Debt Forgivness in Kenya:
Navigating Paths to Prosperity Amidst a Legacy of Poverty
Veronica Wafula, 35, earns 600 ($7.50) shillings a month. "When I was younger there was land, we could eat. At the very least I could farm and what was left over I could sell. We grew sweet potatoes and maize but now that has become impossible because the land has been taken over by those who are interested in cash crops and those who are not a part of that have next to nothing. The cash crops have ruined the soil and provide little money."
Unlocking the chains of debt in Africa holds the promise of liberating vital resources for critical investments in health, education, and infrastructure.
The journey towards relief is a nuanced one, especially for those who bear the enduring legacies of decades of poverty. Unraveling the intricacies of poverty's roots and illuminating the ways individuals navigate these challenges, The New York Times dispatched freelance photojournalist Jake Price to Kenya. His lens captures not only the burdens individuals shoulder but also their resilience and determination as they strive to transcend their circumstances. In this exploration, we delve into the lived experiences of those grappling with poverty, seeking to understand the multifaceted nature of their struggles and the strategies they employ to forge a path towards a brighter future.
Lucy Rogoro 23, (center, has one of her children on her shoulders) has been working 5 years as a sex worker; she has 3 children, she had her first born when she was 15. She began working when that child was 3 in order to support it. While Africa still suffers the highest amount of mortality, the continent has seen a reduction in large part due to simple measures such as weighing children regularly, providing mosquito nets, and having mothers breast feed rather than mix milk formula with dirty water.
Mary Wanjiru Ngiciri, 39, has 2 children, and supports 2 orphans. She makes about 7,000 ($87.50) a month after expenses and works 8 hours 5 days a week. "Personally HIV has affected my business. If you compare my income from 1989 to 99, business was okay, I had customers, but today my business is very low because so many have died."
Ceserion Mwanza, 29, sugar cane cutter, has 4 children. He has worked 10 years in the fields, works form 7 to 3, and earns 150 shillings a day ($1.90 a day, 3,000 a month, $37.50 "The money I make is so small that I really can't afford to spend on anything other than the basics—and even the basics that I can afford are too much for me. About five years ago I made some good money and that permitted me to provide my children with the thing that made me happiest: I bought my family a cow. That has been a great gift to us because it means that my children can now have proper nutrition."
Margaret Mabele, 44, was voted Bungoma district nurse of 2004. Her salary is 10,000 shillings ($125.00) a month and she works 40 hours a week (.78 an hour). She has 2 children. "There was a patient who came in from a neighboring district; she was so young. She was having her second baby. By the time she came in the baby had already died, so we took her to the operating theatre and begged her relatives to pay for some drugs which they couldn't afford. She was nearing death; she needed a blood transfusion but the stocks in the hospital are always low, which is mainly due to HIV. Having no other option to save her life I went into the lab and said they can donate me. I took her to be like my sister. "
Josephine Wamukaya, 45, supports 7 children. Her income fluctuates and is based on the world price of sugar cane. She said that she made 70,000 shillings ($875.00) over 2 years (this comes down to about $36.00 per month). She is not able to save anything and is in debt each month. "Before I planted the sugar cane I used to be able to grow enough food so that we could eat, there would even be enough left over so that we could sell some at the market. But now, we make hardly enough money to buy food which costs 2,000 a month. If I had my way, I'd go back to subsistence farming. When we where told that we should grow sugar cane I thought I'd be making more money than I made as a subsistence farmer but that's not the case. All in all we do not earn anything, we merely make money so that we can pay our debts. The sugar cane takes two years to grow and in that time I have to buy food and support the children's education. Because the prices for sugar cane are always fluctuating on the world market I'm never sure what I will receive after those 2 years. If the debt for Kenya is relieved, I doubt that we'll see anything good come our way. It won't trickle down and will most likely be used up by the people in power."
Gottfried Asenji 18, is training to become a mechanic. He makes no income. "In the future hopefully I'll become a mechanic and if I'm good at it I'll be able to open my own shop which will allow me to take care of my mother and father, but this job was not my first desire. Had my parents been able to afford school fees for secondary education I would have continued to study, I was good at science in school. I wanted to become a doctor."
Nicholas Shiatikha Abwile 59, with his daughter. Nicholas brought in 70,000 shillings ($875.00) over 2 years and supports 10 children, some of whom are his late brothers children. "The income we make as sugar cane farmers is much too low compared to what we must spend on; I feed the children and clothe them. Additionally, I must take care of my own wife and my late brother's wife. Buying small items such as pens books clothes, come at a sacrifice. For example I'd like to buy a cow for the children so that they can drink milk in the morning, but because I have to take care of so many small things I cannot."