Along the uneven course of Iyeni River in Kasioni village in Muumbuni location, Machakos County, a dozen or so men and women gather every day to harvest rare white stones.
The process while arduous and backbreaking is nevertheless necessary task for the hordes of people who frequent this place for them to have some hope of securing a square meal for the day.
It is an activity many of these weather scarred men and women would wish to abandon but harsh economic times would not allow them.
Residents of this village have made the bed of this seasonal river a source of income despite the fact they do not get much from the energy sapping toil.
They report here at 8 am in the morning each armed with a club hammer and a wheelbarrow for the day’s work.
Patrick Kyalo, a resident of Kasioni and a stone extractor narrated to us how he ventured into gathering of stones from the river bed for sale.
He said that the business varies from time to time and is usually at its peak during the dry spell when water levels subside or dry out altogether.
“The most ideal time to search for the stones is during the dry spell when the river bed is dry or has less flow. When the river is swollen it is quite dangerous to venture into the bed since one can be swept away by the fast flowing waters,” he narrates.
They are then taken to the people who break them down into small pieces using the club hammers.
Aside from the intricacies involved in the collection and crushing of the stones, the venture also calls for hard work and patience.
For instance, one is never guaranteed of fetching money from his products since clients are not always easy to get.
Besides, even in the event there is a client, the cash from the stones is often too little since most of these people work in groups meaning the take away home is never enough.
According to Kyalo, the cost of loading one wheelbarrow is Sh30.
And with a wheelbarrow going for Sh100, it therefore means the profit to be shared out is Sh70 for every wheelbarrow sold.
This leaves them with no option but to source for other income generating activities to supplement the little they get from their earnings.
“I usually do spray painting in town as my main business because I find it hard to provide for myself and family. After paying the loader Sh30 for each wheelbarrow ferried, we are left with only Sh70 since a wheelbarrow goes for Sh100.This means one has to look for other sources of money besides this business of selling stones,” adds Kyalo.
Ms. Winfred Mutuku also a resident from Kasioni village who works at the site crushing the stones terms the work gruesome but with little to show.
She is nevertheless grateful since the work of crushing the stones has not only enabled her provide food for her family but cater for the education of her children.
She is now calling upon the government to come out and help those working in the cottage sector in securing sustainable occupations that will help them become self-reliant.
“It is usually a struggle for us having to feed and educate our children from an undertaking that doesn’t assure you of any income at the end of the day. We are appealing to the government to come to our help and look for ways in which it can assist us start our own income generating activities since we have no other way of earning a livelihood and crime is definitely not an option for us,” she appeals.
On a good day one can fetch Sh300 on average an amount which is barely enough to make ends meet owing to the current living standards which are on an upward trajectory.
The crushed white stones are usually sold out to construction companies or individuals for exterior decoration in the homes.
In recent days, farmers have also been frequenting the place to purchase the crushed gravel for use as chicken pellets usually to be mixed with the conventional feeds.
By KNA Team