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PRODUCT DESIGN – TEXTILES KENYA
The Area Where Paravets Work
Paul Mandi and Daniel Kamuti are both paravets in the area of Kathekani, near to
the town of Mtoti Andei in the eastern province of Kenya. Their land is very
close to the Tsavo National Game Park. Most of the information for this design
context is based on Paul's work and he is featured in most of the photographs.
Like many other farmers, Paul came to Mtoti Andei 25 years ago from Machakos,
about 180 kilometres away, closer to Nairobi. He was an experienced farmer but
had been told there was land available there and so he chose to move with his
family. Like many of his fellow travellers, all from the Kamba tribe, he did not
expect the problems he encountered. His whole herd of some 50 cattle was wiped
out by trypanosomosis, the disease carried by the tsetse fly.
He heard of a programme, organised by Intermediate Technology Development Group,
that was training farmers to become paravets who were able to deal with a range
of animal welfare problems common in the area. He became one of the first
farmers to join the training. He continues to go for additional training every
year, saying, "There's always something new to learn."
There are about 1900 people in the area where Paul farms and works. They live in
about 300 households. They are almost all subsistence farmers who depend on
growing as much food as they can and keeping livestock - mainly chickens, goats
and cows. Only a few are able to produce enough milk or eggs to sell in local
markets. Most eke out a living by selling any extra they may have or by seeking
casual work in Mtoti Andei.
Animals, and cows in particular, are a sign of success. Most people will have
only one or two. Paul has managed to rebuild a small herd and is proud of their
health, which he attributes to his training. He is currently experimenting with
a new breed of cow which he hopes will produce a much better milk yield. He
manages to sell milk in the local market every day and his cows and goats all
look very healthy. Keeping animals healthy is vital to the community so Paul's
work gives him status and respect. People need him and the 60 or so other
paravets if they are to survive.
Paul is called on by other farmers in his designated area, very close to the
game reserve, and therefore more prone to tsetse fly invasions brought by the
wild animals. On average he will deal with between 10 and 15 cases per month
though in the rainy season, when flies are at their worst, he will be called out
more often, sometimes 4-5 times a day. Last year he dealt with 122 cases.
The cost of treatment has fallen dramatically as a result of the paravets' work.
Previously everyone had to rely on the government veterinary surgeons, who had
to cover the whole area and so were difficult to contact. Having to call on a
vet could cost as much as 500 shillings (about £5 and a lot of money to a
typical Kenyan family). Now Paul can treat an animal with worms with a tablet
that costs 7 shillings (7p). He buys his medicines from the local drugstore,
another relatively new development that was encouraged when the paravets were
Paul and his colleagues can recognise the common signs of disease in animals.
Apart from his experience, the only instrument of diagnosis he has is a
thermometer. The thermometer is very useful. If a cow has a temperature much
above 38-46C there is something wrong. "If it's below that it's probably dead,"
he says wryly.
The Origins of the Roads in the Kathekani Area
The area where the Kamba people settled in the 1970s and 1980s was originally
just bush land. There were some roads as it lies close to the Tsavo East Game
Reserve but there were not even any tracks where they first settled so they had
to begin a transport infrastructure from scratch. Many of the early settlers
lost all the animals they owned very quickly because they were not used to the
diseases of the new area and had not developed immunity to them. Drought was
also a severe problem. In recent years there have been times when it has not
rained for two years consecutively. Some of the settlers went back to their
original homes in Machakos, about 180 km north, because they were quickly
disillusioned by the harshness of the area.
As they lost so much of value, they were extremely poor initially. So, there had
to be a good reason for opening up a new road or track. It had to lead somewhere
specific e.g. a school, church, market. Opening up a road simply meant cutting
back the bush. There was no financial support from any government agencies. The
people formed themselves into groups, they held community days and some were
dedicated to road clearing. A "road" is therefore often a cleared track.
Once the roads were established, some in the area were eventually classified, so
they are now theoretically maintained. In practice, local people still fill in
the worst of the ruts and holes with soil and hard core on designated days. They
may be paid in kind e.g. with food.
What are the roads like now on which Paravets Travel?
The only tarmac road is the main trunk road between Nairobi and Mombasa. Mtoti
Andei, the principal town in the Kathekani region, is almost equidistant between
the two, at a distance of 250km. Nearly all the main services are on or very
near that road. Small markets exist elsewhere but products there are limited. As
soon as you move off the main road, you are on tracks of indifferent quality.
Even the tarmac road has potholes and cyclists are certainly not given any
preferential treatment. They are expected to move off the tarmac onto the sandy
and very uneven surface at the side whenever a motorised vehicle approaches. The
paravet would spend the vast majority of his/her time on the tracks.
Although the people do have some incentive to maintain the roads, we would think
of them as in poor condition. The Kathekani region is relatively flat, which
means heavy rain doesn't affect the roads as much as it does in other areas.
However, they are still deeply rutted, very uneven with huge holes in places. It
certainly isn't a comfortable ride on a bicycle. In the predominantly dry months
they are very dusty and clothes and belongings are covered in the red, sandy
soil very quickly. During the rainy seasons (October-January and March-early
May) they become muddy, with the inclines quickly becoming running streams. It's
the rains that do the most damage to the tracks. However, wind also erodes the
surface during the dry seasons. Some years there is very little or no rain.
People pushing bikes uphill or in particularly bumpy parts is a common sight.
Another big problem is the bush. Motorised vehicles seem to have right of way,
regardless of safety, so bicycles are pushed right into the side when any car or
truck passes. The tracks are not cleared of twigs, branches etc. so can be
littered with potential hazards both at the side and on the track surface