LOW PROFIT

Bungoma women venture into dangerous murram mining

Some are maimed while others lose their lives while trying to eke out a living

In Summary

• Petronilla Nyongesa, 63, was hit on her left arm by a boulder and it is now deformed.

• Getrude Juma, 66, said she was hit by a stone in the chest when she was working.

 

Walter Onyango.
Walter Onyango.
Image: TONY WAFULA
Getrude Juma, 66
Getrude Juma, 66
Image: TONY WAFULA
Petronilla Nyongesa, 63, whose left hand was injured by a boulder
Petronilla Nyongesa, 63, whose left hand was injured by a boulder
Image: TONY WAFULA
Mary Juma, 60
Mary Juma, 60
Image: TONY WAFULA

Hundreds of women in Wabukhe village, Bungoma, mine murram to earn a living and cater for their families.

It is a dangerous venture and some get injured while others lose their lives.

Petronilla Nyongesa, 63, was one day crushing stones when she was hit on her left arm by a boulder that had dislodged from the top of the hill. The arm got broken and despite taking long to heal, it did not heal properly and is now deformed.

Even after sustaining a permanent scar, Nyongesa had no choice but to go back and continue crushing stones.

“I am not doing this job because I want to. Life is hard and I have been forced to join my fellow women, children and men to take part in this job,” she said.

She said her husband is elderly and cannot do anything to earn a living.

“My husband is 76 years old, and because of his poor health, he cannot do much. I'm the only breadwinner in a family of 11. My children depend on me to pay their school fees.”

She said one of her friends was crushed to death by a weakened mine while she was mining. Her husband fell into depression after his wife's death and he too died.

“It was very painful to lose one of us. She used to work hard to feed her family. If area leaders really value us and want us to participate actively in the voting exercise, let them come and help us,” Nyongesa said.

She said they have been voting in leaders who quickly forget about them once they get elected.

Nyongesa said brokers who visit the mining sites offer low prices but they have no choice but to sell to them.

“The main challenge that affects us here is the many brokers who come here and buy our products at low cost.” 

"We expect to sell one lorry of murram for Sh2,000, but we are sometimes forced to sell for between Sh1,700 and Sh1,800. This has demoralised us but we have to keep on crushing the stones," Nyongesa said.

She said they mine murram on top of the hill, and it is difficult to carry it to a place where a lorry can access.

“We put the stones in cement sacks then roll them downhill," she said.

Getrude Juma, 66, said she was hit by a stone in the chest when she was working. She was admitted to hospital. She is a widow and nobody went to check on her while she was in hospital.

 Juma said they have leased the area where they crush stones and pay Sh600 per lorry from the sales they get. They also hire youth to crush stones and pay them Sh300.

Juma said the quarries left after mining are risky for children. She said they harbour snakes and other wild animals.

“These quarries hide hostile wild animals that are a threat to our lives and those of our children. But because we want money, we must continue working in this unconducive environment.” 

Walter Onyango found himself mining murram after he was laid off from his job in Bungoma town.

The father of two was born in Kisumu county but had to move to Bungoma to look for a job.

Onyango said murram miners face a lot of challenges, especially when it is hot.

“No weather condition favours us because during sunny days it's hard to crush stones and during rainy days water fills the spaces that we have been mining creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes," he said.

Onyango said he saved some money which he used to open a small business for his wife.

Edited by A.N

Petronilla Nyongesa packs murram in sacks.
Petronilla Nyongesa packs murram in sacks.
Image: TONY WAFULA
Murram miners load a lorry
Murram miners load a lorry
Image: TONY WAFULA
Quarries left after mining.
Quarries left after mining.
Image: TONY WAFULA