How ingenious Kenyans are coping with the hard times

Sunday November 6 2016

It is a fact that the cost of living has been steadily rising. Nowadays, Sh1,000 is more like Sh100 – it is barely enough to do meaningful household shopping, yet a few years ago, when you had Sh1,000  in your pocket, you walked with a spring in your step, feeling rich, unbwogable. PHOTO | FILE

It is a fact that the cost of living has been steadily rising. Nowadays, Sh1,000 is more like Sh100 – it is barely enough to do meaningful household shopping, yet a few years ago, when you had Sh1,000  in your pocket, you walked with a spring in your step, feeling rich, unbwogable. PHOTO | FILE 

By CAROLINE NJUNG'E
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About three weeks ago, a friend requested me to accompany her to a relative’s home. The relative, a cousin, had given birth and, as is the tradition in our society, when a woman gets a child, friends and relatives visit bearing gifts.

She lived in Buruburu Estate, in the outskirts of the city, on a flat on fourth floor. After having a meal and engaging in the small talk that surrounds birth and motherhood, I decided to stretch my legs and made my way to her balcony – only to find a mini garden, not a balcony.

Every inch of the small space was covered with several pots, out of which grew sukuma wiki, spinach, dhania, and some other leafy greens I could not identify. At one corner there was even a tomato plant snaking around a stick that had been stuck in the middle of the pot and held in several places using sisal.

I was impressed and I told my friend’s cousin as much, commenting that she must have green fingers if she was engaging in “farming” in the city, only for her to clarify that her mini garden was not a hobby, rather, a necessity. The cost of living, she pointed out, had shot up so high, she required Sh100 worth of vegetables to feed her family of four at one sitting.

Her “vegetable patch” was a way of making ends meet and saving a bit of money. How clever.

MORE TACTICS

As some people mourn about how four leaves of spinach are going for Sh20, someone with no garden to talk of is enjoying fresh and generous amounts of vegetables daily at almost no cost.  

It is a fact that the cost of living has been steadily rising. Nowadays, Sh1,000 is more like Sh100 – it is barely enough to do meaningful household shopping, yet a few years ago, when you had Sh1,000  in your pocket, you walked with a spring in your step, feeling rich, unbwogable, and blessed beyond measure.

There was a time when you would require help to carry Sh1,000 worth of shopping home. Now, all you get is one medium paper bag, which you would comfortably run for dear life with should the need arise, for instance when Nairobi County askaris decide to engage in running battles with hawkers.

Another ingenious way clever Kenyans are using to cope with the depressed economy is carrying lunch to work. Decent food in this town is not cheap and, if you can save even Sh50 a day, it makes a huge difference at the end of the month.

Believe it or not, I also know someone who shaved her hair recently, her explanation being that her bi-weekly visits to the salon had become too expensive. Now she has a short-hair look that more and more women are embracing.

I also know a couple of frugal parents with school-going children who swap textbooks, or buy used ones every year instead of spending thousands on new ones. If your child is going to Class Four, for instance, instead of buying new text- books, you get them from a parent whose child is moving to the next class.

There are also numerous second-hand bookstores where you can buy used books at a much cheaper price than you would in a bookshop.

How are you getting by?   

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Your article was very interesting. It’s true,  old trends seem to be making a come back and soap-lotion, I believe is one such trend. I must commend you for always making my Sunday. I learn and laugh a lot.

Adhiambo

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Very nice read. It has taken me back to the 1980s when I was in primary school, about the sabuni-lotion, sandak and all. Miss the old days.

Mike

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You are lucky that your aunt used Rexona soap to lather your body. My mother used kipande soap which stretched my skin in all directions. But she did it with love and that is all that matters.

Rwenji

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I back the return of soap moisturiser, given that lotions are laden with chemicals. I will give it a try soon.

Albert

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Your article last Sunday on your Rexona soap lotion reminded me of my childhood. Vaseline was alien so my mother lathered our bodies with the soap and water mixture which she applied even on our faces. Woe unto you if it rained. Your eyes would really itch from the soap.

Mathegeni