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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Deaf girl survives rape and forced marriage

By Dennis Kipkirui

A deaf and orphaned girl survived rape and forced marriage after being rescued from the brutal hands of a rapist-turned-husband in Ol Kalou Town of Nyandarua County. 

Gladys Wambui (Her real name withheld because of age) is a deaf and orphaned girl who completed her KCPE exams last year, 2011 at Sipili School for the Deaf. She scored 140 marks. After her exams she travelled to Ol Kalou to stay with her grandmother.

A billboard of Sipili School for the Deaf
 Had she known that her journey to Ol Kalou would end tragically she would have opted to remain in Sipili area of Laikipia County. It all started one evening when the village of Ol Kalou was mourning their dead and Wambui’s grandmother decided to console with the fellow countrymen. Since the hearing handicap had already taken toll of Wambui, her grandmother was equally not spared because she lacked the skill of sign language to communicate with her orphaned grandchild.

One fateful evening, the old lady left to mourn with the family which had lost their loved one without informing the young girl because she did not know how to explain to her using sign language. When Wambui discovered the absence of her grandma, she was driven by curiosity and ventured into an engulfing darkness to check what was happening in the neighborhood. After she arrived at the homestead where people were mourning, she mingled freely with them while learning what was going on.

Few metres from her grandmother stood two men who had noticed that the girl was deaf. They lured the girl to a certain place within the compound and kidnapped her. She was taken to a house in Ndundori where she was raped by the two men. After the ordeal, the heinous men did not release her but was restricted within their hideout.

The world of the deaf girl crumbled further when one of the rapists decided to take her in as a wife. Without the consent of this minor, the man assumed his new marital role and continued with their ‘new family life’. Wambui had no choice but to play the game using the cards offered by the new husband. Impressed by the turn of events, the bridegroom decided to take his bride for an outing in Ol Kalou town.

An artist's impression of a deaf girl.
It was while at Ol Kalou town that she made up her mind to rescue herself from the brutal hands of the rapist-turned -husband. She remembered the life skills once taught at her former school and began to scream attracted a good Samaritan ran to her rescue.  A huge crowed also gathered around the two, and they were latter taken to Ol Kalou Police Station. 

At the police station, the man claimed that the girl was his wife and to the amazement of many the police almost bought the idea. This was because they were not able to understand her sign language and could easily take the argument of the man.

When Wambui physically expressed her disappointment, the police changed their mind. They took her to Ol Kalou School for the Disabled where they met a nun who knew sign language. The nun helped the police to trace the Principal of Sipili School for the Deaf, Wambui’s former school.

When the Principal arrived at Ol Kalou Police Station, she narrated her ordeal to him and explained all that had happened to her. The police locked up the man and he is facing justice at the court of law.

Wambui has so far received a chance to proceed with her secondary school education at Rev. Muhoro School for the Deaf in Nyeri County.

 Like her story, her education is a tall order since she is an orphan and unable to raise the requisite fee. Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) is appealing to well wishers to come to her aid to enable this young, deaf and orphaned girl build a bright future. 

The former teachers of Wambui through LRV are asking members of the society to learn sign language break communication barriers with the deaf.

(Additional information by Sammy Kirumba-Teacher Sipili School for the Deaf).

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Brawling lion attack villagers in Kinamba

By Bett Kipsang’  

Two women are alleged to have been mauled by a lion at Eighteen village in Kinamba division Laikipia County. Terrified residents last evening informed the LRV through short message service (SMS). ''Lion has attacked and injured two women at Eighteen village, Ndindika area'' an SMS from Ibrahim read. The area is bordering a wildlife conservancy in Laikipia West.

  A spot check by LRV found out that two women were seriously injured and three goats eaten up by the marauding canine. The two were rushed to Nyahururu hospital where they are admitted for medical attention.

 Human wildlife conflict has become a nuisance to the residents of the area in the recent past. Last year another woman was eaten up by a lion a few kilometers from the area. Elephants have been reported to destroy hundreds of acres of crops, leading to a threat to food security. 

It is reported that officers from the Kenya wildlife Service, responded quickly to the residents’ alarm and latter killed the roaming lion.  LRV is closely following up on the story.


Friday, 25 May 2012

University applicants flock Maarifa Centre to revise Courses.

 By Dennis Kipkirui

Students selected by the Joint Admission Board (JAB) to study various courses flocked to Maarifa Centre yesterday to apply and revise their career courses in an attempt to beat the May 31st deadline. They were enthusiastic to use the ICT facilities in the Centre to revise their choices. They acknowledged that Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) had contributed tremendously to their community since they would have traveled far access internet service or worse still travel up to Nairobi to do the revision. They started thronging to the Centre as early as 7am and by 10 am the officials in the Centre were forced to design a mechanism of ensuring that the former high school students were served quickly and satisfactorily to reduce the back log.

The Centre was a beehive of activities when the former K.C.S.E students came in large numbers. A number of them had sought for permission in different schools where they are serving as untrained teachers employed by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA).

They received invaluable information from the officers in the centre who were at hand to receive and serve them.  However, most of them found it difficult to feed in the required information since the details they had were conflicting with the one contained in the JAB database. Among the situations witnessed include cases of the prospective university students providing the birth certificate details asked for by the JAB website while in actual sense their head teachers had not submitted them while registering for the K.C.S.E. Others include those who came to revise their courses only to find that their former schools did not submit their initial registration and had to start again.

University applicants revise courses using online service at Maarifa Centre
For those who could not complete the process because of different challenges, officers in the centre assisted them in drafting and sending e-mails to inquire where the problem was. The response received varied from instant solution being provided to some being told to travel to the University of Nairobi’s main campus to have their cases handled there.

Most of the applicants who spoke to Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV)   journalist applied business related courses while some found it comfortable to apply teaching courses. For some, it was an uphill task comprehending what the courses matching their subject clusters entailed. Lucky enough, they received adequate information from the Maarifa Centre on the details of those courses. 

They were optimistic that JAB will consider them for the courses applied for and looked forward to joining the university to purse them. However, JAB will have to consider their choices first and get back to them after 31st of May. The feedback will range from admission on the courses chosen or the need for some to revise their choices. The Centre closed as late as 8pm after serving all of them.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Looming disaster in Bondeni Primary School

By Ndegwa Macharia 

A disaster is looming in Bondeni primary school in Sipili division of Laikipia West district after a roof for two classrooms curved in when heavy rains pounded the area for the last one week. The classrooms have been left in a pathetic state leaving pupils exposed to dangerous conditions. The classrooms include the ones being used by the Std 8 pupils expected to sit for the National examinations in the course of the year.

The school which is located 8km from north of Sipili centre is served by a dilapidated road. When the Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) reporter visited the school, teachers were busy with their duties. The head teacher Mr. David Mbuthia and the PTA chairperson  Mr. James Mburu were trying to support the curving roof using old posts in an effort to salvage the problem.

 Pupils learning in a classroom with part of the roof blown away.
The scene of the classroom was an eye sore because it had rained heavily the previous night and the two classrooms were flooded with rain water. The children huddled together in one corner to avoid getting in contact with the pools of water. Up the roof, the sky was azure due to lack of iron sheets blown away by the wind.

The walls were no better. The aging timber was giving room to the gaps. “These classrooms were built in the 1970’s’, said the chairman of the school who happens to be a former pupil of the school. He said that he used the same classrooms in the early 80’s when he was admitted in STD one. “The rays of the sun penetrating through the gaps left by missing iron sheets and old timber walls have interfered with learning and this worries the teachers because these children are supposed to compete with others from schools which have conducive learning environment”, Said the head teacher.

Asked whether they have benefited from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), they explained that they have made several trips to the CDF offices seeking for funds but without any success.

The roads in the neighborhood are impassable. They have never been graded since time immemorial. For those who come across the Wangwachi dam. They literally swim across the stream on their way to school when the dam floods.

By10.00am pupils had not started learning because the work of supporting the falling roofs of their classrooms was not yet over. One wondered how the students would move about in the classroom with posts that support the falling roof precariously dotting their classroom. The situation was indeed pathetic and it was hard to imagine whether pupils were actually supposed to learn in that state of affairs.

“If urgent measures are not taken the children will learn from under a tree in the compound to avoid dangers posed by the falling roof”, Said the head teacher. However the prevailing weather conditions do not allow learning to take place. They are appealing to the government to help them to restore normal learning process in the school. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Energy Saving Jiko change fortunes in Dunyu-Loip

By Dennis Kipkirui
In the remote village of Nyanchara, Dunyu-Loip Sub-location of Ol Moran Division Laikipia County, residents are quickly appreciating effects of climate change and readily adapting and mitigating its effects. To them, this can only be done innovatively. Change is slowly dawning to this small village reeling from the effects of civil strife fourteen years ago. As the name suggests (Dunyu-Loip loosely translated from the Maasai language (maa) to mean ‘shadow from a hill’) it is a place once shadowed by death. Large tracts of land remain unutilized. An overbearing sight of shrubs ushers one to the village.

The chepkube Energy saving Jiko, under construction
 An inquiry to the whereabouts of owners of the abandoned land reveals that they fled never to return after civil war. Despite the sparse population dotting the area, thorny thickets growing in the disserted land and acting as the sad reminder of what happened over a decade ago and the unrelenting scourge of heat spraying its rays on the area, the remaining inhabitants have learned to cope with the harsh environment and better still, tell the world that there is life and hope in these hinterlands. Only one thing is driving them to this: climate change and the need to improve their livelihood without complaining.
Laikipia Rural Voices (LVR) visited the village and stopped at the homestead of Mr. Francis Wanjau.
For the residents of the larger Kabati area the change could not have come in a better way to them than the invention of chepkube. This is a jiko used as a cooker as well as a brooder. The jiko is unique and sophisticated in its own style. It has two burners, brooder and a chimney. The brooder is used to raise one day old chicks after hatching. It can host up to seventy chicks at ago for two weeks. 

The main aim is to keep the chicks warm. Chepkube enables the user to separate the mother hen from the chicks immediately after hatching and return her to sit on another set of eggs. The hen literally hatches twice per brooding season enabling the farmer to boost the survival rate of the chicks hatched .An in-depth inquiry reveals that the hen broods thrice a year and therefore produces 45 chicks. To the farmer this is economical in several aspects. 

Mr. Wanjau informs LRV that he gets 90 chicks per hen in a year. He sells them after maturity for Ksh400.With this he earns Ksh 36000 per hen per year. With only ten hens he can earn up to 400,000 per year. This is a great stride in improving the livelihoods of the people area residents.

 The jiko is also composed of two burners connected to each other by a tunnel. Only one burner is lit directly while the other receives fire through the tunnel. Subsequently, smoke escapes through a chimney constructed next to the second burner. The two burners enable faster cooking of food.

What do you need to make this jiko? Its simplicity beats common logic since the raw materials required are cheap and locally available. You only need silt instead of sand and anthill soil to act as cement. Other requirements include: wire mesh, 1/4kg 2-inch nails, gauze, old newspapers, posts, rafters, grass, and banana trunk. The process takes only three weeks from the start to completion. The finish is done by drawing graffiti using aloe vera plant. The gum of the plant is also spread on top of the jiko to act as an insulator preventing escape of heat.

 Tree is Life, a Nyahururu based Trust helped the residents to develop this new idea. The Ministry of Livestock Development also gave a go ahead after ascertaining the safety of the chicks in the brooder and giving them scientific insights on its viability.

The energy saving jiko has a number of benefits to its users. It only uses a small quantity of wood fuel. This is safe for environmental conservation since few trees are fallen for firewood. The jiko helps in mitigating effects of climate change by preventing wanton tree cutting for fuel.

 It also saves energy because two burners are used at ago with the same wood fuel. The chimney helps smoke to escape and therefore guarantees good health to the user.

It also conserves heat .There is also explicit livelihood improvement when the user realizes such huge income from chicken rearing. Furthermore it is affordable to make since it entails the use of locally available raw materials.  

For the Wanjau’s this was a blessing to them since the area they live in have fluctuating temperatures and could only find the jiko suitable for them.

Climate change and adaptation has made Dunyu-Loip to receive new life symbolically shown by the smoke spiraling to the sky from the chimney of chepkube.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Water hyacinth: a blessing in disguise to Sipili farmers.

By Dennis Kipkirui.

 Water hyacinth is known to be an invasive weed choking the aquatic life in Lake Victoria, the main source of River Nile; Africa’s longest river. Residents of the lake region have learnt to hate the weed and curse the day it sprouted in their economic hub. Researchers have been left scratching their heads after their skills to rid off the weed were thwarted. They tried mechanical, chemical and biological means to remove it but to their chagrin. International organizations including the IMF have pumped billions of shillings to eradicate it fearing the danger it poses on the livelihoods of over 30 million people surviving on the lake.
This is not the case for the residents of Sipili Division, Laikipia West District. In the quite village of Dimcom, farming is a thriving economic activity, thanks to water hyacinth. Residents are busy cultivating the weed not oblivious of the worries it has exerted to the world. They only know the benefits.

Mr. Kiarahu harvesting water hyacinth from his dam.
 One of the chief beneficiaries of this dreaded plant is Mr. Francis Kiarahu. He traces the day he discovered its usefulness to 1981 when he settled in Sipili area. On arriving to this marginal part of the country near the equator line, he realized that water was a scarce resource and remembers the day he could walk for 20km to fetch water. He then began an epic journey of water exploration by digging his own dam. It bore fruit. Today his dam measuring 19 feet in depth, 36 feet long and 25 feet wide is full of water. The water is enough for domestic use as well as for livestock all year round. He also irrigates his ever-green farm in this parched side of the country. His mission was not only to find spring water but also to have a place to trap running water during rainy seasons.

With the presence of water in his farm, the successful farmer thought that he had completely solved water problems. However, that was not to be the case, evaporation took toll of his dam and depleted water. “I had to think seriously of a way out to permanently solve my problem,” said Kiarahu. “One day when I was running my errands in Nyahururu town I saw a plant that covered water in a pond. I inquired about the plant and everybody said that it was harmful to a water body.” 

When he came home, he deeply  thought over it .He could not resist the temptation of introducing the hyacinth  into his receding dam to provide the same ‘cover’ over water like the one in Nyahururu.
As fate would have it, The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) began a bore-hole digging project in the area to alleviate water crisis for the residents. Mr. Kiarahu met one of the NCCK officers and requested if he could avail him a sucker of hyacinth in his next visit. That was the start of water conservation in his farm. He got the sucker, planted it in his dam and it quickly spread over water. The rate of water loss through evaporation was reduced. 

Mr. Francis Kiarahu feeding goats with water hyacinth
The farmer was not through with his discoveries until he realized the economic value of the ‘weed’ apart from conserving water in his dam. Two years after planting it, he harvested a little of it and introduced it to his livestock to feed on. That was it. The animals readily welcomed the new feed and became more productive. When the Laikipia Rural Voices visited his farm, both goats and cattle were comfortably feeding on it. He also makes manure out of it which he uses as fertilizer in his green farm. Apart from manure, Mr.Kiarahu employs water hyacinth as mulch in his fruit trees during dry spells to prevent water loss. 

He is quick to remind LRV that it also acts as a water purifier. The survival of fish in his dam is attributed to the hyacinth which protects it from predators.

He harvests it using a hook and rake. Does it need any form of management? Not at all.
His effort to conserve soil and water were recognized in 2010 when he was feted by the ministry of agriculture as the best farmer in Laikipia District for Soil and water Conservation. He was awarded a certificate which he proudly shows the LRV scribe. 

Many farmers have emulated his work.  Currently most residents in the area are farming water hyacinth. As the world struggles to eliminate it, to them it is a blessing in disguise. They are planning to have it in large scale for commercial use. They are looking forward to a day they will start a cottage industry to make products like packets out of it. To them Lake Victoria shall be the main source of their raw materials.

The only challenge they attribute to the plant is its ability to destroy fish life during drought season and difficulty in harvesting because its roots are entangled in soil rather than water.

Mr.Kiarahu plans to sensitize more farmers in the larger arid lands of Laikipia County on the economic viability of hyacinth. “I have a campaign aimed at imparting knowledge on the people of Sipili and the wider Laikipia on how to utilize water hyacinth. It is a good plant and can help farmers from this region who need constant supply of water to manage their activities,” said Mr. Kiarahu.