Everlyn Ajiambo and her husband Patrick Ouma are busy plastering their new hut with mud at Buchonjori village in Busia County.
It is barely noon and their teenage children and some villagers are helping to mix soil with water, kneading it together using their by bare feet, and then clumping and smoothing it into a wall.
The couple find mud cheaper and readily available and besides, a neighbour offered them a place to construct their house, at least for the time being.
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“We must spend the night in our new hut, so we must work faster before the rains,” says Ajiambo.
A goat and a hen will be slaughtered and roasted for villagers to feast on before the couple occupies the hut with their children.
“Our culture demands that one slaughters a goat and a hen for people to eat to exorcise evil spirits before occupying a new house. We shall also serve traditional liquor which accompanies the meat,” says Ouma.
Initially, they were living in a rental one-room house at nearby Budalang’i trading centre, but the Sh2,000 monthly rent was too much for them to afford.
Ouma and his family are among hundreds of residents of Budalang’i who were displaced by floods about five months ago and forced to take refuge in schools, churches and even markets located on higher grounds.
They lost literally everything to floods that got them unawares in the dead of the night.
“We were left with nothing; our children lost their books and other school items while our chickens and goats were washed away. It is painful to remember what we have gone through. We hope well-wishers could help us rebuild our lives again,” says Ouma.
The floods occasioned by River Nzoia bursting its banks and the back-flow in Lake Victoria left more than 40,000 residents in the area homeless.
Most of them pitched tent in at least 63 camps spread across Budalang’i Constituency.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa who visited Budalang’i indicated that at least 219 people died countrywide due to floods and more than 3,300 acres of cash crops were destroyed.
The CS put the number of houses swept away by the floods at 1,586.
Some of the residents returning to their homes have consequently resumed farming in certain parts of Budalang’i after the heavy rains ceased paving way for light showers.
Walter Ogada is tending to his tomato crop, which has started fruiting. “We shall start harvesting next month and I expect a bumper harvest of between 10–15 tonnes per acre,” says Ogada.
Ogada leased three acres in this village after floods destroyed his entire crop in Bunyala South Sub-county.
Due to the cold weather, Ogada has identified a section of the 35,000 stems of tomatoes suffering from bacteria wilt, a lethal disease that could decimate the entire field if not controlled immediately.
“We have started treating the disease and soon we shall embark on grafting to come up with a variety that is not only resistant to such diseases, but one that is early maturing and high yielding,” explains Ogada.
Isaac Wandera is also busy cultivating rice on his portion in Bunyala/Magombe rice irrigation scheme that had earlier been destroyed by the floods.
Residents whose homes are still submerged and have nowhere to go continue to put up in camps, not sure when they will return to their farms.
Benjamin Karani, a representative of the victims, says life has been tough for the over 15,000 people who have been living in camps.