Area Served Narrative
Vihiga, a county found in the western part of Kenya covers about 600 km2. This area has a population density of more than 100 people per km2, as per the year 2009 census. The area is accessible by road i.e.
Kisumu –Kakamega road,
Luanda –Majengo –Chavakali – Eldoret road and many other feeder roads in this area.
The area receives normal rainfall through out the year, but heavy rains always appear during the first half of the year, however we have had drastic changes in the climatic patterns, with the area experiencing unprecedented long dry spell of sunshine or unexpected heavy and/ or sometimes lighter rains for a prolonged length of time.
Our main beneficiaries in this case comprises of the needy and the vulnerable, that form the lowest cadre of the society, making up to 65% of the general population .These are people found below the life ladder, only surviving on less than a dollar per day. The main source of livelihoods here is subsistence farming, where apart from farming, there is no other major reliable source of livelihood, even the same farming is faced with a lot more of challenges in that due to high population growth, the small pieces of land have continued to be subjected to extensive sub-division, where as small as 0.1 hectare piece of land for instance is expected to provide livelihood to a family as big as 16 people, to an extend that the much smaller pieces of plots are no longer reliable thereby bringing about a lot more of other problems, such that accessing most of the basic needs remains a nightmare, bearing in mind that these people do not have proper education that can guarantee them good employment.
One of the major concerns with our beneficiaries is that they do not know how to create wealth, whereby even after spending all the time and energy they still find it difficult to provide themselves with even a bare minimum of the basic needs, meaning that their activities in relation to their efforts towards satisfying needs and wants remains questionable, in that they do not well match the extend and strengths of their needs, leave alone even their wants. In this regards therefore, one
would find a series of inter-connected problems e.g. increasing poverty; misery; famine where 65 percent of the population cannot access proper feeding ; diseases where a similar 65 percent cannot access proper medical care ; high rate of un-employment and dependency, where the ratio of working people supporting the un-employed stands at 99.4;1000, which is a bad indicator and a serious strain on these few employed , meaning that even the few employed can hardly do anything in terms of development.
To these people, natural resources remains the only source of livelihoods, where the human pressure on these fast diminishing natural resources is comparatively high, to an extend that people do not know and understand the difference between the proper and improper use of these resources, in that members of the community are too ignorant whereby close to 99.9 percent of the population in this area do not completely understand their environment and therefore do not calculate or weigh their activities on the environment ,whether right or wrong, whether dangerous ,or whether their activities would have negative impacts , nobody seem to care. The results are that more than 95 percent of indigenous tree species and grasses have been destroyed and the landscape poorly managed. The native vegetation is critically ill, where more than 25 types of indigenous tree species and grasses have not only been destroyed, but more worse of all is that they have completely vanished from the earth in the area never to be found anywhere again, hence a great danger of man being forever poor for his foolishness because a species once exterminated is gone forever.
For that matter, the environmental degradation resulting from man’s activities in this area continues to have far reaching adverse impacts on the ecosystem in the area, hence impacting negatively on communities living here.
The climatic set up of the area has greatly changed, in that the rain patterns have changed all together thereby disrupting the normal farming activities leading to poor harvests, declining livelihoods and increased poverty.
- Fuel wood, the only major source of energy for cooking and food processing in this rural part has gone down to a worrying scale, thereby impacting negatively on the important aspects of life e.g. the amount of food supplied and cooked, where cases of poor nutrition are experienced e.g. fewer meals are to be cooked thereby having a particularly damaging effect on child nutrition thereby denying children the chances of ensuring enough of the often starchy staple foods in a meal, hence 2 in every 6 children are malnourished.
- Tree based activities that used to provide some means of income earning for a large number of rural poor e.g. fruits gathering consumptions, processing and sale has reduced drastically because these trees are constantly cut down for charcoal burning and brick making, where conditions of the seasonal and emergency hardships periods in these area continues to worsen, because the poor peoples food options e.g. fruits etc. are disappearing very fast. Where cases of poor quality diet are experienced in the area, since people in most cases now resort to purchased foods which are expensive and less able to be reached by these families.
In this regard therefore, one would realize that many of the problems and issues affecting people in this area keeps increasing and degenerating into more other complex situations as people recklessly tries to escape the other previous problems affecting them and the ball keeps rotating and more so building into something else.
- The results of the high rate of environmental degradation witnessed here, leads to declining flora and fauna, biodiversity, worn-out soils, poor crop yields, declining food availability, increasing poverty and loss of the communities’ self-reliance in that; according to the recent survey is that at least 5 households in this area go hungry for lack of food and/or money to purchase the same every day and that due to the high rate of poverty, 4 out of every 7 children in this area find it very difficult accessing proper education and that 3 out of every 8 women find it difficult accessing their basic necessities.
2. In this difficult situation, mothers then do not find flexible time to breastfeed children, forcing them to stop breastfeeding much earlier, thereby denying their children the micro-nutrients such as vitamin A, Iodine and Iron which science says are plenty in breast milks, a condition that leads to pre-mature deaths and a part from death, the malnourished children from these poor households are likely to show a life-long negative impact on there brain structure and function a situation that science links to mental retardation. Where stunted children are often seen to post poor performance in school thereby heralding reduced productivity upon attaining adulthood, 3 in every 7 children in this place performs poorly in class. The situation could be even more pathetic here in that according to the recent research by the Kenya Ministry of Education 2017 covering lower primary schools i.e. std 3, is that only 4.5% of pupils in the country throughout the 47 counties could manage to pass the set level 4 standard in mathematics, as the required grade for pass, while a whopping 95.5% children posted poor performances.
According to the same report, only 14.6% children throughout the 47 counties could only manage to arrange English language properly, while the remaining 85.4% failed, with the other areas having no scores at all. Yet again, according to other reports findings 2017 by Twaweza is that 70% class 3 pupils cannot manage STD 2 work in Kenyan schools and that 11% of class 8 pupils cannot tackle class 2 work. Meaning that, the situation is indeed serious.
The question of environmental degradation in this area could not be any good at all, because these people in their reckless quest to satisfy their days ends meet, have had even much far reaching repercussions in that some friendly wild animals and beautiful birds that used to be found here are no more because their habitats have constantly been destroyed; that 60% of streams and water sources have either dried up or reduced in water levels e.g. Ivuhani and Kihila; 95% of wetlands destroyed and reclaimed for farming and sand harvesting purposes, resulting to even long-term repercussion to the general environment; cases of massive soil erosion, floods and droughts are rampant, land silting and land slides continue to be witnessed see picture; thereby contributing to declining agricultural production; some known swamps which used to provide cheap fish to the locals and also attract beautiful birds to the area no longer exists e.g. Iriva at Gambogi market. Again, some harmless animals’ e.g. rabbits, Isiavare, Riaga and many such other friendly animals that used to roam freely in this area are no more due to unwanted destruction of trees and grasses and others recklessly killed for their meat.
The continued improper use and management of the available natural resources is just high, coupled with a lifestyle where people put their immediate private interests before the public interests and consideration of the future needs of the nation, highly contributes to the many of the problems and issues witnessed in this place. There is even great danger following the improper use and management of the natural resources because soon or later, these resources will be no more and without the natural resources of the earth, neither men nor the accomplishments of their hands and heads could possibly exist. While all these are happening, there is very little being undertaken to address the anomalies.
When all these different weather related calamities are on the increase leading to destruction of livelihoods, when agriculture, livestock and fishing are destroyed, Kenya as a country has no capacity to address these disasters resulting from climate change as they arise.Again, the emerging evidence here also do indicate that climate change aggravates the threat of infectious diseases, which potentially happens to increase the temperatures under which many diseases and the carriers flourish, hence the reasons for the ever persistence cases of malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, Cholera and others that remains a menace in the area. A clear indicator how a threat to health sector alone highly contributes to the increase of poverty by draining the communities meager income into health institutions, leaving them much poorer where 75% of the ailments reported in the health institutions, daily are as a result of poor environmental and climate change related.
They are therefore all these problems and issues and others not mentioned here that makes poverty in this area not only elusive, but more increasing the number of people living below poverty. In this connection, unless concrete and concerted efforts are put in place to address the problems and issues, then no any tangible development will ever take place in this part of the world. Our efforts in working to help address the situation are constantly constrained by the fact that we do not have a reliable resource base and therefore cannot function well to be able to serve the community as expected.
It is for these reasons that we request development partners and well-wishers to consider forming partnerships with us so that we are able to gain the organizational capacity needed to function well and serve the community in the best way expected.