Editor’s note: Ashley Heil was in Kenya working with a group called Love Africa. Love Africa is a nonprofit based out of the U.S. supporting a variety of organizations and trips for people of all ages to five different countries throughout Africa. Throughout the 10-day trip, Ashley volunteered with a variety of church groups, an orphange and RCI. RCI is a missionary school home to approximately 500 children whose parents are serving as missionaries through Africa. Many of the students’ families are from the U.S., Europe or Asia.
NAIVASHA, Kenya — Naivasha and surrounding towns in Kenya are known for their agricultural export, the rose. If one purchased Mother’s Day roses from the farmers directly, the cost for a dozen roses would range from $1 to $1.50.
“Kenyan roses are shared throughout the world and are popular in Europe, the United States and other nearby nations,” said George Irungu, a pastor near Naivasha.
Kenya is home to more than 52 million people, with Naivasha being home to 91,000 of those residents, according to Worldometer.
While parts of the Upper Midwest have seen delayed spring fieldwork due to flooding, Naivasha has recently experienced extreme drought that has adversely affected many farmers, although most rose growers were fortunate because their roses are grown along Lake Naivasha — one of the largest freshwater lakes in the country — and farmers were able to irrigate from the lake.
“Lake Naivasha is home to a large herd of wild hippos, gazelles, bull bucks, zebras, giraffes and a variety of other types of wildlife. Over the last three months, the area has experienced less than 15 minutes of rain,” Irungu said.
This has caused a lot of the villagers not living within walking distance of the lake to experience a variety of issues, from not being able to feed their livestock to the most unfortunate — not being able to feed themselves.
Many Kenyans have had to go so far as grazing their animals along other people’s properties, streams and the roadside, with an end goal of being able to provide their animals with enough nutrients to make it to the next rainfall.
There are a variety of advantages to grazing along these areas, with the biggest being the ability to save money since the nation does not experience snowy winters, resulting in animals being able to graze year-round.
Disadvantages include the number of animals that die because of cars, starvation or heat, and even if the animal can survive these growing conditions, the price of their meat may be very high. Other farming challenges exist, as well.
“I own 10 beef cattle, but recently, we had to start keeping the animals inside the house at night because vandals were stealing them during the night,” said John Mwangi, one of the wealthier men in his town. “The cattle are sleeping and going to the bathroom inside our shared family bedroom, and our family now shares a 100- to 150-square-foot living room for all of our indoor needs.”
Also, “many families in Naivasha own a single goat, lamb or beef animal and this one animal is their only source of income for the entire year,” Irungu said. Translating prices to U.S. dollars, “full-grown beef cattle raised on dried grass will fetch around $200, but if they came from towns less than 25 miles away, where it has rained, the same animal would fetch $2,000.”
Other income sources for many Kenyans come from their ability to grow and sell crops for human consumption.
“Spending a day outside selling locally grown crops can fetch $3 to $5 U.S. dollars a day,” Irungu said.
Many families will have someone sit at the market from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturdays. The market is where these families make their money, but the time spent at market does not include the time family members have invested in seeds, harvest, planting and growing their crops.
A small percentage of people in Kenya work outside of their family homes. According to Mwangi, “a hard-working water pipe installer can make $6 a day.”
“Many individuals continue to live on their families’ land, which has been passed down generation after generation, but one must remember this land is owned by the government, so it can be taken away at any time,” Irungu said.
People who cannot afford land or living costs tend to live in the Nairobi slums. Many slum residents live in a 12-foot-square mud house that eight residents can occupy.
According to the Kibera Facts and Information website, the slums in Nairobi are home to about 2.5 million residents in about 200 settlements, representing 60 percent of the Nairobi population living on only 6 percent of the land.