Fighting Poverty in Marsabit
It’s one of Kenya’s most beautiful counties, blessed with rich cultures, wildlife and landscapes that are a treat for anyone venturing into northern Kenya. Malnutrition, poor agricultural practices and poor infrastructure have invited poverty and left the residents of Marsabit unable to take advantage of economic opportunities as vast as the county. FH Kenya have stepped in to change this.
In September 2017, I travelled to my favourite county to document what FH Kenya was doing in partnership with the government and other organisations to eradicate poverty.
Our first stop was Saku in Marsabit town. Here I got to see how a modern water kiosk has given residents a reliable source of water, meaning they spend less time searching and queueing for water, and more time engaging in economic activities.
This is the former water kiosk.
This is the current one.
A token system is used to dispense the water, bringing accountability and drastically reducing wastage of water. Before the water kiosk wa refurbished, Paulina Sere used to get at most 5 jerrycans of water a week. Today, with a refurbished water works and computerised water dispensing, she’s guaranteed to fetch 10 jerrycans a week.
Florida and her son at Saku Water Kiosk.
“Mwarv, what f-stop are you shooting at?”
The modern water kiosk has brought more business for motorcycle taxi operators like Juma Baba who makes on average Kshs2,500/- (US $25) a day from transporting jerrycans of water for clients.
The water kiosk is run by Saku Welfare Group for the Disabled, of which Ali Abdi Godana is the chairman.
From Saku we travelled a few kilometres north-east of Marsabit town to Dirib, where another modern water kiosk is planned.
This is the current situation. Women and children have to queue for long and there’s a lot of wastage of time and water. This will soon be a thing of the past.
Not far from the kiosk, I met members of a local youth group cultivating vegetables on their land.
I’m always encouraged to see young people like Jarso Huka choosing agriculture while age-mates move to towns to look for desk jobs. Kenya’s food security lies in the hands of Jarso and his group members.
From Dirib, we descended from the heights of Mt Marsabit’s fertile soils, to the semi-arid Logologo, which sits on the A2, 30 minutes south of Marsabit. In Ilbarok Village, I found myself in a daze, surrounded by a mass of green in the middle of the desert.
This is Ilbarok Village, a cluster of homesteads that from afar don’t seem to have much going on for them.
And this is the Ilbarok Women Group Demo Farm. No photoshop here: that is green, in the middle of the desert!
In the farm, we have huge melons…
…and spinach growing in the shed houses.
The green you saw in the aerial photo above is moringa, a highly nutritious vegetable that has transformed the health of Ilbarok’s residents.
Ntisia Kukuton harvesting some of that healthy spinach.
Ntisia Kukuton and her children enjoying a meal of moringa and ugali at her home.
Pastor Elias Kithinji and Purity Kathure have been the key drivers of the transformation in Ilbarok. They came to Logologo around ten years ago as missionaries. This was before a tarmac road existed so vegetables were hard to come by. This affected their health and their ability to spread the Good News. They knew something had to change.
Wait, why am I writing? Watch the video below.
Thanks to the support received from FH Kenya and partner organisations, the residents of Ilbarok have enhanced agri-nutrition knowledge, alternative crop products when animal products are limited, and have adopted agri business as an alternative to pastoralism.
From Logologo, we travelled north of Marsabit town, on one of the straightest and flattest stretches of tarmac I’ve been on, and ended up in Sololo, small town sheltered by hills and bordering Ethiopia.
I was here to tell the story of Darara Self Help Group and the transforming power of saving money in groups.
Darara SHG started with each member saving as little as Kshs40/- (US $ 0.40). With the money saved, members of the group bought household supplies at wholesale price, and distributed them among themselves. The excess supplies were sold to other members of the community for a profit.
It’s a savings model that has grown their savings from Kshs2,000/- (US $ 20) in their first month to Kshs246,720/- (US $2,460) as of September 2017!
Galgalo Waqo is the chairman of Darara SHG. I took this portrait using available light in his home in Waye Godha. He really encouraged me : while other men his age mostly sit under trees waiting for the trumpet call, he has mobilised residents of Waye Godha to save in small quantities and today, more than a dozen self-help groups exist because of his leadership.
Zainabu Galgalo, a member of Darara SHG, sells bar soap to Dabo Waqo and Kula Galgalo outside her home in Waye Godha.
Tume Roba, a member of Darara SHG, sells groceries inside her home in Waye Godha.
Here’s Darara SHG’s story.
From Sololo we headed west, travelling along Kenya’s border with Ethiopia, across Chalbi Desert’s northern reaches, ending up in North Horr, one of the oldest commercial centres in Marsabit.
Here, the sun sets with the light but leaves it’s heat behind. Hotel rooms don’t have glass windows, but are covered with reeds to keep them cool in the night.
A peek through the reeds reveals constellations that are guaranteed to leave you in awe.
At day break, we joined a team of health workers taking vaccines, immunisations and nutrition supplements to residents who would otherwise have to walk for hours across vast sand-filled plains in 40-degree heat to their health facility.
On the way there, I got to see the effects of the drought that had gripped parts of northern Kenya.
With poor road infrastructure and no health facilities for miles, FH Kenya works with partners to deliver much needed health services to residents living in hard to reach corners of Marsabit County.
A mother receives nutritional supplements from Robert Tune, a Ministry of Health Nutritionist.
Here’s a short film I did about the interventions.
We left North Horr and headed back east towards Marsabit town.
It took us one hour to cross the Chalbi, East Africa’s only true desert.
Back in Marsabit, we visited a well that was due for rehabilitation.
The well is a source of water for humans and livestock.
Residents come from far to fetch water here.
They carry it home on donkeys…
…and their backs.
It was a great time being in Marsabit, made even greater by witnessing teams from government and private organisations working to help residents of Marsabit fight poverty.
You too can be part of this journey to lift people out of unimaginable hardships not just in Marsabit, but in other corners of the world.
You can give to FH interventions here.