Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rain. Our Gift.....Our Curse?

Sometime ago, Alfred Mutua did something that I totally agreed with. (Ironically his superiors really tore him a new one for doing so). Just before the Cross Country championships were to be held in Mombasa, he toured the area, went on a little power trip and had contractors arrested for "doing shoddy work"

The contactors were doing the area roads and when Mutua toured the place, he found newly 'repaired' roads had already developed potholes. He (quite rightly I think) had the contractors arrested and I remember him asking whether there was no rain in other parts of the world since in many other places roads don't spontaneously disappear at the first hint of precipitation.

Well, as I write this, I am sitting in the dark due to one of the recently frequent power failures my neighbourhood has experienced since the start of the rainy season. I have heard the same complaint from numerous other people.

Kenya has an agriculture based economy. One that is almost entirely reliant on rainfall. When rains fail we face rising food prices, rising inflation and even starvation in certain areas.

However it would seem that as far as rain is concerned we are screwed if it fails, screwed if it falls. Because rain invariably means that our infrastructure falls apart. Roads that had been tarmaced develop potholes, electricity supply that had become relatively reliable suddenly becomes erratic.

So the arrival of rain means that the cost of transporting produce will rise, because when the roads fall apart, transporters will have to raise prices to pay for repairs. When the electricity supply becomes erratic, industries will either stop work or have to invest in generators. The net positives that come from rain outweigh the negatives but it seems like a two steps forward, one step back sort of scenario.

If we are ever to start on the path to real development, I think the first step has to be to break out of this cycle.

In this article, Sunny Bindra speaks about how peculiar it is that Kenyan roads are recarpeted so often and more importantly how peculiar it is that Kenyans think this is a good thing. I have previously written about how I think 'road building' just might be the biggest scam in Kenya and because we spend gazillions doing and redoing our roads.

We desperately need to build roads that last, so that we can funnel the funds being used to recarpet and re-recarpet our roads to other areas of development and to increasing our road network (which embarrassingly is basically what it was at independence). We need our electricity supply to be totally reliable so that we can go about being productive without having to invest in generators.

I realize I have not even mentioned flooding and it's effects in this post.....


  1. Either way you look at it KW, it is better we have rain.

    I'd rather have potholes than see a baby dying of hunger, or its mother showing dried up mammaries on telly. I don't want to see Kenyans scavenging fro food from garbage site, it is deplorable! I'd rather have potholes and to be honest tolerate those bloody thieving politicians with all their nonsense when there is food in our bellies. When there is no food in the stomach and someone keeps insisting on 10 billion shilling errors, your stress is increased!

    BTW, you also notice that without rain we shall have serious electric rationing. Those KPLC or is it KENGEN people will come and tell us how dams have dried up sijui where and all that crap they don't get tired of telling in this respect I agree with you, we are doomed if it rains and doomed if it doesn't.

  2. Mama,

    I absolutely was not complaining about the rain. Rain is the lifeblood of this country.

    I was trying to make the point that we cannot continue to exist the way we currently do.

    Our roads MUST be designed and built to withstand rain.

    Our power distribution network MUST be designed to withstand rains.

    That way, the resources currently used to rebuild these things after every rainy season can be used more productively.

    The only reason the rain causes this damage is because we have not designed and built infrastructure that copes with nature. If we are serious about development, I think that is one of the first things that needs to happen. We cant keep pumping money into building and rebuilding the same roads.