While growing up in a remote village in Subukia, Nakuru County, James Kariuki, 26, was fascinated by the undulating hills, forests, wildlife and rich agricultural land.
The surroundings played a critical role in turning him into a playwright.
Mr Kariuki has written about his once fabulous village now battling effects of deforestation which has brought with it water shortage, conflict over resources and unpredictable climatic conditions.
“I wrote the book and published it in 2016 while studying at the University of Nairobi. The fading glory of a once lovely village drove me into writing a play- Hukumu ya Nne (The final Judgement) which tells what most villages across the country are currently battling,” he said.
The illustration on the book’s cover was done by a student at Nakuru Central Secondary School where Kariuki was on teaching practice.
“The crisis is so real that when I was teaching Kiswahili, I challenged students to paint the picture of the fading glory of a village that once was a treasure but is battling the effects of plundering of natural resources. Surprisingly, one student painted a striking illustration of what is entailed in the play,” he said.
The cover of the play depicting the happenings at the fictitious Almasi village, in Pendeza, shows fallen trees, a dead elephant and a man with a riffle walking away with elephant tusks.
“The story describes the beautiful Almasi village which was once rich in resources -- everything was in abundance, the rains pounded on time, the crops grew and the farmers harvested and sold the produce to take their children to school,” Kariuki said.
“The forest too was intact and wildlife roamed freely before greed led to the destruction of the environment, leaving the village in disarray.”
The story depicts happenings in African countries where resources are being plundered with little consideration of the future, a situation he said might render most countries arid and semi-arid if left unchecked.
Kariuki, who has lived in Lower Subukia since childhood, said deforestation has led to perennial water shortage and human-wildlife conflict.
“In my village, climatic conditions have drastically changed, rivers have dried up and the land is no longer as productive as it was. I realised there was a lot going on, the farmers no longer banked on their produce alone to educate their children while the once rolling hills covered by trees are slowly eroding, causing massive siltation in the lakes,” he told Saturday Standard.
In the play, Kariuki highlights the poaching of elephants, a crime perpetrated by a syndicate involving a local politician and chief from Almasi village. “The play brings to light what has been happening. The poaching and logging menace that is slowly making people realise the kind of mistakes that have been going on without a care,” he said.
Conservationists are currently raising concern over the dwindling populations of once-gigantic and iconic wildlife that once roamed the parks.
“There are also efforts to recover the forest cover in the country and reclaim encroached land after a realisation of dropping water levels and drying rivers,” Mr Kariuki said.
His play, he said, has been stocked by universities, libraries and schools.
“In Kenyatta University and University of Eldoret, the book has been catalogued for purposes of teaching Kiswahili. I have also given several copies to national libraries, several high schools and even local administrators especially in Bahati and Subukia where I drew the inspiration from,” he said.
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