Blogger series: Nairobi, & a day trip to Kisumu

Caspar lands in Kenya

People in Nairobi never stop talking about the traffic. In the UK, weather chat is what oils the wheels of social interaction. Here, it’s all about what time you should go to beat the traffic, and what a nightmare it was last time. Get it wrong, and a ten-minute drive turns into a 3-hour ordeal. You’re taking an afternoon flight? Best leave in the morning and just spend the day at the airport, someone told me.

I had no traffic troubles at all, but maybe that’s because on my first full day I was catching the earlybird flight. Destination: Kisumu, 370km northwest of Nairobi on the shores of Lake Victoria. Kisumu was once a stop on the Southampton-Cape Town seaplane route. It still only has a tiny airport, and when we landed – with a dawn mist still hanging over the trees – ours was the only plane there.

A few herons stood in the tall grass alongside the runway, looking surprised to see us. I was travelling with Dan, GAIN’s project manager in Kenya, and we were on our way to visit Otieno Okello, who is setting up a fish farm and training centre about half an hour out of town. As we walked around his freshly dug ponds, Otieno told us how over-fishing in Lake Victoria has changed people’s relationship with this important source of protein. Once a staple food, it’s now something many people serve only to important guests, usually at weddings and funerals.

Otieno’s plan is to make fish more affordable and accessible to people here, by providing aquaculture training to hundreds of farmers and supplying them with good quality fingerlings (tiny baby fish). Growing some smaller varieties – weighing just about 120g each – will also help more people include the odd bit of fish in their diets.

Monday is market day in nearby Luanda (not the Angolan Luanda) so after leaving Otieno’s site we stopped to see what kind of fish was available there. At the stall we visited, large barbecued Ugandan farmed tilapia were going for 200 shillings (£1.50) a fish. That’s about half a day’s wages for many people in this area.

The afternoon saw Dan and I wandering round a flour milling plant to observe how wheat and maize flour are fortified with zinc and iron. The head miller, Mr Mutiso, shouted explanations in my ear, and I shouted them into Dan’s ear. We emerged hot, dusty and a little deaf.

Back in Nairobi that night, dinner was a vegetable curry with a malaria tablet for dessert. Earlier, Otielo had casually told me he gets malaria about once a year. I’d gasped in horror, but he seemed unfazed. “Oh, for us it’s just like catching a cold,” he shrugged.

Caspar van Vark, Uk Journalist and writer is in Africa all this month. Caspar is reporting back to us about how GAIN is helping local  people, enterprise and businesses tackle the complex issue of malnutrition. Up next and coming soon: Caspar networks with Nairobi’s food entrepreneurs in Isiolo.

Enjoy this? One small business owner, supported by GAIN is producing nutritious and energy dense peanut butter in Mozambique, giving local people access to local products – read all about it here.

Follow Caspar’s journey #CasparTravels

Returns to Homepage

Published 11 March 2015