Back home in Africa

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I first started to feel like I was back home in Africa when I got on the Kenya Airways plane in London and was greeted by polished, professional, friendly flight attendants, all dressed in bright red blazers. They are just so welcoming and gentle and I knew I was in good hands.

The new Kenya Airways 787 Dreamliner.

The new Kenya Airways 787 Dreamliner.

The flight was a special one, unbeknownst to me. When I arrived at the departure gate there was cake and champagne to celebrate the inaugural flight of a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner added to the Kenya Airways fleet. There were even two lions in the hold, being transported back to Africa from a circus in Germany. (You can read about it here – http://travel.aol.co.uk/2015/01/21/two-lions-rescued-cruel-circus-germany-moved-south-africa-born-free/)

After 35 hours of travel, like the lions, I needed some rescuing so I was excited and pleased to be met at the Kisumu Airport by Mary Etuku, the manager of the ICIPE Guest House where I will stay for three weeks.

After a brief stop to get my mobile phone working properly, we drove to Mbita, about 2 1/2 hours from Kisumu.

I had come to Kenya to visit but also to check on some of the projects we have been doing in the last year and realized as we bumped along that we would pass one of our school projects near Kendu Bay. Our driver, Kennedy , kept his eyes peeled and found the sign for Kamser Primary School so we did a U-turn and headed back , unannounced.

Desks at the Kamser Elementary school provide in 2014 by CanAssist.

Desks at the Kamser Elementary school provide in 2014 by CanAssist.

The students were away from the school on their lunch break but three teachers sat under a tree marking notebooks. They took me into the classrooms to show me the desks that CanAssist had funded last year. This was a bit of a win-win since the desks, rudimentary but functional, we’re all made by local carpenters, thereby providing some modest local employment as well as providing the desks for the students. CanAssist had also provided a rainwater catchment tank. The teachers told me that after a good rain, the tank fills and can supply drinking water for the 500 pupils at the school for several weeks. Prior to getting the desks, the students, usually 60-80 per classroom, were sitting on the floor to learn.

I was delighted to start my 2015 Africa trip this way. My Jet lag dissolved. I was pleased to see how these teachers were appreciative of our support and their report of how this contribution to the school had made a difference to the well-being of the students.

After a good rain, this tank will be full and provide clean drinking water at the Kamser school for several weeks.

After a good rain, this tank will be full and provide clean drinking water at the Kamser school for several weeks.

I may have brought them something else – another blessing. About 10 last night there was a 2 hour torrential thunderstorm that dumped much-needed water on the community. There has been no rain for weeks. I smiled as I lay in bed, my screened patio door open, and listened to the rain pour down, knowing that around this community there were water tanks filling up.

The sunsets over Lake Victoria from the lawn in front of the ICIPE Guest House are wonderful.

The sunsets over Lake Victoria from the lawn in front of the ICIPE Guest House are wonderful.

 

Wondering where the lions are…

When one goes on a game drive in Africa, there is always the hope to come across lions.  Sometimes they are not that easy to find, particularly during mid day when they tend to lay under the bushes and nap.  I really didn’t expect to see lions on our morning drive in Murchison Park, Uganda but within half an hour we came upon two young female lions right out on the road in front of our vehicle.

We stopped and watched them for a while – always a pleasure.

lioness

lion 1

Lion 2_filtered

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An African solution to an African problem…

When I visited my friends, the Moiko’s, in Kenya in January they were having a problem. They are a typical (modern) Maasai family who, in addition to pursuing higher education and communicating with their iPhones and on Facebook, continue to raise cattle. Traditionally, the Maasai have had a strong link with their herds of cows and most of their typical day revolved around tending to their cattle as their main investment. Finding water and grass for their herds, often when water and pasture is scarce, milking the cows in the morning and evening and protecting them from predator animals took most of the Massai herdsman’s time.

img maasai bomaIn many parts of Kenya and Tanzania, there are Maasai villages that continue in this tradition. People live in bomas, small collections of mud huts around a central paddock where the animals are kept overnight. During the day, the women look after the children, collect firewood and water, cook and repair the homes while the men and boys take the cattle and goats out to graze.

At Stephen’s place, the children are up early to catch the school bus and Stephen goes off in his car to work at a Food Security program as he finishes his work on a PhD from McGill in Montreal. But at home, there are still the cattle to manage. Hired herdsmen look after the cows and goats but the family still goes to the paddock in the evening to inspect the livestock and milk the cows. It is a nice mixture of modern life with the traditional. I imagine that this blend is not easy to maintain.

In rural areas, Maasai men, dress traditionally and periodically meet together to "eat meat" and discuss community problems, like predators attacking their cattle.

In rural areas, Maasai men, dress traditionally and periodically meet together to “eat meat” and discuss community problems, like predators attacking their cattle.

One of the problems in more rural settings is with predators attacking the cattle. I remember dropping in to a clinic at Talek, near the Maasai Mara, only to be drawn into the small treatment room by the local health care provider who was covered in blood as he sewed up the wounds of a young Maasai fellow who had been mauled by a lion he was chasing away from his cattle.

Nearer to Nairobi, the risk of these larger predators is not as great although I do recall Stephen’s daughter telling me of having to walk past a cheetah on her way up the driveway one day as she came home from school.

The recent problem for Stephen is buffalo that come down from the Ngong Hills to a salt lick in his pasture. They break down the fence and they eat the grass. Buffalo are also a significant security risk as they can be ornery beasts, dangerous to humans. When I visited in January, Stephen was getting tired of mending the fence and wondering what to do.

Well it seems that not far away other Maasai were having similar problems with lions. And this boy came up with a solution. Check it out. I wonder if it will work for Stephen’s buffalo problem.