Lemel wakes up at exactly 5:07 a.m. He washes his face before having some food for breakfast as he braces for a long day ahead. Thirty minutes later, he sorts out his father’s livestock. The young ones, weak ones and expectant ones have to be left behind as his younger brother will take care of them later on. Also, Lemel leaves behind all those that are due for milking for his brother to take care of.
He leaves with about 80 cows, 40 goats, 20 sheep and 12 camels. The journey is long and to keep him company is his small stereo system that he has on his left shoulder. On his right hand is a stick traditionally used during herding. Also with him is a bottle of water. Lemel lives in one of the Arid and semi arid areas within Kenya and comes from a pastoral community.
He delves into the vast plains. To keep track of the animals, a few of each kind have a bell on their neck. The animals are also marked in red with the initials ‘NK’. These are the initials of his father’s name. The marking is done as at times, the animals get mixed up with others during grazing as the land in this area is communal land thus everyone from the community has a right to graze their animals within the land.
7:05 a.m. and the sun is shining. By this time, Lemel is far from home. The dew is still on. Grass is in plenty as it has been raining over the past few weeks. Some areas are still wet from the rains. At this time, he gets to a section where the animals are now grazing. He sits atop of a tree and from this position, he can see and monitor all the animals. He takes a sip of water and tunes his small stereo to one of the radio station that broadcasts in his language. He is very keen as the presenter explains the steps one should take to prevent the spread of the novel Corona Virus.
After a few hours, he whistles and the animals immediately know that it is time to leave. He now leads the livestock to a water pan. At the water pan, he refills his water bottle. There are other herders here. Some have upto 1,000 heads of cattle. Lemel seems to have the least. Most of them are his childhood friends. Soon, they engage in a chit chat with the topic of discussion being how the Corona Virus has changed people’s lifestyle. Each herder leaves when his animals have drunk yo their fill.
When the animals have drunk to their fill, he now leaves and bids the herders farewell before proceeding to another feeding point. On the way, he hears sees an unusual movement at a point near the animals at the rear. He senses danger. Courageously, he moves swiftly and is able to kill the snake. It is a poisonous kind and is brown in colour with black spots. Snakes are a usual site in this part. Once, a snake bit him and he almost lost his leg.
Other wild animals such as leopards, cheetahs and lions are common sites. Some herders have lost their lives and others have lost their limbs to these predators. Equally, some of these predators have been killed by the herders in this area. Tit for tat kind of game.
The animals continue grazing before Lemel starts his journey home at around 3p.m. The journey from this point to his home area will take around 3 hours. By this time, he is hungry and thirsty. His water bottle is empty. One of the goats falls into a pit. This is a trap set by some herders to catch gazelles and antelopes that also come to graze here. Lemel gets into the pit to rescue the goat and proceeds with his journey.
6:25 p.m. and he is home. He finds his brother milking. A head count of the animals he was out with. None is missing and he now proceeds to put them in their respective sheds. After all these, Lemel together with his family take supper before proceeding to sleep.
Lemel is a student in one of the Public Universities within Kenya. This has been his normal routine since schools were indefinitely closed due to the Corona Virus. The question still remains, until when?In the meantime, stay safe and observe all guidelines yo avoid the spread of this Corona Virus.