The terrain did not allow for expansive farms. We had always bunched up into dense communities, separated from the next by precipitous gorges cut into the mountain slopes by rivers.

By the 1980s, farm sizes were quite small; today they are very small. Typically, the lion’s share of each plot would be under cash crop — tea or coffee or both — a small portion was set aside for growing food and the rest was the homestead, usually with some livestock.

For of the size of the plot, the land had to be worked intensely. If you relied on the two seasons of rain, you would never feed yourself.

So, since Independence, villages, or clusters of villages, would come together in water projects. Villagers would raise money for pipes and other materials, pay the government for God knows what, build the intakes and lay the pipes.

With the crash of the cash crop economy in the 1980s and 1990s, market gardening and dairy farming became the dominant economic activities and water one of the key factors of production.


Without water, millions of villagers in multiple counties cannot feed themselves, leave alone pay for the other services that the government does not provide.

To me, knocking down these water projects, put up with harambee money, looks like just another case of State gangsterism — where the government gives little to the people but destroys their development. The government isn’t always right.

Corrupt officials plundered the forests these communities had protected for ages and illegally settled folks in there.

All those settlers have since been removed. It will take only a little bit of encouragement for the communities to help to restore the natural resources destroyed by the mismanagement of the past two decades.

If you drive communities that have been self-reliant and independent into economic desperation by violent means, and especially where the law has not been broken, you will breed resistance and rebellion.

The government can’t license water abstraction, unilaterally cancel the licences and destroy the water systems and invite the owners to re-apply. It should identify the lawbreakers and take action on them and their water.

* * *

As a Nairobi resident, I am infuriated by the bullying of the Speaker of the Nairobi County Assembly, Ms Beatrice Elachi, by MCAs.

I don’t know the Speaker but I think she is doing the right thing by insisting on financial propriety in the running of the assembly.

It is a disgrace that neither the police, governor, political parties or civil society have strongly come to her rescue.

So far, only female politicians have stood with her. If you don’t stand with a public officer who is under attack for doing the right thing, what right do you have to expect good government?


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