Acrobats Without Borders!
The morning started well enough, as all 5 of us from IsraAID drove out to Chief Alfred Kapoko's home in Kalobeyei to present and explain our Kalobeyei water exploration report. The Turkana hamlet of Kalobeyei (not to be confused with the nearby Refugee Camp of Kalobeyei) is a 25 km or so drive over a heavily cratered, but asphalted road. Despite living in a very remote Turkana community, Chief Kapoko seemed to absorb the significance and required action items coming out of our work. Together he patiently and attentively went through the Kalobeyei section of the report figure by figure, map by map.
We then drove back east toward the new Camp of Kalobeyei. The conditions are extremely challenging. With most of the vegetation, including the trees, being bulldozed away, crowds of people huddled under the few remaining trees searching for shade in the oppressive heat that characterizes the end of the dry season. The homes are wall tents with tin roofs, family size solar ovens. Gardens and food production are encouraged here, though with no protection from the wind or sun, and very limited water; gardening even in Alberta has its advantages.
We parked innocuously about 500 m west of the Camp. As part of siting a water well is making a good map of the exploration area, in previous classes I have taught the class to GPS the proposed well site with a mobile phone, photograph the site from the ground, make a drawing, and photograph the site from the air. In previous classes we used kites to very inexpensively, and with great fun, carry out our low altitude and high resolution aerial photography. Of course it is now the age of drones - after all, Eye in the Sky takes place in Kenya - and the vast open area 15 km or so from the Kakuma air strip seemed to be a good location to safely do a test flight. Besides simply creating site photos for documentation purposes, the drone photographs can be used for creating digital elevation models to plan drainage, counting latrines, planning roads, identifying impassable roads after major rain events, monitoring bank erosion during flash floods, monitoring garden developments and vegetation regeneration, monitoring illegal wood scavenging, etc.
Anyways, after taking photographs at about 100 m altitude for a mere 15 minutes or so, I brought the drone home, assuming no one had been aware of the flight. Following the drone came every child from Kalobeyei, as well as the police. At issue was not the drone flight or the photographs, but the pandemonium and accompanying stampede. As I bent down to remove the propellers from the craft, I was enveloped by the mob of barefoot, would be geographers and geomatics scientists. I was feeling a rush of empathy with Melissa and Gabby from Clowns Without Borders. Even with the crowd, we still might have made our getaway had it not been for the monster thorns puncturing a front tire, and the misfortune of not having a spare tire. For three hours the Israeli IsraAID staff, Gal and Nimrod, expertly took charge of the situation and entertained the children with games, songs, juggling, and juggling instruction. While the drone episode was entirely my doing, our office field coordinator smoothed out the situation with the police. All in all, hanging out in the broiling mid day sun provided a genuine Kalobeyei experience.
There is no better way to end an epic mid-day misadventure than injera, goat meat, hot chili peppers, and coffee at the Kakuma Refugee Camp's most famous restaurant, Franco's. Besides the life sized Jennifer Lopez photo, the thick mud plastered floor, the complete absence of any straight lines to the structure, the continuous stream of Ethiopian dance music, and especially the fragrant Eithiopian coffee all lend a certainty of authenticity that you are in Ethiopia, and not in the Ethiopian Market of the Kakuma Refugee Camp. A bit of shopping at a few of the Congolese fabric shops, followed by a walk back to my room, and an evening run into the desert all made for a great way to spend my only Saturday in my 2 weeks in Kakuma. Electric Avenue in Calgary is going to feel oh so dull!
Aerial Shots and Socializing
Some days it is not too difficult to draw the connection between cappuccinos and croissants in Vilnius in Lithuania, and chai mendazi (tea and fried bread) in Kakuma, or to do away with the euphemisms, to compare the Nazi extermination pits in the Ponary Forest where 70,000 Jews were shot in groups of 10, buried, and burned in 1941 through 1944, to what is still presently ongoing in numerous conflicts in this area. Of course I just meet the few fortunate ones, those lucky enough to survive, and get away, and make it to the Kenyan border, and still possessed with enough presence of mind to be able to tell a small part of their story. Sunday, while waiting for our spare tire to magically roll out of the Turkana desert, a young man, Abbas, walked up to us from the Camp. He spoke no Swahili, but excellent English. He was a school teacher in Darfur, that other conflict in Sudan that fell off the news years ago, but never went away. Government soldiers came to his village on horseback, pressing him to join the army. He refused, wanting only to continue teaching and learning. They shot him point blank in the mouth. At this juncture in the story he removed his upper, false teeth, and then turned around to show the bullet exit point in his neck.
Coming back to Kakuma for the fourth time seems to have allowed the refugees I meet to be more at ease to tell me their stories. Despite having done training in 2015 in Gulu, in northern Uganda, no person had ever actually explicitly clearly talked about being a child soldier for Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). It was always someone else’s story. On Monday, one of my students from Uganda, Ouma, spoke matter-of-factly about being a 14 year old guerilla fighter with Kony’s LRA in the village areas of Acholi land, only to take the first opportunity of escape when his guerilla band was bombed, chaos ensued, and he ran, and ran…. Last night, over a 10% Danish beer at Catherine’s (it is a 1 minute walk from my bed, so no driving was involved), Shema, a philosophy major and aid worker in the Camp, told about fleeing Rwanda as a child with his father, a military officer, and his two body guards, taking 12 hours to navigate, cajole, and threaten their way through the many Hutu roadblocks that the Hutu had set up to prevent any Tutsi or suspected Tutsi from fleeing Kigali. This morning, while driving back from the field, one of my Burundian students, Richard, showed me an image of his brother. Though an officer in the military, he had been imprisoned for speaking out against the government. Today, he had escaped prison and crossed the border into Rwanda, with the photo being that of a free man.
Continuing on a positive note, yesterday, Nimrod from IsraAID and myself met with the head of UNHCR WASH. He had only complimentar comments about the technical value of our January exploration program. Based on our results, three productive wells have been drilled in the northern portion of the Camp. These wells are relatively close to Kalobeyei, and will likely replace the water trucking that is presently sustaining Kalobeyei. Our targets near Kalobeyei will be drilled to supply the host Turkana community.
Yesterday morning, before the groundwater class, we were also asked to take a bit of movie footage over the primary school in Kakuma 4 from our drone. For those staff working and volunteering at the school, the phrase of never have so few done so much for so many with so little held more true. With the sun pounding down on the treeless school yard, 20 kids waiting in line for the single slide, a dozen sharing the seesaw, and an annoying UAV buzzing in the distance, I was astounded by the good will and good natured behaviour manifested in a setting more reminiscent of a nursery in the not so futuristic Mad Max movie. So harsh is the landscape, and so intent are the children to take advantage of any opportunity or game or piece of sporting equipment, that even the best quality soccer ball does not last more than a week of being kicked around all day. Gal, the other half of the Israeli couple that forms the entire expat contingent of IsraAID in Kakuma, has clearly played a massively positive role at the school and with the kids. Check it out from the air! And next time you see a tree, hug it!
Friday, September 16, 2016 in Kakuma
Last night by chance, I met and had a Tusker with the aid worker who was responsible for one of IsraAID's best female students, Rose, dropping out of the November 2015 groundwater geophysics course. Elvis, a Kenyan, runs Youth Development Services here in Kakuma, for the Lutheran World Federation, aka LWF. Sure, that includes a music studio, a soccer league, encouraging artists and would be musicians, and even youth workshops with Clowns Without Borders. It also included putting together an Olympic team in a place where youth have no shoes and facilities of any sort, and where opportunities simply do not exist. It was a 4 year methodical process of teasing latent talent out of the Camp.
Rose was one of the 5 Kakuma athletes, all middle distance runners, and all from South Sudan, who comprised the 10 person Refugee Olympic Team. From the millions of other refugees in camps in Africa and elsewhere, people here are filled with pride and hope that half came from Kakuma, and ALL the track athletes came from Kakuma. The NGO FilmAid set up massive screens at 2 locations in the Camp, with large canopies so some events could be watched live even in the bright sun of late afternoon. Tens of thousands watched.
The 5 athletes flew back to Kakuma to a hero's welcome. A huge crowd greeted them at the air strip with singing and traditional dancing....living proof that there is a way out of here. And while the 5 runners did return, they are now being sponsored to train in Nairobi to become professional track athletes.
Rose was very good, but there have been other outstanding female South Sudanese students in the IsraAID WASH - WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene - classes. Besides being tall, thin, and dramatic looking, they all seem possessed of smarts, a strong work ethic, and a no nonsense approach to everything. Today I ate a great lunch - njira, rice, cabbage, and goat-with Anna. One of the superstars in the class. Her father was killed in the second Sudan civil war, and her mother carried her out of Sudan to Kakuma in 1994 when she was age 2. Besides great math and science skills, she speaks English, Swahili, Acholi, Arabic, and likely at least one other language of Sudan. Her mother died of disease here in the Camp, and she has since lived with her now 65 year old grandmother. The grandmother collects and carries water for the household so Anna can work on a hygiene promotion team in the morning, and attend the groundwater class in the afternoon. She has had countless interviews for resettlement, with no success. I don't get it as not only does she have all the attributes to succeed, but one of the great failures of resettlement of the Lost Boys of Sudan was not resettling Lost Girls to supplement the social package. Meanwhile, according to today's BBC news, about 300 South Sudanese a week are coming into Kenya fleeing the latest conflict, with far more South Sudanese fleeing into Uganda, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I have always wondered why I rarely see runners in the evening when I usually head out into the desert. Elvis said the 6:00 PM curfew keeps them in Camp in the evening. Also, when you are living on one meal a day, and that meal is in the evening, you do not want to miss it. Since there is no electricity in the Camp, and people are hungry and tired, the evening meal is usually not delayed. Most of the runners head out at dawn. Too bad for them, as it was an inspiring scene this evening seeing the full moon rising over Laga Tarach, the Turkana manyata homes, and the Acacia trees of the Turkana Desert. For a moment I thought I was in Africa!
Myself and 2 Israeli colleagues with IsraAID finished the evening with a walk into Kakuma town, nyama choma - roasted goat meat - and beers, all outside of course under a clear sky and a harvest moon. Tomorrow it is a visit to the Chief of Kalobeyei to discuss the results of our January SEG Geoscientists Without Borders water exploration surveys, and to the new Kalobeyei Refugee Camp.
Back to Kakuma
I have been back in Kakuma since September 12 teaching, for the 3rd time, a groundwater and water exploration course to refugees and the host community Turkana. I also plan to follow up on the success of 3 wells drilled from our January geophysical water exploration program, reportedly testing for 29, 40, and 45 m3 per hour. That is a lot of water even for this massive camp, but only seeing is believing, so I plan to visit the well field this weekend, hopefully stopping at the Ethiopian refugee cafe of Franco's on the way.
Early morning September 12, 2016, I flew in on the World Food Program plane as usual, and though this is my 4th time here, I was once again immediately overwhelmed by the heat, the dust, and the mass of humanity. Of course all the refugees that were here in January are still here, plus thousands more coming in from the political chaos in Burundi and Ethiopia, the renewed fighting in South Sudan, and the transfer of Somalis from the supposedly soon-to-be-closed, even larger Dadaab Camp in northeast Kenya.
The refugee population in Kakuma is now 194,000. That does not include the 4,000+ that have been moved into the "new" camp of Kalobeyei, an area on the outskirts of Kakuma, where they have no shade, inadequate water supply, and few facilities. The Kalobeyei area is treed, but the Camp area was bulldozed flat, clearing all vegetation. The people are in tents with tin roofs. It is too hot to be inside, with no trees for shade outside. UNHCR is encouraging agriculture, but there is not enough water. 7 of us from Advisian WorleyParsons carried out a water exploration program in January, but none of our targets in the Kalobeyei area, including a few very prospective ones, have yet been drilled. Presently, all water is trucked in. The 3 wells that were drilled in the Kakuma Camp based on our work, reportedly tested for sustainable yields of 29, 49, and 45 m3 per hour. At 20 liters per person per day, it is enough water for about 140,000 persons. UNHCR may pipe water from these wells, or use water from these 3 wells to replace another closer source to be piped to Kalobeyei.
I teach alone from noon to 5. Between the heat and the jet lag and trying to memorize 28 names from South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Somalia, and Turkana, day 1 was a struggle. I ended the first day by going for a long run into the desert through a few Turkana communities. Lucky I did. 3 km out I saw a Land Rover driven by a white man. An unusual sight here. It was an Alaskan driller and his wife carrying out a water well drilling program for a Christian evangelical charity out of Medicine Hat, Alberta. I was told there were no rigs operating within 100 km of Kakuma. Just what I needed for a class field trip.
Day 2 in Kakuma, Tuesday, I drove out to the rig in the morning to be sure the class could reach it across the sand and dried out river beds we needed to cross, and then lectured in class in the afternoon. The groundwater students are excellent. 8 women, 20 men. The usual mix of host community Turkana trying to better themselves, political refugees from Burundi, child soldiers or just plain run'of-the-mill rebels from South Sudan. Without exception they are all respectful, intelligent, and easy to talk to.
One Burundian, Richard, was volunteering daily for the Burundian local equivalent of Amnesty International - Association Volontaire Pour La Defense Des Droits Des Prisoniers- interviewing political prisoners (in prison) and advising them of their human rights until prison was up next for him, and he fled. The tallest person in my class, Mawiet, was a rebel fighter in South Sudan and has bullet holes through his legs and arms and stomach to prove it. A Somali, woman, Suad, has been living in camps since she was 5 months old.
There are 2 Acholi refugees from Gulu, where I will be in 8 days, whose past is still quite unclear to me, but whom I assume were trapped or associated with the wrong side of history in regards to the 20 years of violence and chaos brought on by Joseph Kony and the LRA, though they themselves are too young to have been directly involved in either side. It is good fun practicing all 10 words or so from my Acholi vocabulary I picked up last year, though I try not to probe too deeply into the details of what brought people to Kakuma, unless the story comes out naturally in the course of a conversation. Until this class, I did not know that there are also Acholi in South Sudan, as one of the South Sudanese women clearly has an Acholi physique. Also distinctive are the 3 young men from the Nuba Mountains of Sudan where indiscriminate mass killing has occurred, reportedly due to the region's refusal to accept Sharia Law, along with the run-of-the-mill ethnic hatred that has been associated with all the Sudan conflicts.
Yesterday morning, Wednesday, I went out to the AAHI - Action Africa Help International-pilot 3 acre farm. UNHCR now believes that letting people grow their own food might be better than having them completely rely on monthly food distributions. AAHI wants to expand the farm to 20 acres, but they have no water. The farm is in an area which we bypassed in our January program 8 months ago. We will target the area in class on Monday.
Wednesday afternoon we carried out a survey at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church near the classroom. It is a great training site as there is a high yielding NGO drilled well producing undrinkable, caustic water (likely magnesium sulphate). Salt water is an easy test target, and the site is generally fairly quiet, at least until I started flying a drone to photograph the site, and kids started popping out from everywhere.
Today was a great day. We drove the gear out to the water well rig 4 km out from the Camp, while the class walked there in the heat of the day, all 28 of them. The cable tool rig was in action-drilling, bailing, driving casing, etc.- while we were carrying out our surveys trying to look for water below the driller's current depth. The local Turkana village came out in force to spectate. Needless to say, they were astounded by the aerial drone views of their stick wigwam-like manyata homes and the higher altitude views of the dry river beds and villages and us on the ground.
I was the last to return to Camp as the refugees must be back before the 6 PM curfew. I was met by complete pandemonium at the dusty soccer pitches on the edge of Camp. The Grinch's worst nightmare! CWB-Clowns Without Borders!! No kidding. A Colombian, Lucu from Medellin; Gabby from Brazil, Henrik from Denmark/Portland; and Melissa from Vermont. I am fortunate that I met any of the performers as they were surrounded by 1,000s of kids. There are about 120,000 children in Kakuma. Along with shows in the afternoons, the clowns put on workshops in clowning, acrobatics, magic, and other circus skills with a healthy blend of leadership and other social training mixed in.
I caught up with the clowns at the pub in the evening. They all said it was the most profound 3 weeks of their lives, except for Melissa the acrobat, who was immediately up in a handstand on the arms of a rickety, sun damaged plastic lawn chair, wildly clapping her feet in the air.
Many Photos, January 24
Kakuma and Nairobi
Saturday morning was hectic. The transport truck to carry our 1600 kg of equipment to Nairobi showed up early. It was fortunate though, as Josie and Paul, even with the students, would have been challenged to complete the final packing and loading. Doug, Landon, and Colin, who were already experts on packing and repacking the gear from their December program in central Turkana took command, and we had the truck on its way for the two day drive to Nairobi. Erin, Franklin, and Randy took the morning to search for wrist knives and other Turkana “accessories” in the Turkana market, but the market is usually not busy until the afternoon, as the Turkana walk from great distances to get into town. By 11 AM, everyone but Josie and Paul were on the road south to Lodwar and then Nairobi. Personally, I would trade three more days in Kakuma and a direct flight out of Kakuma on UNHAS – UN Humanitarian Air Service – any day over a repeat of the Lodwar/Kakuma drive.
In any event, a weekend in Kakuma is not to be missed! Following my last lunch together with the IsraAID refugee and Turkana students, and lots of good byes, Josie and I started walking on one of the main “roads” into Kakuma 1, heading toward Franco’s for a hot coffee, though Josie could not quite get it why anyone would opt to take a stroll on one of the dustiest roads, in one of the hottest places in Africa, to drink hot coffee of dubious provenance under a baking hot zinc plated roof. And the roads are very dusty.
After walking through the mud brick housing and thorn fenced compounds of the Lost Boys from Sudan, one takes a sharp left through the massive corrugated tin gates that close at 5:30 PM, and open again at 6 AM, and one enters the Ethiopian Market area. Past a large public sign board with crowds looking at the latest course offerings or UNHCR emigration interview schedules, another sharp left, step into a dark room and onto a polished mud plastered floor, and one has arrived. As the enjera and other food finished long before, Franco’s is nearly empty of customers, and service is quick. Of course Franco’s is empty of Franco as well, as the story is he opened a restaurant in New York City years ago. And even the Ethiopian refugee artist who did the interior design ran off years ago caught up in a scandalous relationship with a Ugandan refugee.
Customers do come in and out for tea or coffee, and over a half hour one can hear spoken, without leaving one’s seat, Swahili, Arabic, Amharic, French, Turkana, and a buffet of tribal languages that do not register for me at all. But eventually it is time to move on, and do what one does in a market in a refugee camp, go shopping! First it is to the Congolese shops, a mini-market area within the Ethiopian Market, where they carry the craziest batiked fabrics. And then, a bit of food shopping. We are invited to a refugee’s home on Sunday for a farewell lunch as this Sudanese refugee is giving up on Kakuma, and will try his luck on getting home. Few refugees eat lunch, and no refugee has food to spare or for entertaining, so this is something special. What do you bring to such an event? A bottle of wine? Chocolate? Try a kilo of rice, a half kilo of sugar, and 2 liters of cooking oil.
We then pick up a few mangoes for personal consumption, wind our way over to the Somali Market, and head home. Though it is the dry season, and the streets are dry, there are many puddles on the sides of the packed dirt roads, probably about 650 of them, because that is how many water tap stands there are in the Camp. We run into an NGO worker driving through the Somali Market distributing antibiotics to combat trachoma, an easily preventable disease caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. All you need to do is wash your face! Left untreated, it causes blindness. In the Camp the percentage of people with trachoma is 44% - yes, that is 44%!
Back to the puddles, I overhear a conversation with the health care worker that the clinics and hospitals are packed….over 7,000 cases of malaria this week….over 6,000 cases last week. I can’t restrain myself and interrupt, as we are standing next to a Camp Green Lake sized puddle. “What about digging a soak pit at each tap stand?” The puddles at the tap stands are mosquito incubators, and the large number of people gathering at the tap stands provides obvious vectors for malaria to jump from person to person. A “soak pit” is simply a small bucket sized hole in the ground with rocks or gravel. The response to my suggestion is that digging 650 pits is an incomprehensible expense. Who will dig? Who will pay? The problem with a day off in Kakuma is that one has time to look up from whatever is keeping you busy during the week, and think about all the craziness that surrounds you. We have challenges here that even Stanley Yelnats did not face.
Sunday and Monday January 24 and 25, 2016
By Sunday morning I have worked through almost all the 11.4 km of resistivity results and 5.4 km of seismic refraction data, and prepared 3 presentations. I am fortunate that the other 6 geophysicists made a tremendous effort of completing the data processing before they drove off to Lodwar on their way to Nairobi, on Saturday morning. The presentations are designed for 3 very different audiences, the Turkana village head of Kalobeyei, the 25 or so WASH students in Kakuma who helped run the survey, and the final meeting with UNHCR and NGOs involved in the WASH sector.
But before going to Kalobeyei for the first meeting, Josie and I, and IsraAID staff visit the home of one of the South Sudanese students/IsraAID staff/WASH instructor/friend who is readying to leave Kakuma, and return home. There are no fences to stop a South Sudanese from walking out of Kakuma and taking a bus north to Lokichogio and the border. There is lots to make returning dangerous, though. The civil war in South Sudan still varies from a simmer to a high boil. For Nuer refugees who came to Kakuma at a young age, they don’t have the distinctive coming of age scarring on their foreheads that marks them as Nuer. As such, they may become mistaken targets of Nuer violence, and remain targets of violence from other ethnic groups. Add to that land mines, a failed government, pressures on young men to join the military effort, expensive and dangerous transport, etc. Beyond simply offering security, there is community in Kakuma, but for the vast majority there is also a hopeless future, and returning home, perhaps even to family, may provide an attractive option. For someone like this particular South Sudanese staff person, extensive experience as a WASH instructor, an excellent command of English, and outstanding references from the NGO community may also assist him in securing a position with an NGO in South Sudan, where he will not be subject to the stringent “incentive pay” caps that UNHCR and the Kenyan government place on all refugees in the camps in Kenya.
Lunch is delicious! A traditional spiced dish of couscous, kale, and goat. We eat in a mud plastered, gabled room/house of about 2 m X 3 m, with walls about 1.3 m high. We all sit on the floor or a low bed, as standing puts one’s head too close to the intense heat radiating from the corrugated tin roof. We drink soft drinks that we have brought, something that most of us would never touch back home, but is often a daily treat in the heat of the Turkana desert. We talk about South Sudanese cooking, the journey home, the civil war, English football, and a bit of camp gossip. Then it’s time to go to Kalobeyei. The Camp is divided into Zones and Blocks, but the older areas of Kakuma 1 are a maze of compounds of semi-traditional structures behind fences of thorn branches and corrugated tin, so we need to be guided back to the main road just as we were guided in.
In drive to the home of the head of the village of Kalobeyi, Alfred Kapoko. He lives in a compound with his large family and an architectural mix of a small concrete house along with several traditional manyattas. My computer is charged, and we sit on chairs in the shade behind his home. There is Alfred, Jack Jones from IsraAID, the assistant camera man Josie, and myself. We slowly and methodically go through what we did in the field, where, what we found, and the conclusions of where to drill and where not to drill. Alfred graciously allows Josie to film the entire meeting. Alfred has spent hours with us in the field, and is intimately familiar with the area of course. He is a quick learner. Moving from maps to cross-sections does not seem to phase him. He stops me when he needs to cut through the jargon. He passes on the traditional knowledge of the area, but accepts the science while recognizing the geophysics has its own family of uncertainties The main points are clear to him….Elelia and Esikiriat lagas are saline. Kangura laga, to the west, has some possible water well targets. But the best area is a few kilometers west of Kangura, especially south of the Lokichogio highway where herders from his area will not have to cross the road. I am surprised to hear Alfred describing a long term vision where there is perhaps enough water and feed that some Turkana can abandon their nomadic ways, along with the deadly cattle raids and other inherent hardships, and settle down on grazing land like we do in Alberta. Driving back to Kakuma at 6:30, it’s another evening of Nuer dancing in the soccer pitches!
Monday morning, January 25, I present the results of the work from both Kakuma and Kalobeyei to a combined class of the 25 students from IsraAID’s advanced WAMTECH (Water Management TECHnology) class, and the 25 students of the new introductory WASH class. Josie is once again filming. The new students are both inspired and confused. Maps, cross-sections, geophysics, are all new to them, and I do not have the time to go through everything in the required detail. But for the students who completed the 8 months of WAMTECH training and carried out the field program, seeing the results and the interpretations seems to tie their efforts and learnings together, and there is certainly a sense of satisfaction in the air of a job well done. There are some good byes, and then a “mosquito hand clap” – it’s an East Africa thing-then off to UNHCR.
The UNHCR/NGO presentation is at noon. It is not an easy crowd to deliver a condensed version of 12 days of exploration, as there are no geophysicists or hydrogeologists – they are mostly from the Sanitation and Hygiene part of WASH, or public health, or livelihoods. The questions are reasonable, but not necessarily easy to answer. What will be the fluoride concentration in this area? Will there be enough water for agriculture? Why did you not collect data in the saline areas east of Tarach laga? Etc. Nevertheless, I am pleased that they are engaged, and recognize the potential of not only what was done, but what could be done. We did present results that directly addressed our initial objectives, though: 1. Identify improved water well sites east of Kakuma 1, 2. Identify water well sites east of Kakuma 3 and 4, 3. Identify drilling sites with potentially low fluoride, and 4. Identify drill sites in Kalobeyei. We very much look forward to receiving some drilling results, and modifying our interpretaitons if necessary.
We finished the UNHCR meeting at 1:30. Off to the airport and on to the UNHAS flight to Nairobi. I grab a window seat on the left side of the airplane to catch views of Lake Turkana. Josie films the takeoff – from her seat in the plane. No regrets about missing out on the return drive to Lodwar.
Kakuma, January 22
Today Peter, one of the local Kakuma men that took part in the water class showed us around his home, and where he and his community gets water from.
Thursday January 21 we were back “home” carrying out more electrical water exploration west of Kakuma 1, trying to bring a source of water closer to Kakuma 3 and 4. Meanwhile, the seismic crew was back in Kalobeyei carrying out surveys where we had already done the electrical work. The seismic defines the top of rock, and whether the rock is fractured or massive, and the electrical work identifies whether the pore spaces are filled with fresh water or saline water.
On Thursday we began to wind down, in a manner, with Erin Ernst staying back at Camp to push ahead with data processing and map making. We want to present at least our preliminary results to UNHCR, to the various NGOs involved in the water sector, to the village leader of Kalobeyei, and to the students before Paul leaves Kakuma on Monday January 25….especially as we have some great drilling targets!! We have also mapped some extensive areas that are saline everywhere along our lines, and at all depths, so we certainly do want to present these areas as ones to avoid. All of our information will be compiled in hard copy and digital reports, as well as be summarized in easy to understand maps overlain onto satellite photos.
Thursday, we bought a goat and had it slaughtered, and we gathered together in the evening at the WFP (World Food Program) compound with our IsraAID colleagues and other NGOs in the WASH sector to eat nyama choma (roasted goat) along with much missed fruit and avocado salads, and to celebrate what we hope is a job well done. While most of us are enjoying, or at least tolerating the food, a few of us, including of course our 1 vegetarian, would like a bit more variety from goat and ugali (maize flower and water). In fact, the assistant camera man Josie has become delirious, often seeing a soft, sweet, light, sponge cake in the pan when it is simply once again packed with dense, tasteless ugali.
Nevertheless, the evening was interesting, as often information is passed on over a few goat ribs and cold Tuskers that cannot be said in official recorded NGO minutes. For instance, it was both sad but satisfying to hear from several sources what we strongly suspected – that many, many more dry holes are drilled in Turkana than are ever reported, and the routine methods of water well siting do desperately need improving – along with reporting, archiving, monitoring, drilling, pump installation, and just about everything else water related. But it was absolutely tragic to hear from a Turkana working in the NGO sector what we had heard rumoured, but were not sure was true, that when water and grass become so scarce that the future of a livestock herd is hopeless, the Turkana men may shoot their animals, their family, and themselves.
Friday was hectic. Erin carried on with our processing. Randy and Franklin, along with the students, completed our last geophysical survey (an important saline control well of known depth). Of course by now, the IsraAID students are doing most of the work, and it would not be a surprise if this class exceeds the 60% employment rate of the last class. Doug and Colin packed and crated most of the equipment. Brendan and Josie filmed subject matter of people and water in Kakuma town, and Landon and Paul traveled though the Camp and back to Kalobeyei doing some water and soil testing on physical samples.
While testing a sand and water slurry in a scoop hole in the the main laga, Laga Tarach, we saw goats, women, and children drink out of the same scoop hole no bigger than a large spaghetti pot. And then a very articulate, English speaking Turkana man came over bemoaning how the water is unhealthy, full of bacteria, spreading disease from animal to person, and person to person. And then he took a bowl….and drank from the same scoop hole! Meanwhile, there is a hand pump perhaps 150 m distant, and a UNHCR supplied water tap in the town 300 m distant. It costs 10 Kenyan Shillings – about 10 cent US –to fill a 20 liter jerry can from the hand pump, and 5 cents from the Kakuma town water tap. For many Turkana, this is either more money than they have, or more money than they are willing to spend.
Kakuma, January 21
Kakuma, January 20
January 20, 2016
Today we collected a line of resistivity north of the only existing water well for at least 12 km in any direction at Kalobeyei, and in the very busy dry river bed/sand highway of Laga Esikiriait. We have a good prospect on the former, but the Laga was entirely saline everywhere along our survey. We expected the area surrounding the proposed 60,000 person Kalobeyei Refugee Camp expansion to be empty of people, but every day we have encountered many nomadic Turkana Camps and hundreds of camels, donkeys, and goats on the move. The Turkana dig down through the sand to find water for themselves and their livestock, using nothing but sticks, tin cups, and perhaps a large pot. But already, only a few weeks into the dry season, most of the lagas are dry, and the Turkana, their herds, and all they own are on the move to other areas where they hope to find grass and water. It is difficult to imagine what the situation will be like in another 2 months into the dry season, or if the spring rains do not come. Though most Turkana are illiterate and do not have radios, and I have never seen a nomad with a newspaper or a book, they are all aware of global warming, increasing temperatures, and less predictable rainy seasons.
The seismic crew worked in the Camp, shooting through a well that tested for a massive amount of water at 100 m3 per hour (about 500 gallons per minute, enough for a small town), but was abandoned because of very high fluoride. It was challenging getting good data as “quiet on the line” does not mean much when thousands of school kids are walking home and they suddenly spy a muzungu (white person) giant swinging a sledge hammer on top of a hill. The refugees tried to chase the kids away with sticks, but of course that all turned into a game and more ground noise on our geophone array. We are hoping to image thicker sands and deeper bedrock in that location, so as to site an equally productive well without the fluoride.
Kakuma, January 19
January 19, 2016
The planned 60,000 person refugee camp expansion of Kalobeyei is about 10 km west of the present 185,000 person Kakuma Refugee Camp. The last 3 days we have been exploring for groundwater resources near the planned Kalobeyei Camp specifically for the host Turkana community. Regardless of the presence of the new camp and any tensions it may create, the last 3 days working, seeing young children and old women digging in the dry laga bottoms for any significant amount of moisture, has convinced us Calgarians that the water situation there is desperate, likely more so than in the Camp. Unfortunately, until today, the prospects have not looked good, as the seismic work has shown bedrock to be only a few meters below ground surface, with no trace of deeply incised sands and gravels. And the electrical imaging work has shown that even where the bedrock is fractured and likely having good porosity, the pore water salinity is very high.
But today, we surveyed across an area that also had highly fractured rock, but with resistivity sections suggesting fresh water. Tomorrow, the electrical imaging group plans to continue to map out this prospect.
Meanwhile, the seismic crew will move back to the Refugee Camp. Between Kakuma 1 and Kakumas 3 and 4 there is a large laga (dry river bed) that periodically floods and rips out the water lines to Kakumas 3 and 4. UNHCR has tried to drill wells on the Kakuma 3 and 4 side of the Laga, and indeed they have tested for very large yields of water, but the fluoride concentratons coming from the volcanic bedrock have been extremely high, well above concentrations that cause skeletal fluorosis. So the seismic crew will shoot through this area, looking for deep volcanic bedrock. If they are successful, the electrical crew will come through on our last day to determine if the overlying sediment is fresh water saturated sand.
Despite the better exploration news today, the highlight was seeing a sight that even our Turkana students and the local Kalobeyei Turkana helpers had never seen. The Turkana raise donkeys, both as beasts of burden, and for meat. However, I had never actually seen a donkey carrying anything here, while the women in particular seem to carry everything, and mostly on their heads. I drove a few kilometers away from the crew to scout our next line. Climbing up on a small rise, I saw 2 older women carrying earthenware water jars on their backs, 2 very young children in rags, and 5 heavily loaded donkeys rapidly approaching. They looked like a 2000 year old version of dust bowl migrants, or perhaps a re-enactment of the Israelites hightailing it out of Egypt. When they saw me, they quickly veered away and moved rapidly into the thorny brush, but a quick glimpse of the lead donkey left me dumbfounded, though I did snap a quick and not so good photo. A camel was riding on top of one of the donkeys!