Baringo Mentoring in the Dawn of Drought

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Mumo addressing mentees Mumo addressing mentees Photo Courtesy of Sarah Kutahi

Baringo, whirlwinds dominated the bare fields. I had to keep covering my eyes with the back of a sweaty hand. The strange thing is every time the whirlwinds would start they would head straight for the kitchen. When we were playing football which I will expound on later, the whirlwinds kept blinding the goalkeeper of the mentors’ team. The amount of loose soil did not make the situation easier. The team of mentees wore trousers during the game but they were not spared just like their opponents who mistakenly came out in very brightly coloured cotton shorts. Unlike the mentees, the mentors left the field wearing socks made of soil up to the knees.  

Lucky enough, Ngubereti Secondary had an alternative source of water from the traditional rain water source. When it rains, many locals harvest and store rain water in small containers, oblivious of the fact that when Peace Ambassadors visit an area, they do so in large numbers. However with salty water from a borehole, young Peace warriors, learned to appreciate fresh water.

My lips got chapped, from the hot sun and my nose got covered in what looked like the cracks of dry clay soil that had previously held water. The makuti hat I had bought in Mombasa from an Indian man struggling with Swahili ended up serving all the ladies of the family except me.

These ordeals presented an opportunity to reflect on the drought that has been eating the nation since late 2016. Newton a form four student struggled to remember the last time they had rain when it hit him, “when was the last time you guys visited?” he asked while scratching his head coupled with a narrow stare in the sky. Without giving me the chance to respond which I thank God for because I forget dates easily; he fiercely responded “that was the last time this soil got soaked with rainwater”.

7.3 billion humans in the world all need freshwater. The only percentage available at once for our use is less than 1% of fresh water, one would wonder, “how well is it distributed and utilized?” During our walk in the village, we came across a watering hole that was almost dry. The many livestock in the village came from all directions to drink a semblance of water. . This scarcity is bound to lead to conflict.

When the lack of natural resources is reported countrywide, life in large cities is not interrupted except for the necessary rationing. City dwellers are more concerned with the consumption and little about the production and availability of the resources.

Cities do not experience hardships that are experienced in the arid and semiarid areas (ASALs). They are given priority in the distribution of water hence the lack of piped water in the ASALs. Moreover cities have also recorded major contribution to the wastage of the scarce resource. Unlike Mogotio the village we visited, water that has cleaned dishes in the city can never be used for mopping the house. I was shocked to see the amount of water a grown woman uses to shower which would make one wonder “is it necessary to fill bath tubs?” The manicured loans also are dependent on the clean water from the tap instead of the recycled water from the toilets which would lessen the pressure.

Back in Baringo, the high level of poverty in this county has heightened the recurring drought over the years. Poverty was recorded at 58.6% in 2006 but with the alarming birth rate, this figure is probably higher. When the Kenya Meteorological Department warned of the possible reduction in the quantity of rainfall as a result of climate change, not much could be done by the residents. Their inability to develop larger water storage facilities or even sink boreholes to match the population and the number of livestock renders them susceptible to the ruthless weather patterns.

Our visit to mentor the young and aspiring professionals was the very first official national event for the Peace Ambassadors. We refer to them as national because, they get to target members countrywide. These mentors who were both at the early stages of their career and in institutions of higher learning, were in Baringo to uphold a commitment they made of walking with the high school students from the time they set foot in high school.

This time I was on official duty of recording all sessions between the form ones and their mentors. It gave me a chance to listens as mentors like Abdi a student of Environmental Science at Maseno University took on the heavy task. He was diligently sharing all the career options that his mentees could choose from as guided by his mentees’ interests. He offered nuggets of wisdom on issues like school performance.

This term we were out to build their confidence in capabilities and talents, hence the football match I mentioned earlier. We quickly put together a team of mentors to play against young, smart and energetic students of Ngubereti secondary school. The thought of the team facing these masters forced mentors into a quick desperate workout the previous day, a walk of 6Kilometers.

The time the game started I could not help but cast my mind back to the film about the legendary football Edson Arantes do Nascimento. In the movie, he acquires the nickname Pele which he is famously known by when he rises to fame as a result of the extraordinary ginga style of play. Ginga combines dance and music to give forth a unique martial arts style. This style was introduced in Brazil in the 16th Century by African slaves. It was later incorporated in cultural activities like football which put Brazil on the global football map. Pele was among the players who popularised ginga. Though not in Pele’s legendary league, some of the taller students played beautiful football and gave their mentors a run for their money. In the end, the young mentees won by 3 – 2. The game helped in cementing the mentor-mentee relationships

We were glad to witness more mentees demonstrating confidence and interest in extracurricular activities compared to the time we introduced the platform. The once timid models were the ones doing solo acts of rap and comedy. One girl asked the audience to complete her sentences with the syllable ‘te’. She began and in the middle got the audience in an uproar of laughter when she mentioned breasts in Swahili (matiti). This for a moment took our minds away from the scotching sun, dusty fields, and salty drinking water.

Mumo a mentor, was going back to Masinde Muliro University, lucky for her she was going to Kakamega. With the numerous eucalyptus trees which break the powerful wind and the mega climatic boost from the Kakamega Forest, she will hardly worry about the extreme hardship. The only thing boggling her was how she had to come up with a strong face for her mentees when bidding them goodbye. She was careful to neither appear too subtle nor too emotionally expressive to the fact that she was leaving. Her mentees Sarah and Brenda on the other hand wouldn’t let go of their mentor when the thought of her disappearing for another four months crossed their minds.

Occasional “I will miss you, keep in touch” were popped in the middle of a last minute conversation until Mumo took a sudden dash for the room we were staying.

“I had to put an end to that emotional havoc I was bringing my way” she confessed during final morning circle just before leaving Ngubereti secondary school.

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