Article featured in the Star newspaper on 29 November 2013
Imagine a place that is linked to the origin of humankind; is one of the world’s leading archaeological sites and is now a World Heritage Site; has preserved wildlife fossils, which include the giant tortoise and the 20-foot long crocodile; is home to one of the smallest tribes on earth who still wear goat or fish skins and accessorize with fish bones or fish teeth; has the world’s largest permanent desert lake which is also the world’s largest alkaline lake; has an island with scenic crater lakes each harbouring its own kind of animal species like flamingos, crocodiles and tilapia; has sand dunes that measure over 40 feet high that are surrounded by palm trees; has a forest;is rich in wild life; has commercially viable oil deposits and a lot of water. Well, what do you think about this place? I think it is too good to be true. I think it should be one of the world’s biggest attractions.
Unfortunately it is not. The people from this place, when compared to a Kenyan of average status (which is not that great), are two times poorer; fifteen times less likely to get a formal job; thirteen times less likely to earn more than seven thousand two hundred shillings (Ksh 7,200) per month; four times less likely to learn how to read and write; seventeen times less likely to have a primary education; sixty three times less likely to have a secondary education or above; three times less likely to have access to clean water; sixty three times less likely to have access to sanitary facilities; eighty two times less likely to live in a house with a cemented floor or a mabati roof; three hundred and thirty six times less likely to live in a house with stone/brick walls; thirty four times less likely to cook with cooking gas (LPG), bio fuels or electricity; and no chance on using electricity.
These are a lot of ‘less likelies’ for such a rich place but regrettably, these are the contradictions a person born in Kotaruk/Lobei in Loima Constituency, Turkana County, has to live with.
While on one hand the opportunities and resources in this county can be a blessing and thus the county has the potential to make incomparable sums of money to kick-start economic growth, eradicate poverty, raise literacy levels, improve health indicators, ensure food security, access to clean water and sanitation, create jobs to increase household incomes and purchasing power, enable the transfer of technology, improve infrastructure and encourage the flourishing of other related industries; on the other hand, these resources could be a curse.