Written by CorpsAfrica/Kenya Volunteer Mr. Samuel Mwangi
Have you ever heard of the danger of a single story? If yes, I know you will bear witness that it can make you perceive things the way they are not. If you answered no, then this is your chance to learn about it!
I am an CorpsAfrica Volunteer who was posted in Kitui County in a village called Muselele in Kamba land. This place is in the Yatta Plateau, a few kilometers from the Athi River. As you head north, Tsavo National Park can be found a few kilometers away. It is a village close to the three borders of Ukambani, which are Kitui, Machakos, and Makueni.
Before I came here, I had asked some people about life in Ukambani and what I used to hear is how it is dry throughout the year. In my mind, I constructed that image of a desert. In my opinion, it was going to be very hard for me to find a green plant from their explanation and I wondered how I was going to survive in such a dry environment.
When I arrived, I noticed that the place was green. Since none of the Volunteers knew where Kitui was, we had a lot of questions for our Volunteer Liaison. I remember asking ‘When are we going to reach Kitui?’ because in the previous search, from Nairobi to Kitui was about a three-hour drive and we had already been on the road for most of it. The major reason for my curiosity is because the surrounding environment was green and to my surprise, we were already in Kitui county! It is not dry! Birds are different from the ones I am used to seeing, and plants are different from the ones at my place, they are even growing mangoes which in my home county mangoes do not grow well.
The main food around is muthokoi, which is a mixture of maize and beans. I was expecting to find cassava and other food that can withstand drought. It was to my surprise that the crops on the farm were green and healthy. Beans are good and greener, even more than in my county. The difference in the farming system amazed me, they are using animals for plowing such as donkeys and bulls. At my place, the major activity on farms in mid-December is plowing, but in this place, most people are doing weeding.
Yes, Ukambani might be dry but not as I perceived. Sometimes, what you hear is not what it is in reality. From my perception earlier, I could have represented Kamba land using a light brown color on a map to stress how dry it is.
“Knowing Nairobi is visiting Nairobi,” is a saying in Kamba which simply means if you want to know the place or a person, get firsthand information or visit the place. Drawing a hare requires you to know and understand how it looks, does it have hair or fur? Don’t hear and act on what you hear.