What a difference the rain can make. When I visited Tharaka, a four hour drive north of Nairobi, in April, the land was brown and dry. The shrivelled corpses of burnt trees lined the hard and dusty tracks.
The crops were dead, the animals were dying, and the people were scared.
In a blog on the Trócaire website, I wrote: ‘The lush green fields that surround Nairobi mask Kenya’s emerging crisis: a food shortage in the northern regions of the country that is rapidly descending into famine.’
You didn’t need an early warning system to see that hunger was coming to east Africa; you just needed a pair of eyes.
Two months later, the United Nations issued a massive international appeal for the people of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Thirteen million people – among them the people I had met in Tharaka – unable to survive without outside aid.
It’s November and we are back in Tharaka. The trees are green; grass and crops spring from the ground; goats happily munch on plentiful bushes. It is like a different world.
The change has been brought about by rain – so often the missing ingredient in east Africa’s attempts to feed itself. After going a year and a half without any rainfall, the Tharaka soil has finally felt moisture over the last number of weeks, bringing life back to the earth.
The rain has allowed crops to grow and animals to live. Those crops and animals will keep the people of Tharaka alive and healthy.
But where did these crops and animals come from? The answer is simple: you.
You gave to Trócaire, and Trócaire used your donations to purchase food, crops and animals for people in Tharaka and throughout east Africa.
Across the fields and homes of Tharaka, evidence of Irish generosity is everywhere. Ireland is known around the world for a variety of reasons – our music, our books, our scenery, to name but a few. In Tharaka, the people we spoke with knew just two snippets of information about this far away land: the first that it is very cold, the second that the people of Ireland saved their lives.
The crisis in east Africa is far from over, but in places such as Tharaka the people have been kept alive through the drought by outside aid. If the rains continue for the next month, soon they will be able to harvest their crops and will be once again able to provide for themselves.
The rain has made a massive difference to the lives of people in Tharaka, but so have you.