BY: FAITH GIKUNDA, Meru Kenya
There is a catastrophic crisis in the far, far away Gukena Village in the foot of Mount Kenya. There hasn’t been a single drop of rain for the past 5 planting seasons. The only few remaining old men who have the powers of summoning Ngai the rainmaker having done everything they can with no success, have resigned to fate and retreated to their smoke filled huts in anticipation of nature’s wrath.
Rivers are dry. Farms have become barren. Trees that survived massive deforestation have withered off and bowed to the harsh punishment of nature. There is no food. Animals are dying at an alarming rate with a handful emaciated ones remaining. Women have no more energy to wail for yet another death.
Their breasts are dry with no milk for the infants. The gory sight of dead infants strewn in every corner of the village is traumatizing – dying as a result of hunger as their mothers can no longer produce milk to breastfeed them. Those that have managed to survive another day are whimpering with faint cries, they are fighting to stay alive, after defying all odds to fight for a future so bleak.
How long they will survive is the saddest and hardest question. The energetic men ran away to the cities. The smell of death in the village was too much for them to bear. They left the now ghost village to the women, people living with disabilities, old frail men, children and anyone else who was too weak to run away – the invalids. The city to them is a haven of odd jobs that they can engage to at least earn a few shillings to send back home.
The entire Gukena village is on the verge of being wiped out of the face of the earth. The only remaining hope is a ten-year-old boy – Baraka. Just as his name depicts (blessings), he is the only ray of light that is anticipated to bring back sunshine to the village. He has a plan. A mega plan so he says. A plan to bring back the laughter and happiness in Gukena village. A plan to bring back rain to cool off the overheated grounds.
Baraka’s persistence pays off
For the past couple of months Baraka has been trying to convince the village elders to give him audience to share his mega plan but none of them seems to take him seriously – after all what would a 10-year-old boy who still has the taste of his mother’s breast milk in his mouth know?
The more the villagers push him away, the more he is determined to push harder to salvage the situation. It is at this moment he realizes that his ultimate desire is not to become a hero but to save lives of thousands of villagers that are dying en mass’ like cockroaches on a combination of steroids and pesticides.
Finally, Baraka’s persistence pays off. The chief elder Sir M’Mungania summons him to the elder’s shrine. Everybody is anxious to hear this life changing plan. Baraka is not intimidated by the presence of the frail yet macho elders. You see! He loves science and environmental studies and with time has learnt a lot on the causes of drought.
In school, he is in the environmental club under the patronage of Mr. Kamenyi – a genius in matters of science and environment. A very resourceful teacher, Mr. Kamenyi has been teaching Baraka and the other club members about climate change and it’s causes. As fate would have it, Mr. Kamenyi was sent away from the village a couple of weeks ago.
His constant mention of climate change and warning of what the continuous defilement of the environment would cost Gukena village was taken with a pinch of salt by the elders. They feel that he is responsible of serenading the curse that the drought has brought upon the village. They couldn’t have him around for even another single second. So he had to leave.
You see! Mentioning drought and discouraging the Gukena community from cutting down trees was reason enough to have him excommunicated. He had to go back to the city where he came from. What does he know of the village in the slopes of Mount Kenya anyway? To the villagers he was always viewed as an outsider for the 5 years he worked at the local primary school.
In the presence of the elders, Baraka was given a stern warning
His only trademark was his love for alcohol that he brought from the city in sophisticated bottles that the villages would scramble for when empty to use as decorations in their tiny huts. His dislike for the traditional liquor made other drunkards shun him from their circles. They loathed how he spoke in English while tipsy as he kept on reminding them of the ‘foreign’ climate change.
In the presence of the elders, Baraka was given a stern warning that if he didn’t bring rain as he claimed, he would be sent away from the village permanently – excommunicated. With the able guidance and support of Mr. Kamenyi who is in constant communication with him through his mother’s mulika mwizi phone, he is confident that his solution will bear fruits and the village will be abuzz with farming activities once more.
He takes the elders through the master plan of bringing back rain and outlines where they went wrong in the first place as well as re-assures them that all is not lost for the situation can be salvaged if they apply the indigenous knowledge to plant trees. They reluctantly heed to the plan. They embark on a serious tree planting mission.
Men, women, boys and girls collectively plant millions of trees. In the farms, along the rivers, by the roadside, in their compounds and public places- no space is left without a tree. The remaining strong men dig a well purposely dedicated to watering the trees to prevent them from drying. The remaining young men and boys are assigned the duty of watering and tending to the trees.
Few years later, the tree planting bears fruit. There are trees gracefully towering Gukena village. They seem to be smiling at the sheer energy towards ensuring their survival. As days pass, the smell and signs of rain are written all over with the pregnant dark clouds threatening to birth rain with the slightest provocation.
Then, one evening as the villagers gather to carry out their usual routine of praying for the rains, the skies suddenly open. There is the heaviest downpour ever witnessed in Gukena village. Children dance in the rain. Women strand their long hair as the rain streams on their weary backs. Men let out celebratory dirges. Girls rush out with huge pots to collect water. It is celebration galore.
Baraka is crowned the rainmaker of modern times. The elders vow to protect the forests, stop the cutting down of trees and ensure more are planted. Youth and children vow to plant trees at any given time. Men vow to plant trees in honour of every girl they dated. Babies chuckle in celebration. Cows moo with joy. Mr. Kamenyi is summoned back to the village.
Gukena Village is happy once more.