The villagers are losing their farms, not to tycoon land grabbers, but to an equally appalling calamity – soil erosion.
The result has been a more than 40-foot deep gulley that has eaten up to 50 acres of land in Jimo Village of Kisumu County over the last 20 years.
According to Dr Aid Adede of Rocklink Geological Consultants the small valleys keep becoming deeper and wider because the land has no rocks.
“The effect of the gullies to the community is devastating and soon, the people might lose all their land, because once a branch of gulley is formed, it expands and deepens and the residents will have to be pushed away,” Dr Adede said.
When it rains in the Sigowet Hills in Rift Valley, the water flows down to their village.
“I have lost all my land to the gullies. I have a title deed, but I can assure you that I can do nothing with the land,” said 57-year-old Nicholas Onyango who has now been forced to live in his father’s house with his wife and six children.
The Awach Gully, also called Katuk Gully has washed away bridges, prevented children from attending school, and even consumed graveyards in its path.
Residents who ordinarily live 100 metres apart have been separated by the gully and have to walk for long to reach a neighbours house.
“It has even separated me from my brothers and other members of our family,” Mr Onyango said, adding that some of his closest family members have been forced to move from the area because of the ever growing gulley.
He says ever since the gullies started forming two decades ago, there have been losses of an uncountable number of livestock.
“We have also lost at least three lives in the past five years, two of which were women who were scooping clay to smear their mud houses. The other one was a man,” he lamented.
“And we have incurred medical expenses treating fractures after people fall into the deep gullies,” Mr Onyango said.
The gullies are developing branches and residents fear they might consume the whole village.
The sand that is swept from the gullies, according to another villager, Mrs Dorina Anyango, is swept to River Awach in Nyando, which proceeds to Lake Victoria.
“We have watched helplessly as the rains grab the land from us,” Mrs Anyango, 76, said of the destruction.
Even during dry seasons, according to Mrs Anyango, some water moves down the gullies.
“There are times it rains in the Rift Valley and it is dry here. The waters still follow the gullies,” she said.
“The people who live near River Awach and some who live near the lake in turn harvest the sand from the water and sell to people building houses,” she said.
The African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology’s report of 2011 states that high exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP), fragile soil structure, high dispensability and low infiltration rate are major factors contributing to the formation of the Awach-type of gulley.
Dr Adede says that the sandy soil that is swept from the village goes to Lake Victoria, increasing the amount of soil sediment.
The phosphorous that is washed into the lake is much needed on the land for crop production, but is a destructive pollutant when it enters the water, killing fish and making the water unsafe for domestic use.