Jane Njeri, 36, is a single mother of four living with her family in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nakuru, a town some 100km northwest of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Jane hawks vegetables within the camp, though customers are few and far between. She also brews ‘chang’aa’, an illicit liquor, which often puts her at odds with law enforcement officers.
Name: Jane Njeri
Age: 36 years old
Location: Pipeline IDP Camp
Does your spouse/partner live with you? No
What is your primary job? Small-scale business lady selling vegetables and brewing chang’aa in the camp.
What is your monthly salary? 7,500 shillings [$88].
What is your household’s total income - including your partner’s salary, and any additional sources? I am the only one who is earning the 7,500 shillings [$88].
How many people are living in your household - what is their relationship to you? Five people: myself and my four children.
How many are dependent on you/your partner’s income - what is their relationship to you? Five people: my four children and my aging mother.
How much do you spend each month on food? I cannot tell the exact amount, but it’s about 5,000 shillings [$59].
What is your main staple - how much does it cost each month? Ugali [maize meal] and vegetables - 2,700 shillings [$38].
How much do you spend on rent? Nothing; the camp is free [The government provides tents].
How much on transport? 200 shillings [$2.40]. I travel to town twice a month. Most of the time I walk around nearby farms, sourcing vegetables to cut down on cost.
How much do you spend on educating your children each month? 1,700 shillings [$20].
After you have paid all your bills each month, how much is left? Nothing. The expenses are always higher than my income.
Have you or any member of the household been forced to skip meals or reduce portion sizes in the last three months? Yes. Often we take warm water for breakfast, especially when it’s time to pay school fees. But I try to make sure we have a heavy dinner, mostly ugali and vegetables. In October, we skipped lunch for about a week after my daughter was sent home to collect her school fees.
Have you been forced to borrow money or food in the last three months to cover basic household needs? Yes, I borrowed two kilograms of beans from a friend of mine in September.
“For some time, I solely depended on selling vegetables around the camp. But the business was rarely profitable as clients were few. I decided to complement my vegetables business with brewing chang’aa.
“Though I know the latter is illegal, it boosts my daily income. From both businesses, I make a profit of 250 Kenyan shillings [about US$3] per day. Being the sole bread winner for my children, I have to balance the cost of food, school fees and other family needs.
“For me, my children’s education is more basic a need than three meals a day. When there is money, we take tea with milk and sugar, for example. But when business is low, or needs are high, warm water is enough for our breakfast.”
“Besides feeding the family, I have to pay school fees for my first-born daughter, who is in form three at a nearby secondary school. Raising her school fees of 5,000 shillings [$60] every three months is a challenge.
“What is the best news that I have heard recently? That the government will resettle all IDPs by January next year.
[But] the news of another election [in March 2013] is chilling. I fear that there could be violence as there was during the last presidential election.”