Selling everything for food

Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 17:05

Power of the people comes in the form of hard labour here. Whether it’s a year’s work clearing the silt in a colonial-era rock water catchment or a year of digging to create an earth pan to collect rain water where none would have collected before, there are ways of catching the sporadic water that falls in this district. But still it depends on how much rain falls.

The water in the rock catchment is used by people from miles around. One old woman had filled up her 20litre jerry can from the spigot and was about to carry it on her back to her home – 6kms away. And yet this crucial source of relatively clear water was reduced to a puddle – and this is in the middle of the so-called rainy season.

You can get a measure of just how bad things are already this year by the livestock market I visited in Tsureiko today. It was packed full of people selling the odd goat, cow or donkey.

But for these people their livestock is their bank, the place they invest any money they make from selling the produce of their farms. But they don’t have any produce to sell so they need to liquidate their assets to put some food on the table.

And that’s okay if you have a couple of goats going spare, but they don’t. Perhaps the most pitiful thing I saw was a woman standing in the singeing sun. She was dressed in her market best and carrying her plastic handbag, standing statuesquely in the heat. But her appearance belied her situation.

She was selling the only animal she had left – a donkey – the sole means she has of fetching water. And to make matters worse, the only offer she had received all day was half what the donkey was worth.

She was on the verge of caving in – she had no choice. She had to go home with some food. I hope that somebody gave her a better price but, by the time we left, the market was still crowded with similar stories and the prospects didn’t look good.