She supplemented her earnings with crops from her small piece of land but late last year, her crops dried up.
From January this year, business slowed down and faded away.
Most of her customers moved away to places not ravaged by the deadly drought that is engulfing many parts of Kenya. Other customers changed priorities and are no longer buying charcoal but rather concentrating on feeding their starving families.
Chepochepkoi is not alone in this predicament. Small and medium businesses are struggling due to loss of income and purchase power of many families mostly caused by the drought.
An estimated 2.7 million people in Kenya are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The government has declared the drought a national disaster and called on well-wishers to support the affected communities.
There are serious water and food shortages especially in the Arid and Semi-arid regions. The government has reported that 15 out of 23 arid and semi-arid counties in the country are among the worst affected and could drop to emergency levels if urgent and appropriate measures are not taken.
West Pokot, Chepochepkoi’s home county is one among the counties affected by the drought. The condition has left many households with few options after their livestock died and crops failed. Some have reverted to the ancient traditions of foraging for wild fruits and vegetables as a source of food.
“Business is not as usual and I have to think of other options to feed my family,” said Chepochepkoi.
With dwindling options, Chepochepkoi opted to picking wild leaves known as Sogoria which she cooks for her children. This means spending a lot of time in the blazing sun collecting the leaves in the bushes.
“I take the surplus to the market which fetches me like Kshs 50 ($0.5) which I use to buy other foodstuffs. It is a lot of work but we have no option lest we die,” said Chepochepkoi. “My children don’t go to school any more as they join me to look for the wild leaves as it’s the only source of food.”
ActionAid is intervening in West Pokot and other parts of Kenya to deliver food and water to the most vulnerable. ActionAid is training women on how to organize their communities and understand how resources are used by government and other agencies. This will help the communities to hold key service providers to be accountable to the people they serve.