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Kenya January 2016 – Ace Africa

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As I do so often at the start of the year, I once again found myself in the remoter regions of Western Kenya. When I say ‘remote’ I do not mean that they are empty of people; quite the contrary actually.

Here, where I am travelling once again to take photographs for Ace Africa, every bit of the fertile land is under subsistence agriculture and people are to be seen everywhere at work – depending upon the season: ploughing, planting, reaping and, whenever there’s enough left over, selling their small surpluses. The area is remote though because often the people live far from roads, towns and certainly the eyes of tourists or visitors. Water is collected from rivers and carried on the women’s heads. Children are everywhere walking along, often barefoot, on the dirt roads always wearing their school uniforms. Bicycles, small local buses called Matatus and nowadays more and more of the ubiquitous boda-bodas (cheap Chinese motorcycle taxis) negotiate the potholed roads.

Around Bungoma town is the sugar heartland of the region where sugar cane can be seen growing for almost as far as the eye can see. Huge worn smooth rocky outcrops like giant boulders strew the landscape too. It is very beautiful here.

Most of these images are hopefully self explanatory. Many tell a story of a remarkable and resourceful person living against often overwhelming odds to make life work for them. The pictures are not in chronological order but hopefully they also combine to tell their own story.

My journey took me down much of the eastern shores of Lake Victoria. Into villages and communities, homes and small farms. Here people live by subsistence only; working the land or the lake to produce enough to eat for them and their nearest and dearest and then, if they’ve been successful, there’s a bit extra to sell. Sickness, poverty and brokenness abound, yet the people are always resourceful.  Many Ace beneficiaries have significantly improved their lot by joining together into small groups sharing their land, labour and time.

African school children are always full of enthusiasm and energy and many here use their spare time to start projects of their own – some grow vegetables, others run small poultry or rabbit breeding projects; these are impressive entrepreneurs who delight in their small successes.

It’s a tough life for women here. They bring up the children, fetch the water, grow the food and prepare the meals and with whatever time remains try to find some way, any way, to generate some meagre income to buy necessities or the very occasional small treat but they are somehow seemingly always cheerful. Broad smiles and extraordinary hospitality greet us wherever we go. Grace Ormondi and 89 year old widow living alone and still farming her fields (pictured in this gallery) bought the Ace team a bottle of soda each – abundantly more than she could afford. The more we protested the more she insisted. This is the extraordinary generosity of the very poor – it seems that the less people have the more they are prepared to give.