Residents of Solio in Laikipia appeal for food as drought persists

Solio village 5 in Laikipia County

Ms Josephine Wanjiku, 79, narrates her ordeal with hunger in Solio village 5 in Laikipia County. She is relying on well-wishers to feed her grandchildren.

Photo credit: Irene Mugo | Nation Media Group

For four years, residents of seven villages in Solio, Laikipia County have not realised a harvest from their farms due to lack of rainfall and water shortage, and with the ongoing drought, they are surviving on one meal a day.

While food and water are hard to come by, the drought is also ravaging their animals and has also led to increased theft of hay stacks from those who can afford it, which has led to near-death fights.

The elderly and school going children are the most affected as they cannot feed themselves. In schools, children are either sharing meals with those who cannot afford to bring some to school or are stealing from each other.

“We are in despair especially for the elderly who cannot do menial jobs like us and the children who rely on us to eat,” said Ms Miriam Wambui, a resident.

Residents of the Solio settlement scheme were relocated from different parts of Nyeri County and land donated to them during former President Mwai Kibaki tenure. There are about seven villages subdivided for the farmers who grow different crops such as beans and potatoes for sale.

Few or no menial jobs

But with no rains and water, agricultural activities have reduced and so have the menial jobs.

“We have resolved to ensure there is food at night albeit little. We share what we have and then go to sleep,” Ms Wambui added.

Ms Josephine Wanjiku, 79, has been relying on well-wishers to feed her four grandchildren – a situation that has been exacerbated by the high cost of living.

“I cannot support myself with menial jobs, but through the help of people of goodwill and generous neighbours I am making sure we eat a meal at night and drink tea without milk,” she said.

After a long day of toil some 20 kilometres away, the residents are managing to sustain their livelihoods after earning between Sh250 and Sh300.

“The journey starts at 5am. Sometimes we are not able to come back and so our children are in the care of neighbours whom we have to compensate for what they spend on our children. The next day we alternate as we await the rains,” said Ms Wambui.

She further stated that at times when there are no menial works in the neighbouring Nyeri County, they are forced to depend on their neighbours for some little maize flour to cook porridge for their children.

“It has gotten to a point where we are hiding from our children when they come home from school because we are embarrassed when they ask for food and we have nothing to give them,” said Ms Leah Wachera, a resident.

Arid area

Solio is largely an arid area that relies on relief food from time to time. The residents said the last time they received any form of aid was in 2017.

“Currently, they are sparsely donating to the elderly a kilogramme of flour which is not enough to sustain them more than a day,” noted Ms Wachera.

The residents accused the government of neglecting them and appealed for irrigation water and operational dams.

According to Mr James Mugo, an activist with Futa Magedo social welfare group, the government should remove all taxes for traders who are importing maize from neighbouring countries in order to reduce the prices of maize flour.

“Besides that, the government should drill solar-powered boreholes in this area to ensure that people are food secure with adequate irrigation water,” he said.


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