In Turkana, Sharlyne recovers from drought

Sharlyne Kapua, 14, at the solar powered water system installed at her school
UNICEF Kenya/2023/Paul Kidero

Sharlyne is a bright and outgoing 14-year-old, who recently graduated from Nabulon Girls Primary School in Lodwar, where UNICEF last year installed a solar-powered water system. The county has been affected by drought for the last three years, and much of the livestock that families used to rely on has died. In the last week, scattered rains have finally arrived. The ground remains dry and sandy, but trees are starting to return to life, with tentative green growth on their branches. It’s a fragile moment for the county.

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Young people get a head start in the fish industry

Fisherman Nicholas adjusts the net on one of his floating fish cages in Lake Victoria
© UNICEF Kenya/2023/Paul Kidero

This story first appeared in the Star newspaper.

The waters of Lake Victoria are calm off Dunga beach, Kisumu, as young entrepreneur Vincent and fisherman Nicholas climb into a wooden boat and head out to check on their fish. Storks perch on rocks emerging from the water along the lakeside, while further out white-sailed dhow boats cut across the breeze. “It’s calm now but, in a few hours, it will be very choppy,” Nicholas observes.

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Photos: dry season at Nairobi National Park

Ostrich walk across the dried out grassland of Nairobi National Park, with the city skyline behind them
© Andrew Brown/2023/Kenya

We visited Nairobi National Park in mid-March, towards the end of the dry season and during a prolonged drought. Over the previous three months, the unforgiving sun had wrung the last drops of moisture out of the vegetation. The grass, where it remained at all, had turned into dry yellow straw. This was clearly affecting the herbivores, which were weak from lack of food and easy prey for predators. Like in Amboseli, we saw lots of dead animals lying by the roadside – some eaten, others left almost untouched. The lions, however, looked well-fed and the vultures were numerous.

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Young people invent an award-winning eco-toilet

Farmer John Ochieng, 77, adds Saniwise manure to a field in his farm in Kisumu
© UNICEF Kenya/2023/Paul Kidero

It’s a hot and humid morning on John Ochieng’s farm on the outskirts of Kisumu town, near a small lagoon. John is a bright and healthy 77-year-old who strides through the fields in bare feet, some of his toenails missing after decades of labour. He enjoys practicing his English. “How are you coping with the atmospheric pressure this morning?” he asks UNICEF, with a twinkle in his eyes.

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Photos: Amboseli at Christmas

A masked weaver bird constructing a nest from long blades of grass above our swimming pool.
© Andrew Brown/2022/Kenya

I’ve written about Amboseli National Park before, including during the dry season. This time, we visited at Christmas on a last minute deal, having cancelled plans to visit Hong Kong. As this was our third visit, I took less photos, but got some amazing shots from our safari camp, Tawi Lodge, which is situated right next to a watering hole. You can be having lunch or a swim and suddenly notice giraffes or an elephant wandering over for a drink or mud bath. We were also there during weaver bird nesting season. These birds like to construct their nests over lakes or swamps, as the water makes it harder for predators to approach – and our swimming pool seemed to work just as well. Fimally, there was an extended family of mongoose living under the wooden decking, who would come out in the early morning and late afternoon to dig for food.

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Photos: Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park is one of the few places in the world that you can see wild giraffes and skyscapers at the same time.
© Andrew Brown/2022/Kenya

Nairobi National park is a unique safari experience just across the road from Nairobi’s Central Business District, and 40 minutes drive from our house. We stayed at Ololo Lodge, a beautiful farmhouse and safari lodge on the opposite side of the park. It was also directly under the flight path for JKIA international airport, so jumbo jets would frequently thunder past overhead. At 120 square kilometres, the park is not very big compared to others in Kenya, and even at Ololo, you can see the tops of the tallest buildings in Nairobi. There is also a raised railway line that bisects the park, although animals move freely beneath it.

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Photos: Amboseli in the dry season

Flamingos eating algae in the reduced Lake Amboseli, with Observation Hill behind.
© Andrew Brown/2022/Kenya

Our second visit to Amboseli National Park came in October, towards the end of the dry season. The contrast with our first visit in April was stark: the green grass had dried, shriveled and turned yellow; it was hot and dry, with regular dust storms twisting their way across the parched landscape; and the lake had shrunk noticeably, although it was still large enough to sustain a small flock of flamingos. Elephants drank swampy water amongst dead trees and hungry baboons tried to grab snacks from passing safari cars. Most disturbingly, the plain was littered with the carcasses and skeletons of dead wildebeest, zebras and other animals. Vultures and hyenas were thriving on this macabre buffet, but there were so many dead animals that the scavengers had mostly had their fill and many carcasses were left untouched. This is why Amboseli literally means ‘dusty and salty’ in the local Maasai language.

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Break the chain: cash transfers end the cycle of poverty

Monika demonstrates her woven baskets to a customer on a street corner in Kajiado town
© UNICEF Kenya/2022/Victor Wahome

This story first appeared in the Star newspaper.

Monika Muema, 73, sits at home weaving baskets in the single-room makeshift house she shares with her granddaughter Alice, 13, in Kajiado town. There is a bed on one side of the room and a sofa on the other. A bag of maize flour on the floor provides the main source of food. Monika’s gnarled fingers move in and out of the strings with surprising dexterity, adding neat rows of red, black and white. Afterwards, she packs up four completed baskets and walks slowly to the main road, where she sets up a roadside stall on a corner opposite a boda-boda (motorbike taxi) stop.

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Best start in life: supporting parents and children in Kajiado

Sylvia (left) and Esther (right) play with two-year-old Mikyela at home in Kajiado town
© UNICEF Kenya/2022/Victor Wahome

This story first appeared in the Star newspaper.

Kajiado town is a small Kenyan trading centre, close to the border with Tanzania. It’s surrounded by open grasslands, where Maasai pastoralists tend their cattle. A line of wind turbines turn slowly on a hillside outside town. Hard hit during COVID-19 travel restrictions, Kajiado’s economy is now starting to recover. Close to the centre of town is a compound of a dozen houses. This is clearly a middle-income area. The houses are small but well-made and painted white and blue. A large water tank in one corner provides water for the houses, which are also connected to the electricity grid.

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Kenya year three: a new normal

Storm clouds roll in from the sea at Diani Beach during rainy season.
© Andrew Brown/2022/Kenya

Aside from the safaris, Diani beach is one of my favourite destinations in Kenya. At low tide it’s hundreds of metres wide and made up of soft, powdery white sand. Early in the morning, translucent white crabs emerge from holes in the ground and scuttle across the sand, looking for food. On our latest visit, I saw three of them clambering across a coconut that had fallen from the palm trees at the top of the beach, snipping off pieces of white flesh with their pincers. The crabs were well camouflaged and hard to spot when they stayed still. It was only the motion that gave them away. But they generally stayed close to their holes and scuttled back in at the first sign of danger.

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