Why Kenya's Tea-Growing Highlands Didn't Experience Election Chaos, Violence

Nov 27, 2017
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Kenya is set to inaugurate its president tomorrow. It's been a long election season of anger, violence and death. But in one of central Kenya's tea-growing highlands there has been peace and the president has nearly unanimous support. NPR's Eyder Peralta sent this report.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: From the bottom of the valley we climb up a steep hillside.

GITAU KAHAHU: (Speaking Swahili).

PERALTA: Slowly we make our way between tea bushes. And as we get higher it looks like a giant jigsaw puzzle, the deep green bushes fitting together to carpet the entire hill.

I mean, it's beautiful up here.

KAHAHU: Especially in the evening when you are tired. When you come lounge you feel comfortable because they bring pleasure to your eyes.

PERALTA: Gitau Kahahu's dad planted some of these bushes just after Kenya gained independence in the '60s. Out here there hasn't been any of the violence that's left dozens dead in other parts of Kenya. Out here people are doing all right. Kahahu's two acres of tea were enough to build a house and send all of his kids to school.

KAHAHU: If you have enough to eat and you educate your children, well, then you enjoy life.

PERALTA: I ask him if he feels he's living in a kind of bubble. In a lot of other parts of Kenya I've heard young people say they can't find jobs. I've heard parents say they can't afford school fees.

KAHAHU: Jobs here are very, very, very scarce. And those who are not ready to work, those are the ones who claim they don't have what they need in life.

PERALTA: On the farm next door, a few ladies are busy picking tea.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUSHES RUSTLING)

PERALTA: They pick carefully - just the brand-new shoots, nothing more. It's what makes for good tea.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUSHES RUSTLING)

PERALTA: Nungari Mwangi, whose late husband planted these bushes, says she sits here watching the chaos in the rest of Kenya and it makes her sad.

NUNGARI MWANGI: (Through interpreter) We are all Kenyans, and everybody should feel comfortable and live freely, do business in any part of the country.

PERALTA: She gets it, she says. Decades ago, a British man gave her family the idea and the training to plant this tea. Her government, she says, should be doing the same for those who've been left behind. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Kiambu County, Kenya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.