. I explained that we were destitute, so they offered me a bed in an ante room, for which I was grateful.

I managed to borrow a phone and called Abigael, Vincent’s wife and she told me that she would come to Nakuru but the credit ran out before we could say more.

I slept and had nightmares. When I awoke, I went over and over the accident in my mind, but it did not become any clearer.

I must have slept some more because I was woken up by a member of staff, possibly a junior doctor. I was taken to see Vincent and then Esther. I went back to Vincent when Abigael walked into the ward. I was so relieved to see an able-bodied friendly face.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Power ... or the Lack of

It is difficult to blog when the power keeps cutting off, or the Internet connection fails ... or both.

This visit seems to have been blighted with more than the usual number of power cuts and in the last two days, we have had no power at all during  the day.

On both days, the power came on at about 6pm, but yesterday, it went off again within 30 minutes and it took an age for the standby generator to kick in.

This evening, we have been lucky. The power came on and, apart from a slight glitch, has stayed on, meaning that I have been able to receive the 100 or so junk emails that have been waiting to fill my in box.

We at Twiga have been told that one of our children has to attend court in Kajiado tomorrow. This town is about 450 km from Kisii and there is no direct bus route, so we have been forced to hire a car, which means that both Vincent and I have to go as Vincent does not drive. Vincent has spent most of the afternoon haggling for the best price for a car and I think he has got a good deal, especially as I have had to send an email to the UK for funds to be sent out and with the lack of power (and therefore emails), this has been difficult. We should receive the funds tomorrow while we are en route.

Surprisingly, my Garmin satnav found Kajiado with no problem and even plotted a route although I know it is not the quickest or shortest. Still, it is quite something for a bottom-of-the-range satnav with no added maps to be able to plot anything in Kenya. I am impressed. We shall see just how good it is tomorrow!

It will be an early start tomorrow - 6am - and of course, the younger kids here are playing up and refusing to go to sleep tonight, which is keeping yours truly up.

Oh well, that's life.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Things That Go Bite In the Night ... and other observations

 Before my arrival, the rains were particularly hard and the bridge across the little river that separates the house from the road was washed away, apart from the two trunks that everything was attached to. So we have to use the alternative path, the path to the road is less steep, but it is a long trip to get to the road. Still, at least we can get to the road.

I am quite proud of myself, I have managed to get up the hill every time without stopping for breath. It is a very small victory and no one else has noticed, but that doesn't matter, I know my achievement.

I don't know if it was due to the heavy rains, but there seem to be more mosquitoes around and they seem to be fiercer than usual. I have been bitten many times before but the bites never itched much. This time around, I am feeling the need to scratch all day long.

Matatus seem to be more crowded these days. They are licenced to carry 14 passengers, but I was on one yesterday that was carrying 22, plus the tout. It was a bit crowded but I didn't have far to go so it wasn't too bad. It is all part of the African experience!

Back in the bedroom, I have some novel room mates - apart from the mosquitoes. I was woken up last night by a cockroach crossing  the floor. It sounded like it was wearing hobnailed boots. A gecko had also heard it but he (or she) was up by the ceiling and was not about to crawl all the way down to the floor. Lucky cockroach!

All in all, so far, the weather has not been too bad, although we have had a couple of really bad days. When it rains here, there is no doubting it. And to make things worse, the electricity invariably goes off.

We have been suffering a spate of power and broadband failures, making blogging, emailing and just about anything else technical very difficult - but, I say again, this is Kenya.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Back in Kenya

The journey was thankfully very uneventful, although Vincent and I managed to miss each other at the airport terminal, maybe because I was desperate to get out to my "private corner" to have a cigarette. It had been too long since my last one.

We soon met up and had a bite to eat before haggling with various taxi drivers and touts to get a good deal for the city centre.

Having sorted out a bit of business we were free to get the shuttle. We had reasonably good seats and a clear road once we cleared the city. Our first and only stop was at Narok, where we got food and drink and stretched our legs.

Not many wazungu pass through Narok so I was a bit of a curiosity, especially as I now speak a few words of Kiswahili.

A few hours later and we were at the bus station, swarming with passengers, touts, hawkers, just the way I remember it - noisy, chaotic, dusty, Kenya. I was home.

A short car journey and we arrived at my Nemesis, the dirt track down the hill that separates the road from the little houses perched on the other side of the valley. Simon, the deaf boy arrived at the top of the track at the same time as us, and his face split into his wide, open smile as I got out of the car. Little did he know what I had brought for him.

I negotiated muddy hill rather better than usual and I was soon in the living room with Vincent, Abigael and all the kids, including the latest addition, Esther, a poor girl who had been displaced after the post-election violence.


How things have changed in six months

The plot next to the house was rapier grass and cow pasture, where a little boy, Brian, would attempt to control the family cattle and be dragged along on his belly for his efforts, much to my amusement, if not his. But he would not give up and he would always manage to tether these beasts that weighed so much more than he did.

Now the plot has been turned over to maize, over six feet tall and waving gently in the breeze.

Brian is still around, of course. He is a friend of Simon, our deaf child, and he can sign and almost speak English.


How beautiful is the night when there is no light pollution (because there is a power cut). With a half moon, the whole valley is lit up. The insect life is in full voice and fire flies are darting around everywhere.


The rains were rather heavier than usual this year as I could see from the debris that had been washed onto what has returned to be the path used by us residents to get to town. And the rain is still heavy. I had just getting provisions at the local supermarket when the heavens opened - and stayed open. Not only that, but I would have said it was a bit chilly. I have never felt chilly here before.

Vincent was in the town centre and asked to procure a car and meet us at the shop, but this being market day, and with the torrential rain, finding a car with three empty places was not easy, but he succeeded eventually.

It had almost stopped raining by the time we got home.

Simon is becoming a permanent fixture at the house. He pops in on his way home from school (he goes to school every day now), just to tell us that he is going home to change but will soon be back. Cute kid. I am also learning Kenyan Sign Language and we can almost hold a conversation.

I have brought a selection of hearing aids and a small amplifier with ear pieces like an MP3 player. At first, Simon refused to try any of them, but after a lot of persuasion he tried the amplifier last Saturday. It was also his first visit to the Twiga Centre.

As soon as he saw the swing (now well worn), he was on it with a smile splitting his face, giving off grunts of satisfaction.

The other kids took to him and got used to his unorthodox ways very quickly.

They also got used to playing cricket with the set I had brought with me. OK, so their rules are not what you would see at Lords, but they were enjoying themselves. The girls joined in eventually and even Simon got off the swing to have a go. As it turned out, he makes a very good batsman, his hand-eye coordination being well developed.

Another big hit was the game of Connect Four, to the point that I think we will have to organise a league table!

Some of the girls are taught crochet at school, so when Abigael handed out crochet hooks and balls of thread, a variety of little works of art were being produced.

Abigael tried to show Rister how to crochet, but her deformed left hand was too much of a disability. It looks like we will have to get her a sewing machine as her only chance of earning an income when she leaves school.

On the Saturday, Rister had an epileptic fit. Apparently they are becoming more frequent as she does not have the drugs to control them. She really needs a sponsor to provide her with money for this much needed medication.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Rhino Charge etc

A photo gallery of the latest Rhino Charge, as well as the Hog Charge and Quattro Charge have been posted on the Rhino Ark website.

  1. 2010 Rhino Charge
  2. 2010 Hog Charge
  3. 2009 Quattro Charge

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Rhino Charge 2010

The results for the latest Kenyan Rhino Charge have been posted on their website, which can be accessed at http://www.rhinocharge.co.ke/event-info-a-raffle/results.html

A record 72.5 million shillings was raised at the event. Details at http://www.rhinoark.org/RC2010/rc2010.htm

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Do what with this can of beer?!!?

On a bushcraft/rural cooking website, I read not so long ago, that a whole chicken can be cooked in a clay oven with an open can of beer inserted into it ... er ... rear opening, and being a chef of little talent but great aspirations, I thought I would give it a go.

Now, my kitchen in the UK is not a bush kitchen. It has an electric fan oven, not a clay oven, but I thought that would do.

I opened a can of cheap lager, drank about 1/4 of it, inserted the rest into the cavity in the chicken carcass and put it in the oven on a baking tin to catch the inevitable juices. Of course, having a beer can inserted into the chicken means that the bird has to stand on end, which looks a little weird, but hey ho.

The recommended cooking time for the chicken was about 115 minutes at 190°C, but I figured with a hefty heat conductor thrust into the bird, this could be considerably less.

90 minutes later, I had a juicy, well-cooked bird ready to be served, and I have to say that although this was a very cheap chicken, it was very moist and tasty. I would have posted a photo, but I'm afraid that there only a few bones left!

The juices collected in the baking tin made a fantastic gravy, just to top off the meal.

All in all, I consider this experiment to be a resounding success. The only adjustment I would make is to cover the chicken with tin foil for at least part of the cooking process, to keep in even more of the flavoured juices in. This would also negate the need for basting - probably.

Has anyone else tried this? If so, let me know your results.

I will try it again, possibly with a can of Guinness- that could be interesting - or a waste of Guinness.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Panic in the Garden

I have just been called into the garden by Nyanya Mzungu who, apparently, had caught a snake!

More curious than worried, I ambled into the garden to find her with a flowerpot and inside was ... a slow worm, not a snake at all.

I would guess that it is the same one that the dog caught last year as it had obviously lost its tail at some time.

A creature of habit!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Rhino Charge 2010, Kenya

Just received this email, thought it could be useful

For the people intending to do attend the Rhino Charge - see notice from the organizers :
Rhino Charge, Garmin and Tracks4Africa have collaborated in producing a Spectator's Map which will give spectators all the information they need to navigate to and around the Rhino Charge this year.
Because the details of the Venue of the Charge are kept confidential, this information will be released in two stages.
You will need a Garmin "Nuvi" or any current Garmin map capable device that accepts a SD card in order to access this information. These are available from Titan Avionics at Wilson Airport, Robs Magic or Extreme Outdoors at Yaya Centre and Westgate Mall.
When you arrive at Check-In at Corner Baridi, you will be given a co-ordinate to put into your GPS. This will guide you to the Venue.
From 06:30hrs on Monday 31st May, you can obtain a memory card which will give spectators all the routes available to them at the Rhino Charge Venue including other information such as the position of the gauntlet, headquarters, medical facilities etc.
I will not be attending this year as I will be in the wrong country - again. However, I am trying to arrange my life around attending the UK event in October.

Malaria and the Senses

This blog is categorised as "Curiosity in a field I know nothing about"

As my regular readers will know, we have a deaf child at the Twiga Centre, Simon, who is around 8 years old. As a baby of about 5 months, he contracted malaria and as a result [?] became deaf. Consequently, he has never learned to talk.

While I am wasting away in the UK, I am looking for ways that we may be able to help Simon; top of the list is to see if he responds to hearing aids, and I have received several from well-wishers.

But, my curiosity is asking me questions that I cannot answer. Why does malaria affect hearing (or sight, come to that)? Does it attack the mechanical bits in the ear itself, does it damage the nerves between the ear and the brain, or dies it damage the brain itself? Or, is there no one cause of deafness after malaria?

Having no knowledge of medical matters, tropical diseases and their effects, or the workings of the brain, I set about trying to work this out logically.

I only know of two people who have had adverse effects to their senses after contracting malaria, Simon, who has lost his hearing, and a Twitter friend, whose sight was severely affected after contracting the disease.

As far as I know, sight and hearing are not connected, so it would seem logical that it is a part of the brain that is affected by the illness rather than the primary organs themselves.

If this is the case, will a hearing aid help Simon? Is there any treatment, however intrusive, that could restore his hearing? I need to know.

So, I put out a plea to the doctors and hearing specialists who read blogs, who Tweet, or who stumble over this blog by other means Please can you satisfy my curiosity and possibly help this boy to regain some form of hearing, and eventually the ability to talk.

Monday, 17 May 2010

It's All Over ...

Well, it is 10 days since the UK elections which did not produce an overall winner, and it is a few days now that we have been presented with a coalition government. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have cobbled together a government from their two parties and are getting down to the business of running the country.

But now, as there is no Labour government for the press to snipe at, they are trying their best to wreck the coalition. OK, so it is virtually unknown territory for the UK not to have a clear winner at an election, but there are many countries that have had coalitions and made a success of it. Why shouldn't it work here?

But the doubters, which seems to be most journalists and political pundits obviously think that we are now being rules by aliens and they are trying to find every little reason why the coalition won't work. Maybe it won't, but I for one am willing to let it have a go.

This country is in a mess, both economically and socially. We have a debt so immense, that few can even count the digit let alone imagine what it really is. We have had a raft of New labour laws that restrict the freedom of the individual. We have seen money, our money, being wasted on numerous New Labour projects that would never work and have cost a fortune.

The new government have made a start, abolishing the ID card and database fiascos, stabilising fuel prices, etc., and there will be other measures to give back freedom to individuals. This is all good news, surely?

But the press look for the differences in policy between the two parties that make up the government, rather than focusing on the things they agree upon.

So, let's give the new boys a chance. Let's not pick on the two leaders as being toffs, just because they both went to exclusive public schools - after all, would you rather have a leader who failed at an inner city sink school?

I for one want leaders who have a good education, who are intelligent and well educated.

But that's just me.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The End of Democracy As We Know It?

Lifted unashamedly from Witterings from Witney

This post may be considered presumptious and egotistical, but it is one that I feel has to be written, so with those caveats - here goes:
I am of an age that some still have to reach and having reached that age I hope that in those years I have acquired a wisdom that those younger than me still have to attain. In my life I have seen many changes, some for the better but, unfortunately, most not - especially when considering our country and the society in which we live.
Let us go back in time to the late 1950s and early 1960s, an era when compared today is so different as to be unrecognisable. This was an era when Britain was respected by the rest of the world, when a Briton visiting abroad was respected, was held to be a 'gentleman' and someone who believed in 'fair play'. World War II does not enter into this aspect of how we as a country was viewed, what does is the fact that Britain, as the 'Mother of Democracy' was respected and regarded with awe and almost jealousy. Britain, then, was a country where manners were held in high regard, where anyone older than you was treated with respect; where men who were strangers to you were addressed as 'Sir' and ladies as 'Madam'; where men gave up their seats on trains and busses to any women, regardless of her appearance; where as a child you were not only educated but taught etiquette; where parents were respected and where 'family' and family life was important. It was an era when, as a lad of 11/12 years of age I could travel from the countryside, alone, to Lords and the Oval to watch cricket; where on home from boarding school I could do a paper round and then armed with a bucket and sponge go washing cars to earn pocket money without having to ask anyone's permission, other than that of my guardians. It was an age when I did not need to be amused, I made my own amusement which caused no harm to anyone or anyone's property. It was an age when we had politicians of learning, politicians of renown and wisdom, and politicians for whom one had respect. It was an age in which Britain was regarded as an example of how a country and its people should behave. It was an age when law & order existed and where the police were active without being intrusive - and also respected. It was an age in which Britain was, relatively, prosperous and had a manufacturing base. Do not misunderstand me when I write the foregoing - I am not saying that all those customs were ideal or are necessary in today's world. It is, however, on matters of behaviour, manners and most of all freedom that a country and society must be based, if they are in turn to be respected.
Fast forward to today and what do we find - regrettably, none of the above. Our politicians are reviled and regarded as venal, unprincipled, without apparent morals and yes, even crooks - compounded by a Prime Minister and Party Leaders who deny any knowledge of the misdemeanours that have been uncovered. Our constitution has been trashed by those same politicians who now regard the electorate's vote as something which can be bought by means of promises which they have no intention of keeping and by hiding the truth. We live in an age where children are no longer educated within the meaning of the word 'educated' and have no sense of manners or respect; where our police are no longer upholders of law and order, but are now a service achieving targets; where the people have been conditioned to forego any sense of responsibilty or thought, and therefore have to rely on the state; where there is not one possession we own that has not been touched by the hand of the state in one form or another; where our politicians have subjugated this country to foreign rule, thus negating the loss of lives expended in thwarting just such an occurence from happening in ages past. We live now in an age where politicians have brought Britain to its knees, financially; that have changed - nay engineered - our society so that we now longer recognise, nor remember, our traditions; where pride in country is frowned upon as xenophobic; where opinions, other than those dictated by the state, are considered incorrect.
A few days ago I posted a comment from a widow who lamented the loss of her social life, due to the smoking ban, who had lost the will to live and begged for the courage to join her dead husband. I think I now have some idea of how she feels, in that all that from which she drew comfort, pride and pleasure has been taken from her. One similarity that we do share is that we both lack the same degree of courage.
It is not my position to tell the electorate how they should vote - suffice it to say that I can but hope they will look around them, see the devestation that has occured in our country, decide that enough is enough and vote for something different.
Apologies to all my readers for having 'wittered' for so long and thanks for reading this post, a post that at first reading may seem stupid to some of you.
I posted this essay by WFW because it sums up just how I feel, but do not have the mental agility to put it to paper - or blog.

I've got a GPS!

I acquired a satnav or GPS at Christmas. I wanted a particular make, apparently the only make that is compatible with a South African digital map organisation, T4A, which is steadily mapping the whole of Africa, but this make is more expensive than the others, so I was forced to get the base model – no matter.

So I happily played around with it, pressing the various touch-screen buttons, and then eventually read some of the user manual. This is my usual practice, reading the manual after playing with a gadget. That is, if I ever read the manual at all.

Anyway, this satnav has a facility to enter a place by its longitude and latitude coordinates.

‘Oh what fun,’ I thought, being a bit of a nerd when it comes to playing with gadgets.

I opened up GoogleEarth on my computer and found the coordinates for the main junction in Kisii, called, funnily enough, the Junction.

I pumped the coordinates into the satnav. It thought for a while and then invited me to either look at the map or start my journey. I was a little surprised.

I elected to look at the map and, to my astonishment, it showed the confluence of the A1 and B3 roads in Kisii.

‘OK,’ I thought, if you are so clever, plan me the route!

The savnav thought for quite a long time before announcing that the route was 6,392 miles and would take 127 hours and 44 minutes. It displayed a map comprising Europe and most of Africa with a magenta line wiggling across it. I was astounded. I checked the system set-up which confirmed that the only maps loaded were for UK and Northern Ireland.

The next thing for a nerd to do would be to check the route. It took me through Europe to Istanbul, Turkey, on to Ankara, then Damascus. This is where it got a bit fuzzy, through Jordan and into Israel.

From there it took me down the west bank of the Red Sea, traversing Egypt north-south, into Sudan, Ethiopia, and then Kenya, where I started to recognise town names, Marsabit, Isiolo, Nanyuki, Nakuru, Kericho and finally, Kisii.

To me, this was impressive. I saved the coordinates for Kisii Junction and wondered what other places I should put in.

I eventually decided to enter the salient points of the route from Nairobi to Kisii, there are a couple of junctions I always nearly miss when I am driving, particularly onto the B3 from the A104, and a little later where the B3 hangs a left off the Old Naivasha Road at Mai Mahiu. From there on, it is plain sailing all the way to the junction with the C23, near Sotik.

I put in Keroka, as I have a friend who lives there. I entered the coordinates for Kisumu, Kakamega and Bungoma, all places I have driven through or to, and probably will again.

Now all I have to do is to find out if it actually works in Kenya. There is not reason why it shouldn’t. The satellites are up there, just looking for my little satnav to talk to.

I will have a chance next month, when I go to Kenya to continue working on my anaerobic digester, drum up some more business and “network” with organisations in the field.

My original intention, when choosing this particular make of satnav was to also buy the CD of East African maps from Tracks4Africa and load it. But will I need to?

OK, I don’t have all the off-road tracks and minor roads on my gadget, but do I really need them? I am not going on safari. If I do hire a car to go somewhere, I will want to get there quickly and safely – and not get lost like I did on my last trip.

I expect that I will eventually get the CD and all the software that comes with it. After all, I am a bit of a nerd, but I will take my satnav with me to Kenya and see just what it has to offer me in the meantime.

And I also hope that GoogleEarth will reinstate the Tracks4Africa overlay that used to be available.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Bucket List - Things To Do Before I Die - expanded

Taken from a previous post and expanded

Earlier, I wrote that my proposed overland driving trip to Kenya was one of the things I want to do before I die, and I could not think of anything else that falls into this category.

But now I have thought of something else I would really like to do. I would love to see the Rio Carnival.

So, having started, I am going to try to make a list of ten things to go on my bucket list:
  1. Drive from the UK to Kenya (and back?). Still in the dream stage, but with some planning carried out. But I doubt that I will actually get around to it.
  2. Visit the Maasai Mara/Serengeti - why have't I already?
  3. Attend the annual Rhino Charge 4x4 - again, why have't I already?
  4. Go to Rio for the Carnival
  5. Visit the Far East. A hike taking in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, etc. would be good.
  6. Attend the Notting Hill Carnival - should be easy enough and would be a good substitute for 4 above.
These are, of course my dreams, things I would like to do, but which I am unlikely to achieve.

But that got me thinking about what I would like to achieve. So here we go:
  1. Design and build a cheap, easy to use, anaerobic digester, and introduce it throughout rural Kenya to give everyone the choice to have clean, free cooking fuel.
  2. Perfect a system that will cut fuel consumption for vehicles.
  3. Give Simon the gift of hearing - I have had several hearing aids donated to me for this purpose.
  4. Offer worthwhile training to Rister so that she will be able to support herself and her family when she leaves school.
  5. Offer residential care to the Twiga children that want or need it
  6. Build up a business that is successful enough to support the workers and volunteers at KCIS
  7. Improve the Twiga vegetable plot so that there is enough food to support all the children, all year round.
  8. Climb Mount Kenya (and maybe Kilimanjaro and Meru as well).
There are more, but they are still fuzzy ideas that have no real formulation as to how to achieve them. The above are achievable, given the right circumstances.

Then, there are things that are beyond my control, but which I would like to see before I depart this Earth:
  1. A cheap and effective treatment for HIV/AIDS
  2. ditto for malaria
  3. An end of corruption in government - everywhere (this is more of a fantasy, it will never happen).

Friday, 23 April 2010

Freecycle & Freegle

What a wonderful scheme Freecycle is!

For those who have not seen it, it is a way of getting rid of stuff you no longer want, but which still has life left in it, so someone else might like to use it - anything from furniture to odds & sods.

I use it regularly to get things for the kids at the Twiga Children's Centre in Kisii, Kenya.

The last time I was  there, all the kids wanted to listen to the two or three music tracks on my cell phone, so the battery was often discharged by the time I wanted to use it. So I asked the Freecyclers if they had any walkmans they no longer wanted.

I have so far received a walkman, and two portable CDs, loads of music CDs and some tapes.

Having a deaf child on the Twiga register, I also asked for people's old hearing aids, and have received six! Obviously, I don't know if they will be any good for Simon, but if we don't try, we will never know.

In the past, we have received toys and clothes from Freecyclers, all of which have given a lot of joy to the children.

So, I give A** 10/10 to the Freecycle scheme (I include Newbury Freegle in this - it started out in the Freecycle scheme, but broke away, but is still going strong).

Thank you to all who have donated stuff for the kids.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Blogging Scarce

Blogging could be a little scarce for a while for several reasons:

  1. Real life is getting in the way of my e-life, demanding that I get off my ... er ... seat and get out of the house;
  2. My DSL router is a bit flaky, and I lose connection more than I find it
  3. Nothing much has happened. The volcanic dust hasn't affected me as I'm not going anywhere in the near future, the election campaign passes me by as I live in a Tory safe seat and it doesn't much matter what I think or how I vote, it won't make any difference (which isn't to say that I will not vote).
So, until I find myself in front of my computer at a moment of inspiration and I also have Internet connection, I won't have a lot to say - sorry.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Before And After

BEFORE (as I bought it)

AFTER (as it is today)

Looks a bit better now, doesn't it? (And it's legal)

Kisii, What Is There For The Tourist?

As my regular reader will know, my second home is in Kisii, in the Western Highlands of Kenya. It is a provincial town of some 70,000 souls, bustling, vibrant, perhaps a little chaotic, busy, colourful.

I know what I think of the place - I love it, and I feel that it should be brought to the attention of other visitors to Kenya, but why? What is in and around Kisii to attract tourists?

Obviously, there are the soapstone quarries at Tabaka, with the artisan stone carvers making trinkets and ornaments from the stone, but what else?

To my mind, it is a good staging point, a R&R between safaris, placed as it is between the Maasai Mara and Kisumu - far better to go to Kisii than return to Nairobi, only to double back to go to Lake Victoria and the points beyond, surely. There are good hotels in Kisii, so accommodation is not a problem.

But is there anything else? There are hills all around. Are there any trekking trails?

So, if you know the area, if you are Gusii, please let me know. What do you think there is in Kisii that could attract a few tourists and get them to spend some money in and around the town?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A Popular Kenyan Song - Malaika

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.             Angel, I love you Angel.
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,         What should I do, your lover?
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,               I don't have any money
                                                          (LITERALLY:  I'm defeated by wealth, I don't have any.)
Ningekuoa Malaika.                           I would marry you, Angel.
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Ningekuoa Malaika.

Pesa zasumbua roho yangu                 Money is troubling my soul
Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,
Ningekuoa Malaika.
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Ningekuoa Malaika.

Kidege, hukuwaza kidege.                  Little bird, I always dream of you, little bird,
Kidege, hukuwaza kidege.
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio,
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Ningekuoa kidege.
Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Ningekuoa kidege.

UK Election? What for?

What are we voting for on May 6th? Why do we need a Government at all? Below is a list (not exhaustive) of the responsibilities our last Government signed away to the European Union.
We were promised by our last Government that we would be allowed a vote as to whether we should sign away all these, but we didn't get it.
  • Competition
  • Trade
  • Asylum and Immigration
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Industrial Policy
  • Agriculture
  • Fisheries
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Regional Government
  • Consumer Health
  • Social and Employment Policy
  • Justice and Home Affairs.
So, why do we need a Government, made up of self-serving trough-scoffers, claiming expenses for second homes, £400 a month on food, and working in the only building in the UK where people are allowed to smoke whilst drinking their taxpayer-subsidised booze and eating in their taxpayer-subsidised restaurant?

There is little left for them to do, so let's call it a day. 

Ten people working 3 days a week should cover what remains of their responsibilities.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Our National Debt - In Real Time

Below is our national debt and it is increasing at a frightening rate!

Labour's Manifesto Pledges Not Subject to Legitimate Expectation

Labour has released their manifesto, outlining what they intend to do should they win the upcoming election - or not.

Speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister at Brighton County Court, Miss Cecelia Ivimy, Gordon Brown's legal representative, said that "manifesto pledges are not subject to legitimate expectation."
Oh well ...

Thursday, 8 April 2010

My (Old) New Car

OK, so I've had it a couple of days now, driving around the village to see what it goes like, and I have to say that it is a nippy little machine. It is also reasonably comfortable and so far, has not let me down.

But ... but (there is always a 'but'), today, I found a major fault with it.

I went to do the weekly food shopping at our local superstore (which for my Kenyan readers, makes Nakumatt look like a corner kiosk). To give you an idea, the car park takes 1,200+ cars, and it is often at least half-full.

And that is where the problem is. My previous car was an MPV, (again, for my Kenyan readers, rather like a matatu), and was easy to spot in a sea of 800 cars. Now, I have a small hatchback that looks the same as every other hatchback (which are very popular here), so finding the car was, er, difficult. So I had to walk around the car park, pushing my trolley to find my new car. I couldn't remember the index number and I was only vaguely aware of what it looks like. It is just a dark blue hatchback, like about 50% of the other cars there.

Obviously, I found it eventually, and have made a mental note to make sure I park next to or near a landmark on my next shopping trip. Today, it was not too bad. The sun is out and it is warm (17°C - OK, I know that is not warm by Kenyan standards, but here, it is bliss).

All the shopping fitted into the car without problem, so it has passed that test. Maybe I ought to tie a couple of helium balloons onto it next time.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

My New Old, or maybe, Old New Car

It's a bit strange. I am used to driving automatic transmission Isuzu Troopers, Nissan Terranos, Pajeros, Transits and Mazda Bongos, so getting into a manual transmission Subaru Justy is odd. I can't see over the car in front and the door mirrors are so small that I can't even see them!

I'll get used to it, I'm sure. I will have to. This is my new mode of transport.

It needs a bit of fixing. It had been owned by a 19 year old, so it has been modified a bit, notably both rear wings are slightly concave, but a dent puller will sort that out.

It needs a front number plate, a passenger seatbelt and a few nuts and bolts to be replaced to stop various bits rattling. I should replace the exhaust. The car sounds like an Impreza at the moment, but that can wait for a while.

But it goes. The brakes work, the tyres are good (ish), the engine and steering work and it has 6 months on the MoT.

The best of all is that the VEL is almost half the cost of my last car, as is the fuel consumption. So I should recuperate the £100 I paid for it in next to no time, as long as I don't incur any expensive repair bills.

All in all, and despite my bum dragging along the road (or so it seems), I think I will quite like this little car.

New Elderly Care Programme Offers Hope**

**Unashamedly pinched from Dick Puddlecote who pinched it from somewhere else

The Government has refused proper health care to many elderly citizens due to their advancing years. It is a worrying problem for many but help is at hand.

Join the new free care plan today. If you are 60 years or older, you can apply. All new members will receive a gun and four bullets.

You are allowed to shoot one MP (two if you live in England), one MEP, one councillor and, just to be sure of a long sentence, someone you really don't like and think the world could do without.

As part of the plan, you will leave enough evidence to make sure of being caught, and, in due course, sent to prison.

There you will get a safe centrally heated environment, three meals a day, lots of company, free TV and an assortment of games, plus - most importantly - all the health care you need!

New teeth needed? No problem.

New glasses? They'll be provided.

New hip, knees, kidney, lung, heart? They're all covered too.

And who will pay for all of this? The same government that told you they can't afford your current health care.

And as an added bonus, because you are a prisoner, you don't have to pay income tax anymore.

Smoking allowed inside.

Britain. A GREAT country or what?

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Election Posters

The election still hasn't been announced, but the posters are appearing all over the place, especially the Internet ...

This is an unofficial poster - but I like it. I have been saying this for a long time.

This is the official Labour Government's poster

... and this is a Tory spoof on the above.

Another unofficial poster

Would going back to the 80s be such a bad thing? What do I remember of the eighties?

In the 80s, an offender would be arrested. Now, the victim stands a good chance of being arrested for protecting him/herself.

In the eighties, nobody was arrested, fined, tagged and curfewed for selling a goldfish to anyone.

In the eighties, you could sit in the park on a sunny day with one bottle of beer and nobody minded. You could even sit there and drink until your eyes melted and as long as you did it without bothering anyone else, nobody minded. (Thanks, Leg Iron)

In the eighties, you could sit in a pub and smoke and nobody minded. Nobody died from it either. You could also sit in the beer garden of pubs that had them, have a beer and a smoke and nobody quivered in terror if a little bit of smoke drifted their way once in a while. Back then it was not actually illegal to smoke in a laboratory but it was rarely tolerated, because it just wasn't a sensible thing to do. It didn't need to be illegal. (Thanks again, Leg Iron)

There are so many things that were better in the 80s. So, Mr Brown, let Dave take us back there!

Plans Afoot ... or Just Dreams?

What am I going to do when I next get out to Kenya? What dreams and plans are buzzing through my head?

With difficulty, I have to sort all that I want to do into an order of importance, so I suppose the top of the list (and potentially the most expensive) project is to complete and improve (or improve and complete?) the anaerobic digester so that we have a storage tank of methane that can be used for cooking. As the present anaerobic digester works well enough, it only needs a pressure regulated, safe storage tank to complete it.

When it works well, we can go commercial. I am sure that hotels and restaurants would welcome free cooking gas.

Next, I am in the process of designing a see-saw that will also act as a water pump. Why shouldn't kids have fun while they are pumping water up from the borehole?

I would like to build a barbecue at the Twiga Centre - I can smell the nyama choma already!

Other projects? Well, I want to try making a clay food cooler and a clay oven. All I need is a source for the clay.

Then, large scale organic waste recycling is on the list. The idea is to make compost from all the waste found at the markets and along the roadside where hawkers sell their wares. This can be sold to raise funds for other projects - well, that's the idea, anyway. The logistics are a little more complicated than with other projects, but it can be done, with a little help from my friends.

I think a month in Kenya is not going to be long enough ...

Friday, 2 April 2010

Election Fever

We in the UK are due a General Election sometime before the end of June, and it seems that the pundits are backing 6th May for the date when the great British unwashed choose a new Government (or not).

However, reading the various political blogs, as I do, you would think that the campaign is already under way. The bloggers that I follow (from the three major parties and a few from the smaller parties) are at fever pitch, selling their various wares as to how they would repair the damage done by Gordon Brown and his allies.

But there are some, the more cynical, who are looking for reasons why Gordon Brown could put off calling an election at all. He has already stated that, even if Labour do not gain an absolute majority, he will continue as Prime Minister, so taking that a step further, if he could find a reason, some catastrophe, real or imagined, he would refuse to stand for election (he cannot stand for re-election as Prime Minister as he was never elected to the post in the first place).

Personally, I would not be unhappy if Labour suffered a resounding defeat and Gordon Brown failed to retain his seat in Glasgow, casting him to political oblivion - but that's just me.

The problem faced by the electorate is not how to get rid of Gordon, that's easy, but with whom do we replace him? There is only one real choice, by default, as there is only one other party that is likely to win enough seats. Or we could vote so that no one is a clear winner, forcing a coalition between one major party and one or two smaller ones, which would presumably include The Liberal Democrats. Fine, as long as Vince Cable is not allowed to become Chancellor.

I am in the happy position of living in a rural constituency, where the smaller parties do not or cannot place a candidate, so I only have to choose from the three, and maybe some loony independent. It is a Conservative stronghold with a Member of Parliament, Sir George Young, who seems to do his job well enough, with no scandal, no skeletons.

So, come on Gordon, announce a date, dissolve Parliament and let's get the event over and done with, because as far as I am concerned, the lead up to an election is about as interesting as watching paint dry.

Monday, 29 March 2010

A Message From Gordon Brown, MP

Treatment for HIV Being Missed?

From the BBC website
The opportunity to save tens of thousands of HIV patients with a simple, cheap, drug treatment is being missed, say researchers.
According to this article on the BBC website, administering a certain antibiotic would significantly reduce the death toll in the early stages of the disease, possibly halving the mortality rate.

This treatment is endorsed by the WHO, but people are not being given the drug, co-trimoxazole. The pharmaceutical battle against HIV has been on antiretroviral drugs, which can greatly extend life and probably earn the pharmaceutical companies a lot more money, but that's just cynical old me.

The addition of co-trimoxazole, an inexpensive antibiotic, to the long-term treatment plan of those with the worst affected immune systems appears to prevent many deaths.

A study carried out among 3,179 Ugandan patients, suggested a fall of 59% over the first 12 weeks, and 44% between 12 and 72 weeks.

Dr Alvaro Bermejo, the executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, said, "We need to remember that there are still millions of people in Africa who need antiretrovirals and can't access them.

"In Uganda the Alliance is seeing people turned away from clinics because they don't have the treatment available.

"As the study confirms, antiretroviral treatment cuts the risk of death by more than 90% - with co-trimoxazole reducing the risk still further.

"We have the knowledge available to save lives but we need to increase efforts to make sure that everyone who needs treatment can actually access it."

Read the full BBC article HERE

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

To the People of Haiti, I apologise

Shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, Gordon Brown announced that he had "purchased all of the UK’s available corrugated iron sheets to provide shelters for victims of the Haiti earthquake".

So far, so good. UK doing what it can for the people of Haiti, wouldn't you say?

The move would provide ‘2,000 homeless families in Haiti with hurricane proof shelter’. Still so far, so good, yes?

OK, 2,000 out of approximately 150,000 homeless families isn't everything, but at least Britain was doing its bit.

Then we find out that the total purchase was 5,700 sheets. What? The total stock of corrugated iron in the UK (who invented the stuff) is a mere 5,700 sheets? You have got to be joking!

It took some time to get to the bottom of this one. Several of the largest corrugated iron manufacturers were  contacted.
One, just one of many manufacturers stated that they had £250,000 worth in their yard right now and that there must be a million sheets in stock in the UK.

So, a pretty universal derision at the initial statement from our Gordon!

You may be homeless, you may be in desperate straits, but there are rules and regulations to be abided by, according to DfID …

"Britain has International agreements which govern the size and thickness of the corrugated sheets we are allowed to donate. Anything else would apparently cause confusion as you attempt to shelter from the rain and the winds under a collection of sheets that were not altogether uniform in size with those arriving from, say France, or the USA. You might not care about such things, but the civil servants in charge of these matters do."

What Gordon Brown meant to say was, “2,000 Haiti families will be sheltering under precisely 2 and 8/10th of a sheet each of the only corrugated iron currently in stock by one particular manufacturer that meets the tensile strength and size requirements laid down by bored civil servants at some time in the past and I consider this something worth boasting about”.

Does he? Really? Or is he just a bloody liar - again.

So, to the people of Haiti, I apologise for the shabby treatment that our Prime Minister has meted out to you. 

I am ashamed.

H/T to Anna Raccoon

Air Fares

Just been through the websites for the 3 airlines that serve Nairobi, Virgin, Kenya Airways and BA. Prices are sky high!

So I guess I won't be going out to Kenya for a while, especially after the heavy month we have had; £100 hospital fees for one little girl who had malaria and pneumonia and the cost of getting a Gusii girl relocated from Maasailand back to Kisii.

Oh well, it seems I can do quite a lot from my chair in the UK, so I will just have to continue until the money fairy waves her wand over my wallet.

Who'd Have Thought It?

On the local radio station this morning - "Rain will be light, but it will be wet."

Who would have thought it?

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Sound Of Silence

Simon is about eight years old. He is a stocky, healthy-looking child with an open face and ready smile, but he is deaf. I don’t know quite how deaf he is. If I clap my hands loudly enough, he will sometimes hear it (or sense the air pressure?), and if I make a loud, high-pitched sound with a reed, he will hear that. In fact, he gets quite excited when he hears it, which leads me to believe that he doesn’t hear much else.

When Simon was a baby, about five months old, he contracted malaria. As far as I know, he was taken to hospital and treated, but then lost his hearing. I don’t know if this loss was as a result of the malaria, the treatment or coincidence – I am not a doctor.

So, Simon is deaf. As he lost his hearing at such an early age, he has never learned to talk. He makes sounds, but I don’t know if he can hear them. He knows that when he makes a sound, people will look at him and he can then sign to them, or use facial expressions to convey something.

As is common in Africa, Simon appears to be left to his own devices by his family. Children with “disabilities” are not useful. In fact, some can be considered a burden on the family, something that depletes already scarce resources such as food. I am not saying that Simon is treated as a burden, but he is often seen wandering around when other children are at school.

We believe that Simon is bright. He shows an aptitude for photography. For a child of his age, he takes well-framed, in-focus photos. He is fascinated with photography and understands how to use the different functions of the camera when shown.

We would love to help Simon, but we do not have medical people on our staff, and we don’t have the financial resources to have his hearing (or lack of) tested.
  • Would Simon benefit from a hearing aid? 
  • Is his condition reversible? 
  • If I take an old, discarded hearing aid to Kenya, will it do any good? 
We don’t know. I don’t suppose any doctor would like to hazard a guess without examining the child, but that is what I want you to do, hazard a guess as to why Simon is deaf and whether there is anything that can be done for him.

It is a shame; Kisii has an excellent school for the deaf, run by the deaf. But we cannot afford to send Simon there, and his family certainly can’t, so we will try to glean some authoritative guesses from the medical profession and work from there.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Free What ... ?

Having put the few thimbles full of diesel that I can still afford into the car, I went to pay. As I paid, the cashier said, "Do you want free sausage rolls?"

My ears pricked up. "Free" is my favourite four-letter, F-word.

I followed his pointing finger to a basket with the ticket stating, "Sausage Rolls - 3 for £1.00"

I was disappointed, but I remembered a discussion on the local BBC radio about whether spelling, syntax and pronunciation is important these days. Well, I guess this episode proves that it is!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Waste, Graft and Corruption

I have read various accusations and counter-accusations regarding the efforts of Band Aid to raise money to alleviate the Ethiopian drought, and how that money was diverted (or not) to buy arms.

I read that NGOs and other organisations are going around the Third World sinking boreholes in villages to give them easy access to clean water, but make little or no provision for maintaining the boreholes or the pumps needed to extract the water, rendering their work a total waste of time and money - donation money.

And it makes me mad to see the money of good people, given in the hope that they are making a real difference to less fortunate than themselves, tipped down a bottomless pit - or pocket. I applaud the donors, but I curse those people who misuse the money, either through lack of research or pure greed. It's all the same to me.

But we, the charitable organisations should be a little more careful with this money. It is not ours to waste, any more than the taxes collected by governments become the money of those governments to squander on nice houses, big cars and other "necessary" expenses to keep them in a high lifestyle at the expense of the people who employ them, the population of the country they serve.

It is not just the big charities who are guilty. I was asked to work for an NGO registered in Kenya and I accepted, until I found out that the main activity of this NGO was to convince British charities to provide them with computers, supposedly for schools. Needless to say, the computers never saw the inside of a school, but were instead sold on the open market and the money pocketed by the head of the NGO.

I quickly disassociated myself from the NGO in question.

We, that is KCIS, have been asked on occasion to check out supposed local organisations making claims from charitable foundations. Our enquiries have usually found that the claimants are making false statements in order to obtain funds.

We know of a charity in the UK, which is totally above-board, but whose local officials are fiddling the books and pocketing large amounts of money sent to them to build and refurbish schools. Instead, the officials have very nice houses.

What can be done about this intolerable situation? I don't have an answer.

Our organisation doesn't receive much money, just a few pounds here and a few dollars there. We have a director who is both a trustee of the charity in the UK and a director of the NGO in Kenya. The staff in Kenya are dedicated. We do not have a problem with money being siphoned off.

We see wastage at all levels and dream of what we could achieve with a fraction of the money, compounds full of 4x4 vehicles that are never used, charity workers in Nairobi driving around in high-end cars to and from the offices ... anyone in any capital of any developing country will see it.

We  can only dream of what we could achieve with a fraction of this wasted money.

Monday, 15 March 2010

How Old Do You Feel?

I have been bombarded with literature (adverts) from SAGA. For those who don't know, SAGA is a company that offers a host of services for over-fifties, such as car insurance, holidays, etc. It is not necessarily the cheapest or best, but it is tailored for the over fifties - so I was annoyed, very annoyed, until I realised that I was over fifty.

Now, I am approaching the age when I will be entitled to a free bus pass, that is, sixty. When this was pointed out to me by a "friend", I told him that he was mistaken - but he wasn't. In June I will be of that age.

So I would be able to travel for free - if only we had a decent bus service.

The problem is, I don't feel sixty. I don't even feel fifty.

OK, I admit that the body isn't as supple as it was, but then it never has been that supple. I suffer back problems, which I believe were caused by an incident when I was a serving police officer - many years ago.

I suffer from osteo-arthritis due to having broken my ankle in the early 90s. Both injuries were incurred long before I was fifty.

I am happy to delude myself about my age. I am as old as I feel, surely? And it is a nasty shock when I receive literature from SAGA to remind me that I am mortal and that my age number is creeping up.

It is also a shock when I realise that the average life expectancy for a man is 77 years. Now that makes me feel old!

Things I Will Say To My Mum Today ...

Taking a leaf out of the Millennium Housewife's book (or blog)

Good morning, Mum
It's Monday
Do you want toast or Museli?
Marmalade or honey?
It's Monday
You asked for honey.
I am sure you did.
It's still Monday
Yes, you take all the pills after breakfast.
Yes, all at the same time.
Look at the top of the paper, it's Monday
I am not shouting.
Put your hearing aids in.
Both of them
Well don't moan if you can't hear me then
It's Monday
Do you want some lunch?
Ham sandwiches
Yes, you can have them toasted
I did ask you if you wanted ham sandwiches.
Well, I've made them now
It's Monday, all day
Do you want a cup of tea?
No, I'll make it (under breath - I want it today)
We've having pork chops and something
No, there's nothing you can do, it's all under control
I'm doing pork chops
No, there's nothing to do. I've got it all under control
Those are pork chops
I'm going to grill them
No, under the grill
No, I've got everything under control
Just go and sit down. I will bring it in to you.
No, don't eat a cake now, you won't eat you dinner
You won't
Dinner will be in five minutes
See, I told you not to eat that cake.
I'm not surprised. You rarely finish your dinner
Because you eat cake just before I serve up.
Yes you do
OK, no you don't
No, I am not in a mood
Do you want a cup of tea?
No, I'll make it.
It's Monday.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

What Joined Up Thinking Can Do In Kenya

The idea was to put an electrified fence around the Aberdares Conservation Area.

  • To stop wildlife marauding onto farm land outside the fence
  • To protect the farming communities and their crops that border the fence.
  • To curb illegal log extraction.
  • To promote harmony between wildlife and local farmers.
  • To prevent illegal entry into the Conservation Area.
So why is the Aberdares so important?
  • One in three Kenyan's livelihood is dependent in some way upon the rainfall, rivers, forest and wildlife of the Aberdares - one of the nation's largest mountain ranges
  • Five out of Kenya's seven largest rivers flow north, west, east and south providing hydro power and water to millions of farmers and seven of Kenya's twelve towns.
  • The people of the nation's capital, Nairobi - over 3 million - are entirely dependent on water from the Aberdares
  • Over 30% of the nation's tea production and 70% of its coffee is grown on its foothills and high slopes
  • Over one million farmers living on its lower slopes depend upon its rich soils and rainfall.
  • It is one of the largest indigenous forests in East Africa.
  • Its wildlife is profuse. It is the home of several thousand elephant, and buffalo, forest antelope, leopard, the rare and endangered giant forest hog, the largest known number of the highly endangered mountain bongo and over 270 species of birds
  • It is one of the surviving strongholds of the Black Rhino in a truly wild habitat
  • The Aberdare National Park within the 2,000 square kilometres of the of the Aberdare Conservation Area is one of Kenya 's prime national parks. It is the place where Britain 's Queen Elizabeth stayed on the night she became a monarch
  • Two world renowned game lodges - Treetops and The Ark enable thousands annually to see Black Rhino and hosts of other wild animals in this natural habitat and at very close quarters
The project, a joint venture between the KWS and the Rhino Ark charity is now complete. Farmers with shambas on the edge of the conservation area are very pleased. Elephants and other animals can no longer raid their crops.

The black rhino, the bongo amongst some of the rare breeds of Kenya are protected. Indigenous forest is protected and the water table is protected.

Job done!

Well, no, not quite. There is still a lot to do, not least of which is maintenance, and other expenses like the wardens' salaries, etc. Rhino Ark are building huts for the wardens, and there is a need for small 4x4 vehicles.

But, look at the achievement, almost 400 km of electrified fence erected around a mountain range.

This is what can be done when Kenyans, ordinary Kenyans, not politicians, organise themselves in a worthwhile project.

Now, how about doing the same for the Mau?

For more details of what Rhino Ark and The KWS have achieved, visit the Rhino Ark website.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Abused Kisii Girl Needs Urgent Sponsorship

Originally posted on KCIS blog

The Twiga Children's Centre has  today been informed that if Esther (13), a Gusii girl who is lodged at an orphanage in Kajiado is not taken in by Twiga Children's Centre very soon, she will be taken back to her parents.

This is not good news. Esther's parents sent her out to work as a house girl, where she suffered beatings and other cruelty in the hands of her employer. This will happen again if we do not offer Esther accommodation.

We need a sponsor who can help this girl to lead a normal life, attend school and regain the right to be a child.

3,000 Kenyan shillings (about UK£26.00 or US$40.00) a month will ensure that Esther is placed with a caring family, is fed, clothed and attends school.

Please, is there someone who will help us to rescue this girl from a life of abuse by donating 3,000/- a month?

You can donate through PayPal, or you can contact Vincent at the Twiga Centre in Kisii.

Previous Post:
Twiga Children's Centre has been contacted by an orphanage in Kajiado, asking if we can take one of their children, a girl called Esther.
Esther (13) was transferred to the Kajiado Children's Home from another orphanage, but she is of the Gusii tribe and there is no one in Kajiado who speaks the Abagusii language, and she does not speak the Maasai language. Naturally, Esther is very unhappy and wants to return to her traditional homeland of Kisii.
We would be happy to help and to make this child happy, but we really are stretched financially.
If anyone reading this can help by sponsoring Esther so that she can return to her people, please do not hesitate to contact us at Twiga Children's Centre through our website.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

What is £1 Worth?

I have just checked the UK pound against the Kenyan Shilling, as I do from time to time. Today I checked it because I read that in Zimbabwe, you could trade UK pounds against the Z$.

So I checked the pound against the shilling and found that it has dropped about 5/-. OR, put another way, the pound has lost between 4% and 5% against the Kenyan Shilling!

So, we are losing out against the US$, the Euro, the Kenyan Shilling even the Zimbabwe dollar!

Oh happy days!

Never A Good Time

Why is it that when I am under the desk with my head stuck inside an errant computer, the phone rings?

And why is it, when I answer it, it is either a cold sales call, or someone wanting a chat?

And why is it that the person wanting a chat does not understand when you answer rather abruptly?

And is it me, or am I the only person who prefers to receive work-related calls during working hours (I am self-employed and people calling for a chat blocks the line)?

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cattle Feed

This article was sent to me:

Studies have shown that the nutrients in water hyacinth are available to ruminants. In Southeast Asia some nonruminant animals are fed rations containing water hyacinth. In China pig farmers boil chopped water hyacinth with vegetable waste, rice bran, copra cake and salt to make a suitable feed. In Malaysia fresh water hyacinth is cooked with rice bran and fishmeal and mixed with copra meal as feed for pigs, ducks and pond fish. Similar practices are much used in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand (National Academy of Sciences, 1976). The high water and mineral content mean that it is not suited to all animals.
The use of water hyacinth for animal feed in developing countries could help solve some of the nutritional problems that exist in these countries. Animal feed is often in short supply and although humans cannot eat water hyacinth directly, [although it can be cooked and eaten - ed] they can feed it to cattle and other animals which can convert the nutrient into useful food products for human consumption.

Feed the Cattle

I was reading a back issue of the Standard the other day, where it was describing how cattle in the Isiolo region were dying because there was no cattle feed.

Regular readers know that Baba Mzungu, with Kenyan community Initiative Support has met up with Salim Shaban of the African Christian Organnization Network, who are researching ways of using harvested water hyacinth taken from Lake Victoria at Kisumu.

I have also read that water hyacinth is fine as cattle feed, so I put the two together and wondered why the weed was not transported to areas where cattle are suffering due to lack of grazing or silage.

If the KWS can transport 1,000 zebra half-way across the country to feed starving lions, I am sure that someone, somewhere can shift a few tons of dried water hyacinth from Kisumu to Isiolo or other areas where it is needed.

Well, can't they?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Change the Name!

A friend of mine in Kisii would like to buy up a recently closed business close to her home. But she needs to borrow the money to get started.

I think that a change of name would be the first step - but that's just me. What do you think?

Does Shabby have a different meaning in Kenya?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Kenyan Birds of a Feather

A selection of photos of birds I saw in Kisii in November/December 2009