92. My Land is Kenya

According to a not too recent Weekend Edition on NPR, Kenyans are crazy about country music.
They enjoy songs from the 70s and 80s best, and are particularly fond of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.
As much as you’re apt to hear Patsy Cline, Crystal Gayle and Vince Gill playing in the local bars,
Kenyans don’t follow U.S. country singers exclusively.

Source: pangesprogressedux, Roger Whittaker – My Land is Kenya, YouTube (Time: 3:55)

“My Land is Kenya,” by Nairobi-born folk artist Roger Whittaker, makes even the young hip-hop crowd stand a little bit taller. (If you take time to watch and listen to the video, you’ll note that his signature whistling skills come through loud and clear.)

The song isn’t in danger of becoming a hit in my house anytime soon,
but it does have some nice lines:

“My land is Kenya, so warm and wild and green.
You’ll always stay with me here in my heart.
My land is Kenya, right from your highlands to the sea.
You’ll always stay with me here in my heart, here in my heart.”
(Whittaker. Roger Whittaker in Kenya: A Musical Safari, 1982)

Try not to compare it to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” and just think of it as a musical warmup to today’s rather boring topic.

My Land is Kenya
and it’s covered with more than savanna grasslands.

Source: Quartz Africa


Kenya Forest

While providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change.

Sadly, Kenya is still allowing its forests to disappear.
From 1990 to 2015, forest cover declined by 25%.


Croplands in Kenya

Agricultural cropland refers to that share of land suited for crops where there is no need to replant after harvest (e.g. coffee, rubber, fruit trees, etc.). Cropland has increased exponentially in the last 25 years.


The Kenyan wetlands are resources of great economic, cultural and scientific value.

Wetlands provide critical habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna, including a large number of aquatic plants, resident and migratory birds, fish, and herbivores. 

Wetlands are areas of great scenic beauty. They are a tourist attraction, form important recreation sites for game and birds watching, swimming, photography and sailing.

They’re important sources of water for human consumption, agriculture and the watering of livestock. They recharge wells and springs that are often the only source of water to some rural communities.


Savanna grasslands are found where rainfall between 20-50 inches is concentrated into a few months.

Kenya’s rainy season is March-May and September–October, with long periods of drought in between.
Once it rains in March, the grasses grow very rapidly, sometimes as much as an inch a day. Lots of animals are born at this time. In a good rainy season, there’s plenty of food for animals like the antelope, and mothers will have plenty of milk for their young.


In Kenya there are only three incorporated cities but there are numerous municipalities and towns with significant urban populations.


Source: Text and image provided by the Kenya Embassy in Belgium

Nairobi, the capital city of the Republic has grown from a simple Uganda Railway construction camp to a modern center of commercial, financial, manufacturing and tourist destination in eastern Africa.

It replaced Mombasa as Kenya’s capital in 1907 and became a city in 1950. Today, the city population stands at about 4 million. Both the Great North Road (Cairo to Cape Town) and the Trans-African Highway (Mombasa to Lagos) pass through the city.


Source: Text and image provided by the Kenya Embassy in Belgium

Mombasa is the second largest city in the country, with a population of about 600,000. It is the official gateway to the country by sea. It has a history dating back to more than 2,000 years, when the Persians, Arabs, Greeks and Romans visited the East African Coast and carried out trade between the Coast and the Mediterranean Lands.

It is built on what was formerly an island, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel until a causeway was built at the beginning of this century, connecting the island with the mainland. Tourists come to Mombasa Island to enjoy its calm beauty, once described by Winston Churchill (1908) as “alluring and delicious”.

85. Coronavirus Kills Demand for Kenya’s Flowers

Kenya is the third largest exporter of cut flowers in the world.

Source: Bloomberg.com, Workers measure roses at a production company in Naivasha, Kenya. Photographer: Andrew Renneisen

Famed for being long-lasting, Kenya’s roses, carnations and summer flowers are popular in the UK, Russia and the U.S.
The country’s flower power is attributed to its sunny climate, which enables high-quality blossoms to be grown year-round without the need for expensive-to-run greenhouses.

Kenya also has excellent transport links to Europe through Nairobi’s airport, which has a terminal dedicated specifically to the transport of flowers and vegetables. This means that delicate floral cargo can be shifted from growers to consumers swiftly.

In March, with plans to increase their share of the U.S. market, several growers showcased their blooms at the World Floral Expo in the U.S.

Just days later, the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Farmers in Kenya are now having to leave their roses to rot.
Flower farms in Kenya are dumping about 50 tons of flowers daily.

Farms are exporting only 20% of the cut flowers that they would normally send daily to markets including the U.K., the Netherlands and Germany. The rest are being destroyed.
The industry is being forced to cut wages and trim its workforce of more than 150,000 people.

65. Wangari’s Story

“In Unbowed, A Memoir, 2004 Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage.” 
It was, by no means, an easy journey.

Maathai was an inspirational, hard working woman (driven, actually), who set out to correct the effects brought about by prejudice, inequality and ecological destruction in her native Kenya.

Much of the book covers the conflicts resulting from environmental devastation – how it started and why it continued. Maathai recounts her efforts to fight a corrupt government bent on scaring her country, both through ecological destruction and gender discrimination. She was punished for her actions. Yet, despite her many trials in life, she remained unbowed, believing that what she could not overcome, she could at least get past.

More books! Share one or two of these with a short person you know.
The illustrations alone will make it worth your while.

What does the following art project really have to do with anything I’ll be doing or seeing on safari?
Well, it sort of has to do with Kenya stuff. Sort of.

I stumbled upon this Teachers Pay Teachers art project while searching for material on Wangari Maathai and thought it might be of some use to someone during our Time of Social Distancing.
It’s a wonderful project with excellent instructions. The hardest part is gathering all the materials before you begin.

63. The Fig Tree

The Broom Cluster Fig (or Cape Fig) is a fast-growing, evergreen tree. It usually grows from 16 – 39 ft in height, but has been know to grow to a height of 115 ft or more.

Older trees develop a massive spreading crown, fluted trunks, and wide buttress roots which help to keep the shallow-rooted tree from falling over.

The figs are produced from September to March. They appear on short or long drooping spurs which may emerge from surface roots, the trunk or most commonly from lower main branches.

The tree has large leaves with serrated edges.

The fig tree provides medicine, food, shade and shelter for all nature of animals, large and small.

 The wood of the Broom Cluster Fig is soft and white and has been used for making mortars for grinding flour as well as making drums. In modern times this tree is used most extensively as a shade tree.

The fig tree is believed to have magical powers and is used in many rituals by local people.

As a child, Wangari Maathai learned from her grandmother that a large fig tree near her family home in central Kenya was sacred and not to be disturbed. She remembered gathering water at the springs protected by the roots of that tree. She remembered resting in its shade.
After completing her education in the U.S., she returned to Kenya and found the tree had been felled. Reflecting on what that had done to the surrounding area, Maathai went on to become “the woman who planted millions of trees.”

62. Wangari Maathai, Mother of Trees

Wangarĩ Muta Maathai (1940 – 2011) was a renowned Kenyan social, environmental and political activist. She became the first African woman, and the first environmentalist, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It was awarded for her contribution in the field of sustainable development, democracy and peace.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee wrote, “Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.”

More than most others, Maathai recognized the connection between the health of the land and the health of the people.

In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement (GBM) in response to the needs of rural Kenyan women who reported the streams were drying up, food supplies were less secure, and firewood for fuel and fencing was becoming more scarce.

GBM encourages women to work together (while receiving a small monetary token for their work) to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater and provide food and firewood.

Maathai’s work in this area eventually earned her the nickname “Mama Mici” or Mother of Trees.

“If you destroy the forest,” Maathai said, “then the river will stop flowing, the rains will become irregular, the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation …. Planting trees breaks the cycle. When we can give ourselves food, firewood, and help to nurture soil for planting and clean water, then we begin to roll poverty back” 

61. The Meru Oak

Meru Oak

The Meru Oak is endemic to Kenya and rarely found outside its borders.

It is a deciduous tree capable of growing to a height of 100 feet or more.

The leaves are compound, with five leaflets attached to a single stem.

It can be recognized by its very thin, rough, hairy bark, full of vertical groves.

The Meru Oak’s wood is hard and durable. It is commonly used for the production of furniture and decorative veneers. As a consequence of its highly valued timber, it has been severely over-exploited and is becoming very rare.

The Meru Oak is on the IUCN Red List.

57. The Iconic Acacia Tortilis

The Acacia Tortilis (Umbrella Thorn Tree) appears in just about every picture of an African savanna sunset that has ever been printed, painted or posted.

The tree is indigenous to Kenya and is very drought resistant. It has the classic, umbrella-shaped canopy which is associated with thorn trees. Many bird species take advantage of this thorny protection and build their nests in the canopy.

The leaves are very small giving the umbrella a soft, feathery appearance. The foliage is typically bright green or bluish-green.

The tree flowers in December (summer) with small, densely packed, creamy white or yellow spherical heads.

Acacia Tortilis produces a large number of pods that are eaten by domestic and wild animals (e.g., kudu, impala, rhino and elephant), and sometimes by man. The pods are tightly coiled spirals that fall to the ground unopened.

Source: Random Harvest Nursery

The trees produce pairs of thorns along its branches: one straight thorn with a small curved thorn alongside.

55. Coffee Trees

Coffee is Kenya’s third most valuable export (behind tea and ornamental flowers). Although Kenya is 16th in world coffee production, its beans are among the most desirable.

The country has areas of acidic soil that, when mixed with the right amount of sunlight and ample rainfall, help ensure delicious, productive crops.

There are small coffee farms and co-ops as well as large corporate coffee producers in Kenya.

Farmers look through their plants when it’s time to harvest, and choose the red cherries.

The video below, edited from the original, describes a bit of the coffee processing procedures.

Source: taken from COFFEE PROCESSING IN KENYA, Parallel Media, YouTube (Time: 3:18)
flowering coffee tree

Due to global coffee price instability and property boom in the areas that were previously used for cultivation, coffee production is in a state of decline.