Plastic Trash: Stuck on Hold

Unlike our neighboring countries, who refuse to permit plastic bags to cross the borders and make no plastic bags within their domains, Kenya has been repeatedly unable to cap plastic bag production. As a result, our streets and fields are littered with plastic bags, water bottles (tourists, please have a little sensibility about this issue), and other assorted bits of unwanted plastic, glass and metal trash.


Plastics rubbish in Kampi ya Samaki, Kenya


So I’ve been doing a little homework, learning about what other communities are doing to manage excessive amounts of predominantly plastic trash, given that incineration in rural communities is not an option.

My initial thinking was that we need to send the trash back where it comes from, and begin making those responsible for its overproduction be the ones who have to cope with it. However, we are all culpable to one degree or another. Here are three ideas we can implement that cost us nothing:

  1. The first active step you can take at the personal level is to shop with woven grass baskets called kikapus or other cloth shopping bags that you carry with you into the shops. This is not a difficult thing to do if you return the empty bags to handbag or car, so they are available next time you need them. Make sure the shopping bag is completely bio-degradable – grass, hemp, burlap, or cotton – and not polyester, which is also a plastic.
  2. Then, whenever you buy anything wrapped unnecessarily in plastic, remove plastic wrappings while still in the shop and ask the shop owner to discard it. This simple action alerts shop owners and managers that unnecessary plastic wrappings, that soon become trash, are unwanted. This is a preliminary step towards informing plastic manufacturers to cut back on production, even if they must raise prices. We pay for the plastic trash anyway, so let us pay not to have it! This step also leaves the trash much closer to the source than if you carry it home, especially if traveling to rural areas.
  3. Thirdly, whenever you go to town, carry some trash back to the city. It can be discreetly discarded in public places in cities without attracting undue attention. Again, every piece of plastic rubbish that goes back to a city is one less in the countryside! If a couple of million people do the same, the cities would be clogged with trash, but the countryside would be clean, natural resources and wildlife protected from harm (except for poachers, but I’m not going there)!

These simple acts cost nothing to perform. Practiced by increasing numbers of people, they can be effective in cleaning up the countryside and putting pressure on producers of the trash. The ideas, however, must become ingrained in the population through additional education.

Then, we’ve learned of several ongoing projects, both without and within Africa, to recycle plastic trash. Crocheted and knitted plastic bag shopping totes, the discarded multicolored flip-flop beaded curtains and other such initiatives make work. They generate income for some people who otherwise would not have that cash flowing. The down side is that these projects merely postpone the inevitable. Eventually all the plastic trash goes back into the rubbish tip or worse, into the bush.

One of the better ideas is the notion of building with discarded plastic trash. Flattened plastic bottles can make roof shingles. Plastic bottles laid on their sides can work as building blocks to make walls. Again, however, this solution is fraught with difficulties. Who wants a house roofed with dirty plastic; that is, unless you have no house at all? How well will the plastics hold up as building materials under the hot tropical sun, and what happens to the trash when the house comes down?

Perhaps the most appealing of these ideas is what the Indians are doing – adding melted plastic trash to tarmac and using the new mix to build roads! Apparently, the cost of making roads in this way is a little higher than using only tarmac, but the roads last longer.

Although it may be optimism on my part, it would be nice to think the powers that be would follow the Indian prototype and start giving this country some decent roads outside the major urban areas. Goodness knows, we surely do need a new road between Kampi ya Samaki and Marigat! I’m wondering which will give out first, my back or the suspension in my car!!


potholes and trashPhoto by MSVG


Then, if we can find a way to tear up and recycle old paving by mixing it with new, the way potters grind up old pottery to add to new clay for improved performance properties, perhaps we could have plastic roads that would either last a very long time or disintegrate in a positive way for the environment. The difficulty with this solution is that it must be a project undertaken at the national level, and in Africa the wheels of government turn slowly.

To take immediate action against the accumulation of trash at the local community level, it seems we must first collect all the rubbish in the community and then haul it to Nairobi. We hear that dumping at the Nakuru public dump is risky business, leaving dumpers subject to mugging and robbery.

There are, we hear, some recycling projects going on in Nairobi. These, we would like to know more about, so if you have any information, please comment to this post; thanks!

Then, it seems we need a lorry to haul the trash, and a permit from NEMA (the National Environmental Management Authority) before we can transport it.

Lots to be done, starting with a meeting of local officials to garner their support. Maybe I should give up blogging and get busy picking up trash and doing what they do in Jamaica – planting banana plants in potholes!!



Filed under Animals, People, Plants, Tourism

Lake Baringo Wildflowers

Over the last few days, I took a few close-up photos of some of our local, Lake Baringo, wildflowers. For plants that grow wild, these are not bad on the beauty scale (?). I hope you enjoy seeing some of our fabulous blossoms!

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Filed under Plants

Blooming Baringo!

It does not happen often, perhaps once or twice a year, that the Acacia mellifora, “wait-a-bit” trees blossom – but they are doing it now! I turned my morning dog-walking session into a photo op, and snapped the photos below. The place truly is Blooming Baringo!!

Apologies for the dog in some shots. That’s Ndoto (Dream), our youngest! He loves to have a bone or a stone, doesn’t much matter which, in his mouth when we go out on a walk, and he always has to lead the way!



If you can see the thorns (click on the photo below to see an enlargement), the little ones that look like a cat’s claw and curve back towards the tree itself, you’ll know why Acacia mellifora is called “wait-a-bit.” The thorns are very hard and do not break off. They tear clothing and skin. Fall into one of these bushes and you’re not going to come away from it easily – I know, I speak from experience – OUCH!


Lake Baringo, Kenya


Oh, and the reason the wait-a-bits, and most of the trees here, have that kind of umbrella shape to them is because of the goats, who eat everything lower down that they can reach. Otherwise, these trees would be dome-shaped. Funny thing, you get so accustomed to seeing trees scoffed below 5 feet that you can’t imagine that doesn’t happen naturally!

So, now that I’ve shared with you my morning, and posted on Facebook about The Magical Art of Stitches Exhibition in Nairobi, it’s time for me to get back to editing “Reflections,” the next online patchwork design class that will soon be open for enrollment at QuiltEd Online!

Sign up for the QuiltEd Online News, so you’ll be told immediately when Reflections opens for enrollment!

Gosh – all this social stuff takes a lot of time, but it’s an awful lot of fun!  ;-)






Filed under Art in Kenya, Online Quilt Classes, Patchwork Quilting, Plants

Lake Baringo Heat Wave News Flash!

Lake Baringo Heat Wave News Flash

It’s raining!!




Filed under Kenya

Tropical Heat Wave at Lake Baringo

Over the last few weeks, the weather around Lake Baringo has been behaving strangely.

The usual weather pattern of a typical year at Lake Baringo is to begin in January with hot, dry weather, perhaps a little rain interspersed, with gradually increasing temperatures and decreasing humidity. This is the famous “dry season” of Lake Baringo which continues through February, March and into the beginning of April, by which time conditions are very difficult. Grass dies back, livestock and people begin to starve, days and nights are uncomfortable, bordering on unbearable, life slows and everything holds its breath.

Camels come south to Lake Baringo in dry season

Camels come south in dry season

Suddenly, there will be an afternoon shower, not much, perhaps insufficient to settle the dust, but certainly enough to cause plants to spring into life. “Wait-a-bit” Acacia mellifora trees, aloes and desert roses bloom, and we all heave a sigh of relief – the “grass” rains have come.

Acacia mellifora in pod at Lake Baringo

Acacia mellifora in pod at Lake Baringo


Aloes blooming at Lake Baringo

Aloes blooming

After a couple of weeks of light and intermittent showers, the “long” rains arrive, taking us from early April into June. Every day witnesses a glorious sunrise, followed by warming temperatures and the typical late afternoon build-up of thunderheads. Heavy rain ensues, sending everyone racing for cover and washing tons of soil over the ground and into the lake. This is low season for tourists, a time when Lake Baringo hotels and tented camps virtually close down to undertake repairs and renovations, and employees take their leave.

Rain over Lake Baringo

Rain over Lake Baringo


Storm clouds over Lake Baringo

Storm clouds over Baringo


Road wash-out near Lake Baringo

Road wash-out near Lake Baringo


Being just north of the Equator, June, July and August are technically summer months at Lake Baringo, although we seldom use that expression. During summer here, temperatures are blessedly cool, life is back in full swing, school holidays are on so the young are at home, the tourists come in droves and the world is a beautiful place, never too hot.

Nairobi which lies south of the Equator enters its “winter.”  In Nairobi, cold temperatures prevail. People break out their moth-eaten woolen clothing and bundle up. Households, all of which lack central heating, light fires in the evening and early morning to ward off the chill. Ex-pats leave the country in droves, and Nairobi’s traffic problems are noticeably reduced due to their absence.

By late June, heavy rains at Baringo have ceased, although the odd shower may occur at any time during the summer/winter months. By September, things begin to warm up again and in October, we have a fresh rainy season, this one known as the “short” rains. When these finish, everything is a little cooler and generally pleasant until after the year-end holidays, when the cycle begins again.

This year has been markedly different, however! The long rains failed completely in April/May. We keep rainfall records, so we know the statistics for 2014, and I made up a little chart to illustrate more clearly what is happening:

Rainfall at Lake Baringo

Rainfall at Lake Baringo

The line in blue is 2014. To illustrate the difference, the line in green is 2004, only ten years ago. We had our highest rainfall this year in July and August, not in the normal April/May period. September went very dry again and began to feel like the dry season in full effect. That atmosphere continues even now. I was up late last night, and it was still 86º F at midnight – too hot to sleep!

It seems our weather pattern has slipped forward (or backward, depending on how you want to go) by about 3 months. Mid-October feels like mid-April, and it seems we are on the verge of a long rains season! It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year stacks up against 2004 (nothing special about that year, only that it’s a decade).

I’m beginning to wonder if the Mayans got it right. Maybe the world did come to an end on December 21, 2012, but nobody noticed. Perhaps the Earth’s precession caused it to tilt that day just a little too far, only enough to set seasons off their normal tracks. This may mean nothing, but then again, nothing will ever be quite the same again . . .



Filed under Animals, Kenya, Patchwork Quilting, People, Plants, Tourism