Natural assets - Land
The main natural asset is land for farming. Sixty
percent of households own less than ½ an acre of land. These
are considered the poor. Apart from the land, the other natural
asset is Tungu River, a crucial resource. Not only does the river
provide drinking and irrigation water, Tungu Kabiri waterfall presents
the opportunity for developing micro-hydro power.
Climatic patterns create seasonality. Obviously, an economy dependent on agriculture for most of its food and a significant proportion of its cash income is affected by the change in seasons. Livelihood activities also vary between planting and harvest time, between the dry and the rainy seasons. The busiest times for farm work correspond with rainy seasons. At such times people have little time for other livelihood activities. Food production and income from cash crops are not evenly distributed over the year. The sale of produce is greatest during and just after harvests. After food crops such as maize and beans are harvested, people typically sell a proportion to meet their financial needs. A surplus is dried and stored to meet on-going household food needs.
Agricultural production, income and expenditure patterns, then, vary over the year and are generally ill-matched. The need to conserve stocks of food and save money in order to be able to meet needs and expenses the year round is apparent. For many residents of Mbuiru this is a difficult feat as they are living near the margins. Barely coping with seasonality and trends, they are then particularly vulnerable to shocks.
As an example of a 'positive shock', there are occasionally bumper harvests. This means, of course, additional food and income. In this case people can accumulate assets, stored food or cash savings. This provides an enhanced cushion, reducing vulnerability. Unfortunately, drought and famine are more common occurrences than bumper harvests.
Certain groups in society are more vulnerable to shocks, trends and seasonality. According to the area Lands Adjudication Officer there are at least 10 households in Mbuiru community that have no land. These households are squatting and cannot develop the lands they occupy so, they cannot grow food. All their food requirements, therefore, have to be purchased with cash, typically earned from casual work. These people are evidently vulnerable.
Typically, those with large families, particularly single-parent households, generally widows, have fewer resources and are more vulnerable. The elderly, infirm and ailing too, are at increased risk. Meanwhile, young adults with no paid work can also find it difficult to cope, especially if they come from households already vulnerable on other grounds.