Lessons from the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterflies in Migration
Monarch Butterflies in Migration

The monarch butterfly teaches us that life is short, and that it must be valued. Assuming that we have decades of our lives left (or at the very least, years) is all well and good for things like economic planning, but it is through recognising the fleetingness of human existence that we come to value every day, even those which get us down or which are hard to appreciate.
Monarch butterfly asks you to consciously look at what you have gained that is valuable in each day, and even to write the things that you are grateful for down. If you are in a position where you can think of nothing to be grateful for, monarch butterfly is a guide willing to open your eyes to the beauty and gift of life once more. It is through this that monarch butterfly teaches us how to look for sweetness and light in our lives.




My Journey in acquiring land in West Pokot County

My land in Kapenguria, West Pokot County

Dear Friends and Family

I hope you are all doing well. I just wanted to post an update to let you know that I am doing well and am very thankful for the support you all give me in my work with Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika. The work is going on well but not without challenges, these challenges inspire us to find creative ways of moving forward as well as strengthen us with hope and trust in God, in the community around us as well as in our selves.

My purpose in writing this particular post is to express my deepest gratitude to all of you friends who have been so generous in making donations to support me with a salary through the Friends of Jitokeze International. Your support has enabled me to pursue this vision freely and in this way you have been true partners with me and with me in the journey of serving the most marginalized and vulnerable people and the environment of West Pokot. The salary you have supported me with has not only helped to pay my bills, it has also helped me to pay the salary and stipend arrears of our staff when I wasn’t able secure grant money to pay their salaries. My deepest desire is that in the future I will not have to do this, instead that I will have a business type of project that generates income to help me pay our staff’s salaries without needing to wait for grant monies.

My land in Kapenguria, West Pokot County

My land in Kapenguria, West Pokot County

Apart from you, my family and most especially my parents and my twin sister Stephanie, have been my other closest supporters and partners in this journey. They have not only supported my vision and work with Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika but they have also supported me on a personal level as a daughter and a sister. One of the types of personal support they’ve given me in the past has been in the form of a loan that they gave me in 2012 to purchase a plot of land for me to eventually build a house that I could live in and eliminate the cost of renting one. Well the loan from my parents only covered a portion of the cost of purchase of this land and so slowly I was able to pay off the rest of the money owed to the family of Edward Karument from whom I purchased this land. I started buying this land in the fall of 2012 and finally in July of 2014 I was able to finish this purchase. Prior to this year July I could not do anything substantial on this land until I finished paying off the loan from my parents as well as pay the family the balance left that wasn’t yet covered by this loan. Upon clearing this debt in July this year is when the father of Edward Karument the landowner who sold the land to me accepted to sign the land transfer documents that would enable me to process a title deed for the land and thus legally own it. So now as I wait for the title deed to be processed, I am legally safe to start using the land in a substantial way.

So once again I thank you my family for the encouragement to purchase this land and for the loan that gave me the confidence to purchase this land and thank you my friends for the salary that you have supported me with, without which I could not be able to complete the purchase of this land.

Thank you and God Bless

Pini Blog Signature3

Embracing The Truth Found in Brokeness

Dear ones

In these past couple of weeks I have found such great encouragement and challenge in reading and meditating on the writings of  Richard Rohr, a franciscan friar who some people have criticized as being a heretic. I on the other hand find him to be a wonderfully humble, open minded and radical thinker and teacher whom I am so glad to have met through his book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for Two Halves of Life, which by the way I recommend for you to read when you get a chance.

Richard Rohr

This morning I read something that he wrote about letting go by forgiving ourselves, and this far into the day I just  cannot stop thinking about it and so I decided to share it with you in this post. He says

If I want to maintain an image of myself as innocent, superior, or righteous, I can only do so at the cost of truth. I would have to reject the mysterious side, the shadow side, the broken side, the unconscious side of almost everything. We have for  too long confused holiness with innocence, whereas holiness is actually mistakes overcome and transformed, not necessary mistakes avoided.” Richard Rohr

I relate to this quote so much because in my inner and outer life of spirituality and service, I find myself struggling constantly with the need  to unlearn some patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving  that I know stem out of the fear of making mistakes that I perceive would hurt me or the people in my life, however in my experience I have found that in the end this way of living does not make anyone or anything better neither does it protect, instead it causes heartache and isolation for most parties involved.

Maybe some of you reading this article have experienced this kind of fear and limitation and so today I write this post hoping to encourage you to find courage in embracing the truth that is found in the brokenness that you experience in your own life, in the life of those close and distant to you and in the society and nature that surrounds you. May we all discover and positively act on the truth and purpose that is found in these brokenness, knowing that without it we cannot be transformed into the best people that God created us to be, without it we cannot really live full lives, neither can we share hope, strength and encouragement with the rest of God’s creation.

Pini Blog Signature3

Earth Day Anthem

Written by Abhay Kumar an Indian Poet and Diplomat “Earth Anthem” by Abhay Kumar

“Our cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl
the most beautiful planet in the universe
our cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl
all the continents and the oceans of the world
united we stand as flora and fauna
united we stand as species of one earth
black, brown, white, different colours
we are humans, the earth is our home”

Pray for Peace between the Pokot and Turkana People

Dear Family and friends

In light of this article that was recently published in BBC online about the violence currently going in West Pokot and Turkana Counties, Some of you have emailed to ask me if I or my family have been affected by this violence going on between the Pokot and Turkana communities and if we at Jitokeze are doing anything about it? I am very thankful to you for your kind concern.  Thankfully I am presently alright and so are the members of my family, the people who work for my parents and  all the staff of Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika. Makutano town where we live and our office is located is not directly affected by this violence because it is over 100 kilometers away from Turkwel where the violence is happening presently.

However I am concerned for my dad and the young men that work for him because they are the members of my family that have to directly deal with the risk of this ongoing violence. My dad and his young me are currently finishing up on some construction work on an irrigation scheme that is near Turkwel where the violence is happening, and some of his young men have started constructing a government building in Turkana and therefore they have to constantly travel through Kainuk, the border town between Turkana and Pokot where the Militia normally set up their blockade and where they have been known to also shoot at innocent people and vehicles travelling between Turkana and Pokot Counties.  Last week when they were on their way back to Makutano, they were stopped for 6 hours by the militia and were later released unharmed. This week they have to travel back there again for work and will be returning home in the weekend. They’ll be doing this for the next 2 months or so until they finish their construction work there and so yes I am deeply concerned for their safety and would request that you join me in praying for their safety.

Women and Children of Karon Village affected by the violence in Turkwel

Women and Children of Karon Village affected by the violence in Turkwel

I am also deeply concerned for the women and children of both the Pokot and Turkana community that are presently caught up in this violence. These women and children not only struggle with hunger and lack of water due to drought, but now they have to deal with the loss and suffering brought on by this violence! Last year our team from Jitokeze visited this community together with our partners in Peace Daniel Buttry a global peace Warrior from International Ministries, Wilson Gathungu a Kenyan Peace Warrior from PRARI, and Boaz Keibarak a Peace Warrior from West Pokot County.  We were privileged to conduct a community sensitization forum on Conflict Transformation and managed to learn from the community about some of the challenges they face that impede them from ceasing these rampant conflict. Afterwards I wrote this blog update, reflecting on how climate change worsens the conflict in this village that we visited in Turkwel, you can read it here.

While at this community forum I was able to share with the people about the work I was doing with farmers from other lowland areas of West Pokot to establish food security. The people were so touched by this and they invited me to go back there and support them to start some irrigation work and chicken enterprises. I took this request to heart and have since nurtured a dream to go back there and establish an irrigation scheme that utilizes waters from the river Kerio that flows through the village, God willing this dream will become a reality one day. I strongly believe that establishing sustainable food, water and income security is one of the most practical ways of establishing peace in a community. This is why I am very thankful to be able to work with Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika to establish sustainable food, water and income security in West Pokot County, through the various projects that we run here in West Pokot.

This work would not be possible without the support that we receive from all of our partners in the US and here in Kenya, we are thankful to all of you and hope that you find as much fulfillment in your journey as we do in ours.

Blessings upon you all

Pini Blog Signature3

Prayer is the light of the Spirit, and the Spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness. Like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides. Prayer also stands before God as an honored ambassador. It gives Joy to the Spirit, peace to the heart. I speak of Prayer not Words. It is the Longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by humans, but by God’s grace.

By John Chrysostom, a fourth Century Bishop of Constantinople

Talking to Children about Climate change

Kaku and Levis - August 8th 2013

Kaku and Levis – August 8th 2013

Dear Friends

I wonder if you ever have to answer questions from children about climate change and its realities and how you use these opportunities to inform and train these children. You see I live with three wonderful and intelligent kids, Anna Kakuko age 13, Gerald Opiyo age 13 and Levis Yakobo, age 8. They are always asking me questions, mostly the what, how, why and when type of questions. Sometimes these questions give me opportunities to talk to them about climate change as well as our responsibility to God’s creation and to those vulnerable to environmental disasters that happen around us.

Hailstones in Kapenguria - September 16th 2013

Hailstones in Kapenguria – September 16th 2013

On September the 16th, I had one such teachable moment with Kakuko (Kakuu as we like to call her). On this particular day we had a huge hailstorm here in Kapenguria. Kakuko and Levis had never before seen hailstones, so that day Kakuu came home from school with much exciting news of how she and other kids at school had gotten out of class to watch “Mvua ya Mawe” (Swahili for “rain of stones”) falling from the sky and how 3 hours later, when school was over for the day, she and her friends took time to play with the hailstones before walking back home. After her exciting narration she started on the question: How do hailstones form? How come it does not fall a lot here, do you think the people in Chepareria and Kacheliba also had hailstones today, what about people in Nairobi? Did you experience hailstones when you lived in the US and Rwanda? e.t.c, my! my! So many questions! enough to get my mind racing trying to remember what I learned about precipitation from Mrs Waithanji, my high school geography teacher. I did my best to remember what I could and answer her questions, hoping she’d be satisfied by the answers.
Anyway what I enjoyed the most about this little question and answer session, was the opportunity to talk to Kakuu and Levis about our climate and how sensitive it is to our actions as human beings. A few times I caught myself trying to figure out how to talk Carbon with a child who has not yet had a chance to learn about the periodic table of elements, which is taught in high school chemistry here in Kenya. This made me realize that much of the dialogue going on presently about climate change is aimed at the adults who have some level of education and some understanding of the English language and how sad is this given the fact that children are not only among those presently most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but they are likely to battle with more adverse realities of this problem in their future and that of their children.
Hence my friends, I encourage all of you that are or aspire to be parents, grandparents, guardians and teachers of children, to keep in mind that our responsibility to these children also entails teaching them about God’s creation and how this intersects with issues of justice for the vulnerable people that live in the margins of our communities and the world at large. Work towards empowering yourself and those you care about with knowledge, skills and community that helps you to tackle these issues in manner that nurtures hope, justice and positive transformation within and around you and the global community.

The link between Climate Change and the Violence in Pokot County?

Peace is such an integral fiber in the well being and continuity of any community. It is in the context of peace that people are inspired to dream and to invest for their own future and that of their children and their grand children. For many people here in Pokot county, peace is still an elusive dream. People living in villages such as Karon Turkwel, Chesogon, Adurkoit  and Amudat, struggle with frequent occurrences of conflict that have one common inducing factor, DROUGHTS!

The People of Karon, one of the villages in Pokot county that is adversely impacted by Conflict induced by climate Change

How does Climate Change Induce Conflict between the Pokot and Turkana People?

River Suam : A source of livelihood and conflict for the Pokot and Turkana communities

While some may deny the reality of Climate Change and the fact that climate change is a threat to the peaceful coexistence of human beings, the people of Pokot county are not able to deny these facts,  for they know all too well the frustrations of fighting with their neighbors the Turkana over resources such as water, pastures and livestock that are diminishing because of frequent droughts that hit their land. For many of them these resources are their direct source of water, food, livelihood, communal identity and status, thus to take it away from them is to threaten their very existence as individuals and as a community. Droughts take these resources away from them, it dries out their rivers and pastureland, causing them to lose some of their livestock and people to death by starvation and worse still it leads them to engage in violent conflict with their neighbors over access to these scarce resources. Many have had their innocent mothers, sisters, wives and daughters shot dead while fetching water in a nearby river called Suam which demarcates the land of the Pokot and that of the Turkana.

” I love peace so much, however there is an insect that sneaks up on us and bites us so bad. If you got rid of that insect then we will have peace” A village elder in Karon venting his anguish for living in constant conflict with their neighbours the Turkana

Women and Children are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change

Many women have lost husbands and sons who’ve died as warriors out there trying to defend their community and their livestock, some trying to retaliate for the violence put upon them adn many more killed as they grazed their livestock on pasture lands located on the border of these two communities. Whatever the case, precious lives get lost,  and what’s worse is that the living are left not knowing how to best deal with their trauma, so they learn to internalize their grief and cope with the pain by dehumanizing their offenders, so much so that they decide not to call their offenders by their name and instead they call them ‘the insect that bites terribly!‘ This is the reality I witness in the village of Karon in Turkwel, it is the reality that many live in day in day out, in the border towns of Pokot county.

Hatching Our Way Out Of Hunger

Hatching our Way out of Hunger

Mama Karen’s Chickens eating some left over Ugali

Chip! Chip! Chip! This is the way we communicate with chickens in my community of West Pokot Kenya. Broadcasting a bunch of corn from our hands to the bare ground, we yell Chip! Chip! Chip! Calling out our chickens and their chicks to come and eat the corn we have for them. In the summer of 2011, while millions of Kenyans living in communities like mine were suffering the impact of a severe drought, I was in Pennsylvania living in the Newtown Square suburbs with my friends Aaron and Christine. I had decided to spend this year in the US in order to raise awareness and support for the programs of Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika, a Kenyan organization that I had founded to build capacity of women adversely impacted by droughts and conflict induced by climate change. This was a season of great distress for me. Living in the land of plenty I was able to eat more than 3 meals a day and drink as much water as I wanted. However I was sad and discontent knowing that many people I knew in my own community could not afford food and water due to causes beyond their control. Such great conflict went on inside my head and in my heart as I battled with the injustice of hunger and with the fact that I had founded an organization to deal with hunger in my community and yet I was still living abroad among my adopted community to whom hunger was not a reality and so many thousands of miles away from the people of West Pokot whom I was called to serve.
Failing to be present with my people in Kenya, I felt so distressed by the news of their suffering yet so separated from their actual suffering. I knew I needed to be home, I needed to be with the women I was called to serve, living and walking on the same land and experiencing the same dust pile up on my feet as it does on the feet of women who toil on the parched land, under the hot sun in search of food and water for their loved ones. This conflict was made worse by the fact that I had decided not to come home and instead spend the year in the US raising awareness about the impacts of climate change on my people as well as build a strong network of partners to journey with me in the vision and mission of Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika.

Chebet and I visiting with Mama Karen

During this time great friends journeyed with me, these friends who have been very instrumental in the founding of Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika and Friends of Jitokeze were very understanding of my struggle and provided encouragement and support for me as well as for Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika. Thus in the process of sharing this conflict, a few of my friends, joined me in pooling some money, which we sent to Chebet, a volunteer in West Pokot who had worked with me in 2010 to assess the needs and capacities of women in West Pokot that are vulnerable to hunger. Chebet went back to the women who in 2010 had identified chicken rearing as the most affordable enterprise they could do to generate food and income, she then picked four women from this group and facilitated them to each buy 6 female indigenous hens and one cock that would fertilize the hens so that the eggs could be hatched into chicks. At the time we estimated that the direct cost for buying one of these chickens would be approximately $8 per chicken however by the time the women went to buy the chickens the price had shot up to $10 and so they each ended up buying one chicken less than what we’d hoped to support them with. Chebet then connected them with a veterinarian, who checked each of these chickens for diseases and vaccinated them, and they were also connected to the local cereals depot where they could access corn that was considered unfit for human consumption, this is what they fed their chickens with. This loan was given to the women with the condition that they would give us back the chickens we gave them and we would in turn give these chickens to another woman who needed support in starting a chicken enterprise for food and income security.

Mama Karen, Domitila and Mama Sharon are among the first group of women we supported in 2011 to start raising indigenous Chickens

Upon my return to West Pokot 8 months later I was able to visit with three of these women, Mama Sharon, Mama Karen and Domitila, they told me their stories of the challenges they had faced in keeping these chickens alive and the success they had in increasing their flock, for instance when Mama Karen’s hens got to lay eggs and hatch them, she had 60 chicks; sadly she lost 58 of these chicks to a wild cat that roamed around her homestead and to chicken diseases. This experience led her to research more about how to better care for young chicks, she now has 30 chickens that she hopes to grow to 100 or more. Next weekend I will be heading out to her home with the new group of women who want to keep chickens so that she can share with us her story and teach us some tricks she learnt while raising the chickens. They also told me stories of how these chickens had provided them with food and some little income that they needed to address emergency needs of their children. I was so encouraged by the stamina that these women had to overcome the challenge of hunger, I was touched by their generosity when they shared with us the eggs from their chickens, the millet porridge they had made for their family and the unripe avocados that they picked from the tree in their homestead. I was encouraged by the fact that they were ready to give us back the chickens they had received from us so that we could support other needy women and that they wanted to increase their network in order to have other needy women benefit in the same way they had benefited.

Sharing and Growing our Food Security

This project, which we called Hatching our Way Out of Hunger is now an integral part of the program of Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika, this year we will be working with a group of 16 women from the Kilimanjaro area in Makutano (my hometown) who in 2010 had requested us to facilitate them in starting and running their own indigenous Chickens microenterprises. Besides providing them with a microloans to purchase hens, cocks and equipment needed to build chicken coops, we will facilitate them to be trained on how to raise organic chickens for maximum production, as well as on how to mobilize and sustain a Self-Help women group that engages in group saving, loaning and microenterprise development. We will also continue journeying with Mama Karen, Mama Sharon and Domitila on this path towards food and income security. Currently they are all housing their chickens in their small kitchens, this is also the same space that their children sleep in, hence they all are planning on building chicken coops for their chickens as well as on increasing the number of chickens in their flock. They also would like to mobilize more marginalized women in their neighborhood to join their group so they can pool resources and improve their capacity to increase their chicken enterprise, they prefer to not join the Kilimanjaro group because they are too far away from each other and have not had the opportunity to do life together and build trust with each other.

Makutano – My Little Hometown

Beautiful Sunset in Makutano Town
Beautiful April sunset in Makutano town.
Beautiful Sunset in Makutano Town

Beautiful April sunset in Makutano town.

‘Makutano’ a Swahili word meaning ‘the meeting place’ is also the name of my little hometown. True to its name, Makutano continues to be a place where all kinds of people meet, some come to stay, other  just pass through as they do their business and fun activities or as they seek their way through the Great North Road passing through this town.

This town is small and has influenced me to be a lover of small towns.  As a business center for the entire county of West Pokot, I has its fair share of hustle and bustle especially on Mondays and Fridays, when people from all over the county bring their goods to this town and transact business. However it still manages to maintain a level of simplicity about it that always fills my heart with joy and contentment every time I come back.

Built on a valley, it has beautiful scenery of the famous Mt Elgon, Mt Kadam, Kapkoris hills and the Kamatira Forest. It is the only town I have lived in where I have been able to enjoy spectacular sunrise and sunsets in one place and on the same day.  I especially love the location of my current house because I get to enjoy these sceneries.

It is in this place where I undertook my elementary, primary and high school education and most importantly the non-formal education that imprinted in me the heart of a true modern day African women. For many years after my high school, I traveled and lived outside West Pokot, driven by career goals and most importantly by my adventurous and nomadic spirit. Now I am happy to be back to continue setting my roots deeper into this land that I love so much and to build this community that has suffered so much hardship yet continues to rise above it all.

If you would like to read more and see pictures of my beloved community and the work I am doing here with Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika, please Click on the Follow this blog link in order to receive updates of what I post, or you can go to the contact page and send me an email so that I can add you to the list of people who receive my updates.

Why Buttterflies?

Butterflies are a symbol of courage, endurance, transformation, growth and freedom

Growing up in a tribal culture in Kenya, one of the memories I have as a young girl is learning from my mother about the significance of totems for her people the Sabaot. In the History of the Sabaot people, each clan adopted as an identity symbol for their clan, a wild animal or bird that is commonly found in their local area. These wild animals also provided a point of reference for positive character qualities that each clan member was encouraged to develop in their own lives, these animals and birds also symbolized the nature of responsibilities that the clan members had towards the rest of the tribe. The lion was the totem for my mother’s clan. Known as the Lion people, the members of my mother’s clan were expected to be strong, courageous, alert and ready to protect their clan members when needed.

Butterflies are a symbol of faith, courage, endurance, transformation, beauty and freedom

Personally I have come to identify with the butterfly as my own  totem. Its characteristics such as freedom, beauty, tranquility, courage, tenacity, faith and generosity are ones that I have come to treasure and seek to learn as I journey through life. These characteristics are also quite congruent with the lives of women in my community of West Pokot whom I serve through Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika.

These women live in cocoon like circumstances of poverty, marginalization, conflict and environmental challenges, however just like the butterfly they are exercise tremendous courage, optimism and generosity as they seek to fight for their own transformation and that of their children, families and the rest of community. These women inspire me, and I feel very privileged to be taking this transformational journey with them.

I hope that our stories through this journey will inspire you and encourage you to continue steadfastly in pursuing justice, peace and sustainability.

Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai

The late Wangari Maathai who passed on in September 2011 was a true Kenyan butterfly. She worked courageously to empower women through planting trees to provide basic needs for income and firewood, while protecting the environment and promoting values for peace and democracy. The life and legacy of this great woman inspires us at Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika as we seek to do similar work in the West Pokot Kenya.


Philipine Chepkoech Kidulah - Author
Philipine Chepkoech Kidulah Author
Philipine C Kidulah

Philipine C Kidulah

Dear friend

Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. My name is Philipine Chepkoech Kidulah, also known as Pini. I was born and raised in  West Pokot county in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. Like many other communities in the semiarid regions of Kenya, West Pokot battles hard with the impacts of climate change such as unpredictable rainfall patterns, droughts and resource based conflicts, which have become increasingly frequent and severe within the last 40 years.

Sadly the capacity of my people and our land to adapt to these harsh realities continues to be frustrated by the fact that majority of our population struggles with poverty already. For women these frustrations are multiplied by challenges of oppressive social, cultural and economic practices that deny them opportunities for advancement and yet accords them with the responsibility of nurturing their families, their communities and their land.

These realities have caused me to journey through life with  such deep sensitivity and commitment to issues of social, economic and environmental justice, hence in 2011 I founded   Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika, a grassroots organizations in West Pokot that is dedicated to building the capacities of women in our community who face the highest vulnerability to the double tragedy of climate change and poverty. I now work with this organization hoping that over time our community will be transformed into one where everyone lives full lives with dignity, justice and peace and where the land is restored from its state of brokenness and where our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are assured of inheriting the natural resources we have been blessed with.


My purpose in writing this blog is to share  with you  my journey of transformation as I lead the vulnerable women in my community to deal with and overcome the challenges that  climate change and poverty pose upon their well being.  I would also like to share with you the stories of  these women and of our community  as we  journey together towards building our  resilience to both the present and future impacts of climate change as well as  our experiences of caring for and restoring our land that is presently threatened by degradation.

I hope to utilize this blog space to acknowledge and celebrate, the women and community I serve in West Pokot and Africa in general, as well as to acknowledge and celebrate our many friends in North America and in Africa, who have come together through the Friends of Jitokeze movement to support us in this Journey of transformation and who dedicate themselves to transformation by embracing peace, justice and sustainability in their own communities and spheres of influence.  I also have so many other friends who may not be a part of the friends of Jitokeze but yet are equally dedicated to this movement that seeks to pursue justice, peace and sustainability.

I invite you dear friend to join us in this journey, come listen, see, learn and be inspired, come share with us about your own journey of transformation and that of your community. Come lets Journey together.