The rains are late

Young corn growing.

Probably no harvest because the rains are late

This year the lack of rain has made it very difficult for the people.

Crops, for instance maize, were planted but now are greatly affected as shown in this attached photo. This is the period normally people start eating fresh maize, rice, groundnuts, etc. This year none of them are ready to harvest. The picture shows maize plants that are not in a good state. They have retarded growth and likely there is no hope of harvesting anything out of them

“So we have a very special guest of honour in our homes this year. His name is Hunger,” said Father Placid.

Let us hope and pray that the rains continue and that some of the crops ripen soon for the people of Luhombero.

Daily life in Luhombero

If you live in North America, it is hard to comprehend the level of difficulty people face in Luhombero, to do the simplest of things; like boiling water for dinner. Wells with potable water are quite a distance away, and women and children spend a significant portion of their day collecting water and walking it home or carrying it on a bike.

Some families take 10 minutes to 15 minutes to each a well. These wells were made by the government but there are not enough of them to service the population. Sometimes it is difficult to fix such wells because the machines used to drill them are very primitive. They cannot dig very deep into  the earth. They normally make such wells alongside the basin where the depth to get water is not so deep.

The two wells in the parish, if they are renovated, can help to serve the nearby families. They need the pumping machines to be repaired. To fix them would require approximately $300-to-400 USD per well. There are machines which can make bore holes to have water but they cost up to $3,000 USD to order.

Some local people can make simple bore holes. It is the matter of negotiation. It can be $500 USD up to $1,500 USD, depending on the depth they dig, for these low-tech wells. So fixing our two parish wells is the most logical approach to help the people with the water shortage.

The “waiting room” for medical attention in Luhombero is under the shade of a tree. Below, you see women and children gathered, awaiting their turns at the small clinic.

Schools in Canada and the US are free. Schools in Kenya are not. Most families have to pay to send their children to school, and make huge financial sacrifices in order to do so. Lots of bright children must drop out of school because their family cannot afford the school fees.


How to kill crocodiles and wildebeests

crocodile“You have the boat as usual. We drive the boat with the bamboo poles. We know those areas where the depth of the water is very low and in the night the crocodile is there. The crocodile knows that the fishes are there. So he goes to that place. And together we are there. We go with a torchlight, a very strong one. We switch it on. We see the reflection of the eyes. It is very easy to see the crocodile this way.

“First, we go with a spear with a hook on it. Then the crocodile is shot at the centre of its head. It is important to make sure that you apply the spear properly because if you shoot the crocodile without securing the spear, it can go away. The spear is tied to a very long rope. Sometimes we go first with the gun. If it is shot well with the gun, it won’t be strong. If it is not shot well, the crocodile becomes very dangerous to the people. It can go to the areas where the women are doing the washing.

The meat is delicious. Very, very good. But is very dangerous to eat the crocodile meat. The crocodile has bile. The bile of the crocodile is so poisonous. The moment you touch it, you die. It is so, so strong. You have to be sure the crocodile was killed well and the bile didn’t contaminate the meat. Maybe you test it first with your dog. [laughter]

“The intention of killing the crocodile is getting the skin. The coating of the crocodile is very demanded. They use that skin to make shoes. There is a market for the crocodile. I learn these things from my father when I was a boy.

wildebeest migration“Together with other boys we go to the bushes to hunt. I killed so many wildebeests with the dogs. And with the spears. The dog now is the gun. The wildebeests get tired. When he stops, that’s advantage we have. The dogs can chase the wildebeests for five kilometres. Just running. We can hear the dogs barking. Normally the wildebeest would never run such a long distance. When it stops, it wants to fight against the dogs. Sometimes it injures the dogs. Sometimes it can come for you.

“Some dogs are very stupid. When it sees the wildebeest, it runs to you. [laughter] But some dogs are very fierce. We know the good dogs. But that was before. Boys growing up now do not learn these things. It is not allowed.” — Fr. Placid

How to Kill a Hippo

Hippopotamus“We used a spear, something made a metal, sharpened. We connected it with a very long rope. Then we go on the boat looking for the hippopotamus. When we find it, we are very close to it and apply the spear. The spear has a hook at one end. When it goes into its body, it won’t get out. Then we start travel ling, using some other spears, controlling the hippo with the long rope. When it tries to go away, we pull the rope so it hurts.

“With so many spears the hippopotamus is getting killed. If it comes near the boat, we have the spears so we strike it. This can be more than one hour. It depends how fast you are. When it starts sinking down in the water, that is very good. Everyone is very happy. You can have two boats. Or one boat depending on its size. In the boat might be five or six people.

At the end of the time you pull it to a convenient place where you can slaughter it and get the meat. We have other knives that we use. We normally take everything. We kill it in the heart areas and the neck. We go to the place where the depth of the water is low.

“One side of the river is where the water is high, the other side it is low. We push the hippopotamus alongside the riverbank. We start slaughtering there in the water. Cutting off the legs and all these things. In those days when I was boy the government did not care about the killings of these animals. No permission was needed. So there was always a supply of meat. We just decide. But the killing of the hippopotamus is so dangerous we did it only once or twice a year. Some of the people, they were wounded.

“Nowadays it is not allowed. Last week, at Luhombero, a man was caught with some meat—an elephant or a buffalo—and he was sent to jail. The leader of the village caught the man and he was sent to jail for fifteen years. He didn’t kill the animal. He bought the meat from somewhere. If he had the money to pay the authorities, he would not go to jail. The fine is something like twelve thousand dollars. Nobody would ever have that amount. But still animals are reduced in numbers because there is a great deal of poaching.” — Fr. Placid

Attacked by a Hippopotamus

“A very threatening event today. A hippo has broken the leg of a boy. He is 27 years old. He was going to the farm to work and on the way he met the hippo.

People brought him at Luhombero dispensary but of course there is very little medicine. People from all the corners of the village have come to the dispensary to witness the event. It is very terrible. Up to this moment I am struggling to get a car from the government authority but have not yet succeeded.

The boy cannot get proper treatment in Mahenge, or Ifakara or Morogoro town. It must be in Dar es Salaam. But how to reach there? It is the riddle. I wish I had the way to help. Every day is another riddle.”

— Father Placid

UPDATE** January 30, 2017

Two months after the hippo attack, the victim is still recovering at a medical facility in Ifakara. The hippo, had been a threat in the Luhombero area for months.

Eventually the local government had to make plans to shoot it. “It was not possible to employ a traditional method of killing the hippo because it mostly stayed in the local swamp, not a river.”