"We are turning the tide on the history of loss in our own lands."
This is usually a busy time for us here in Tharaka. In a normal year we would be together, working communally on our farmsteads to ensure a good harvest. But the normal rhythms of life are not possible now. The coronavirus means we can no longer gather as we once would have. Our lives here, like everywhere else, are very disrupted.
Tharaka is the place of my birth. It is my home. A territory that lies in the red hills of eastern Kenya, in what is now called Tharaka-Nithi District. This is quite a dry area, and we grow much of our own food in our small gardens and fields, so disruptions to our ways of growing food can have major consequences.
Over the past five to six years of searching, we have seen a huge amount of seed diversity come back and, with the seeds, the knowledge of how to grow, cook, save, and store them has returned, along with community seed swaps.
These seeds are best suited to our land here. They grow well in the local conditions and are resilient to the changes we are seeing in the climate. People who have revived these seeds are getting good harvests and eating well. They are confident again in their traditional foods and their own abilities, and every time we meet, we can enjoy those foods together.
Eco-cultural maps and calendars
In late-2019 a large group of Tharakan knowledge-holders met to map their territory, building back a picture of their ancestral past, as well as of the future, in a process facilitated by The Gaia Foundation.
The participatory mapping techniques employed by Tharakans have been evolved by indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon, with their allies, to enable communities to document their knowledge and revive their ecological governance systems.
Read more in this photo story:
Simon Mitambo (pictured) is a proud Tharakan, trained Earth Jurisprudence Practitioner, and co-founder of a Tharakan community-based organization, the Society for Alternative Learning and Transformation (SALT).
This story is part of The Gaia Foundation's 'Stories of Resilience' series, published by The Ecologist and told by remarkable communities from around the globe. Find out more: