Pushed to desperation by drought
The sun shines bright, scorching the mostly bare land. The ground is plain red to brown and patched with acacia and cactus. Homes are far apart. The air is silent except for the random bleat of a goat, the moo of a cow, or peals of laughter from children playing. Some acacia trees near homes are broken by elephants searching for water and new shrubs.
Katerina standing outside her home.
Katerina, 35, stands at the edge of her homestead. She lives with her husband and five children in Kimanjo village, Kenya. Her days start early and end late. The past few years have been particularly difficult, with the ongoing global food crisis and recent drought in East Africa taking their toll on her family. Her husband is elderly and has two other wives. This has forced Katerina to become the head of the home. This means she is responsible to ensure everyone in the household is fed and the children are educated.
The drought has been one of the worst in recent history. This, coupled with the war in Ukraine and the economic recession, has pushed up food prices. The unforgiving sun has scorched their fields, leaving them barren and unyielding. The lack of rainfall has caused their livestock to dwindle, and some died, depriving Katerina’s family of much-needed income and nutrition.
“I had ten cows and 15 goats; they have all been wiped out by the drought due to lack of pastures,” says Katerina.
Desperation had settled in Katerina's heart. She has to feed her five children and take care of her aged husband and his other wife, but the food ran out before the rain arrived. The thought of giving up her 16-year-old daughter to marriage, a common practice in her community, was haunting. It was a last resort for Katerina, as it meant her daughter would be taken in by another family, who would be responsible for feeding and educating her.
“Giving my daughter into marriage would give me five cows I could sell to educate and feed the other children,” says Katerina. “I already can’t afford to educate her, and since she is old enough to be a wife, why not marry her off?”
Emma, the project director, is handing out food from the centre to Katerina and her sons outside their home.
Just when all seemed lost, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a church-led programme. One of Katerina's children, Matayian,13, is a participant at their local child development centre. The church has provided food for Katerina’s family through food distribution and direct cash transfers. The church started a table banking initiative and encouraged Katerina to save whatever she could and deposit her money with other women in her community.
“The church felt the need to encourage parents to create more sustainable incomes to mitigate the effects of the drought,” says Emma, a Compassion staff member. Table banking is a form of microfinance where small groups of women pool their resources and lend to each other. Currently, the women contribute Kshs 100 each week or NZ $1.
Katerina remembered the first time she walked into the table banking meeting, filled with apprehension and fear. But as she listened to the stories of the other women, she began to realise she was not alone.
“I was encouraged by being with other women who shared common struggles and desires,” says Katerina. They laughed and cried together, sharing their triumphs and struggles. And, with the support of table banking, Katerina wants to borrow from the table bank to start a small business. The business can be a steady source of food and income for her family, and she will able to keep all of her children in school. “I know we don’t have much as a group currently to contribute, but I believe our circumstances will improve,” she says.
The lines of worry that once creased her forehead have smoothed, replaced by a radiant smile filled with hope. She is grateful for the kindness shown by the church and table banking. Katerina's story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. “I thank God for what he has done through the church,” says Katerina. “I believe I will get livestock; I will be able to send my children to school, and I will not have to give my daughter into marriage this early in her life.”
The ongoing global food crisis and the devastating effects of the drought in East Africa have tested her, but she has persevered. Her determination and unwavering love for her family had overcome the odds, and she remains a beacon of hope for those around her.
1. Pray that Katerina can start a small business, to provide for her family.
2. The drought seems to be getting worse. Please pray for rain for the people of Kimanjo.
3. Pray that the Compassion centre can continue to provide families with food support.
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