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The diaspora to the rescue: Kajiado gets food donations

Contributions by the Maa diaspora were used to buy food that was then donated at two location in Kajiado West that are badly hit by the drought: Oltepesi and Mosiro

A group of Maasai in foreign countries have come together to fundraise and assist their countrymen and women back home in the face of the biting famine being experienced.

Calling themselves the Maa Diaspora Organization, the group’s members are drawn mainly from the Maa communities in Samburu, Kajiado, Narok and even Tanzania. The initial focus of their work is Kajiado County given that it is the most severely affected by the ongoing drought.

The diaspora contributions were used to buy food that was then donated at two locations in Kajiado West that are badly hit by the drought: Oltepesi and Mosiro. The donated foodstuffs consisted of maize flour, rice, beans, and cooking oil.

“We focused on Kajiado because we know that it is more severely affected by the drought than other places,” said Teriano Saidimu, who has been spearheading the donation efforts. Ms Teriano is a PhD student and researcher at the University of Toronto and works in Canada but is currently in the country and has been personally spearheading the efforts to assist needy families.

“The logistics have not been easy. I was expecting 200 to 300 people to help, but found about 1,000. The people heard there were going to be food donations and turned up, some from very far,” said Teriano. Most of those who turned up were women.

The elderly, expectant women and nursing mothers were given priority in the food distribution. Teriano lauded the efforts by her compatriots abroad, saying their generosity was remarkable and ensured they gave support to those who were in serious need back home. There is no set amount and each donor gives what they wish, which is then used to purchase food locally for distribution.

Jacob Mayiani, who is Chairman of Maa Diaspora and is based in Blacksburg, Virginia in the United States, said they hoped their initial efforts will encourage more members of the Maa community in the diaspora to join hands in giving a helping hand in the ongoing drought fundraising campaign.

“This is part of the short-term measures we are taking as an organization to contribute to the ongoing efforts to help mitigate the unrelenting effects of the drought. Our people are suffering and as a community we have all been through a lot, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and now moving to one of the worst drought in recent years,” said Mayiani.

On his part, Joel Purkei, who works as an auditor in Calgary, Alberta in Canada, called on the Maasai to come up with new ideas to confront the challenges they face. “Decision making is in the success equation. Get up and possess an understanding of how things work.”

Oltepesi Sub-location Assistant Chief Raphael Ntiaki said even though virtually everyone needs help, he used “nyumba kumi” village elders to reach those families who were most in need. “We also obtained some food from the national government that we distributed to schools.”

Even though there have been no deaths of people but only of livestock so far, the drought has severely affected the area, especially with the lack of water points. “Most boreholes belong to individuals, so one can only get water by buying it. The county has tried to deploy water bowsers, but that is only for short periods.

A village administrator in the area, Simaloi Marias, agreed that the situation was fast getting out of hand. “It is painful trying to decide who to assist and who to leave out, so we give a little of the help we get to everyone who turns up.”

Mosiro Location Senior Chief Simon Lemondoi Kesieko was full of praise for Teriano and John Kamanga of the South Rift Association of Land Owners (Soralo) Conservancy for their assistance to the local residents. “The food was meant to go elsewhere, but they listened to my pleas and helped me with 40 bales of flour, which was distributed among 480 people. They also gave us cooking oil that we gave to primary schools and girl rescue centres.”

Mosiro, Kesieko said, is the farthest location in Kajiado County. “We border Narok. You have to pass four counties to get here, because of the poor state of the road. You have to go through Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru, and Narok to get to my home. Kajiado town is more than 300 km from here.”

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