By Gregory Akall and Caleb Atemi
The rocks of Turkana have told many tales, some dating millions of years thus cementing the regions claim to be the cradle of mankind.
Another rock, another tale and today Turkana’s pride as the original home of our foremost forefathers has stretched back in time by more than 700,000 years. An early morning walk by two archeologists and their team of stone-tool hunters on July 9 2011, pushed back the beginning of archaeological record by more than half a million years.
Drs. Sonia Harmand and Jason Lewis were climbing a remote hill near the western shore of Lake Turkana, leading them to the oldest stone artifacts that have dramatically shaken archaeological knowledge.
An hour earlier, the duo and their team had accidently taken the wrong path through a dry riverbed. Anxious but alert, they began navigating their way back to the main channel. Their sixth sense told them that there was something special about this wrong path. They could almost smell the Eureka moment! Paralyzed by curiosity, they decided to spend some time fanning and surveying the patch of craggy outcrops. After one hour of scooping and scratching, they decided it was time to take a tea break. Lo and behold, a local Turkana tribesman Sammy Lokorodi from Nariokotome pointed to them the spot they had travelled thousands of kilometers in searching of.
They had stumbled upon the earliest stone artifacts dating 3.3 million years ago. The discovery of the site named Lomekwi 3 suddenly pushed back the beginning of archaeological record by seven millennia.
Dr. Harmand with Stony Brook University’s Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) and the CNRS in France and Lewis of TBI are co-directors of the West Turkana Archaeological Project team. They could barely hide their joy.
In the 1930s, paleoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey unearthed early stone artifacts at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, and named them the Oldowan tool culture. In the 1960s, they found hominin fossils that they named: Homo habilis or handy man. Since then, conventional wisdom in human evolutionary studies supposed that the origins of knapping stone tools by our ancestors was linked to the emergence of the genus Homo. The premise was that our lineage alone took the cognitive leap of hitting stones together to strike off sharp flakes to use for cutting and digging, then an evolutionary success.
Over the last few decades, however, as subsequent discoveries pushed back the date for the earliest stone tools to 2.6 million and the earliest fossils attributable to early Homo to only 2.4-2.3 million years. A series of papers published in rapid succession in early 2015 have solidified these ideas into an emerging paradigm shift in paleoanthropology: the fossil record of the genus Homo now extends back to 2.8 Ma in the Ethiopian Afar; cranial and post-cranial diversity in early Homo is much wider than previously thought.
Australopithecus africanus and other Pleistocene hominins, traditionally considered not to have made stone tools, have a human-like trabecular bone pattern in their hand bones consistent with tool use.
The Lomekwi artifacts have confirmed that one group of ancient hominin started knapping stones to make tools long before previously thought. These new archaeological finds have given the Lake Turkana basin yet more fame pilling on the work of the second and third generation of the Leakey family: Richard, Meave and their daughter Louise, and has produced much of the world’s most important fossil evidence for human evolution. The Lomekwi area had already produced the fossil skull of early hominin Kenyanthropus platyops by Meave and her team.
“These oldest tools from Lomekwi shed light on an unexpected and previously unknown period of hominin behavior and can tell us a lot about cognitive development in our ancestors that we can’t understand from fossils alone” said Dr. Harmand, the lead author of the paper published in the journal Nature announcing the discovery. “Our finding finally disproves the long-standing assumption that Homo habilis was the first tool maker,” she added.
The Harmand team found that these tools are unique compared to the ones known from after 2.6 million years. “The stones are much larger than Oldowan tools, and we can see from the scars left on the stones when they were being made that the techniques used were more rudimentary, requiring holding the stone in two hands or resting the stone on an anvil when hitting it with a hammer stone. The gestures involved are reminiscent of those used by chimpanzees when they use stones to break open nuts” said Dr. Harmand. Their study of the Lomekwi artifacts suggests a transitional technological stage between the pounding-oriented stone tool use of a more ancestral hominin and the flaking-oriented knapping behavior of later, Oldowan toolmakers.
The team was also surprised to find that reconstructions of the environment around Lomekwi at 3.3 million years ago, from the associated animal fossils and isotopic analyses of the site’s soil, indicate the area was much more wooded than paleoenvironments associated with later East African artifact sites from after 2.6 million years. “The Lomekwi hominins were most likely not out on a savanna when they knapped these tools,” said Dr. Lewis.
While it is tempting to assume that these earliest artifacts were made by members of our genus Homo, the team urged caution. “Is it extremely rare to be able to pinpoint what fossil species made which stone tools through most of prehistory, unless there was only one hominin species living at the time, or until we find a fossil skeleton still holding a stone tool in its hand,” said Dr. Lewis.
The Lomekwi 3 discovery raises many new challenging questions for paleoanthropologists. What could have caused hominins to start knapping tools at such an early date? “The traditional view was that hominins started knapping to make sharp-edged flakes so they could cut meat off of animal carcasses, and maybe used the cores to break open bones to get at the marrow” Lewis says. “While the Lomekwi knappers certainly created cores and sharp-edged flakes, their size and the battering marks on their surfaces suggest they were doing something different as well, especially if they were in a more wooded environment with access to various plant resources.”
Drs. Harmand and Lewis are helping lead on going experimental work to help reconstruct how the tools were used.
Another unknown is what’s happening archaeologically between 3.3 and 2.6 Ma. “We’ve jumped so far ahead with this discovery, we need to try to connect the dots back to what we know is happening in the early Oldowan,” Harmand said.
The two will continue using their skills and knowledge to talk to the stones of Turkana, which have produced not just fossils of ancestors, but plenty of oil, water and minerals to take care of future generations.
Gregory Akall is a Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK and Caleb Atemi is a communication consultant and a media trainer.
Posted in: DevelopmentGeneralKenyaNews
By Steven Ariong
Ugandan military leadership is worried that persistent ethnic clashes between the Turkana and Pokot communities in Kenya are a threat to peace in Karamoja region.
Many families fleeing from the raids and killings in Kenya have sought refuge in Karamoja. Captain Jimmy Omara, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) 3rd Division spokesperson says that following the cross border clashes, illegal firearms have entered into the Karamoja region.
He says that although the number of guns in Karamojong hands had declined in recent years, the UPDF has between January and March 2015 recovered 32 guns along the border corridor: “When you look at our UPDF statistics on guns recovery, between January and December 2014 we recovered 60 guns. Recovering 32 in three months could simply mean that we shall surpass last year’s figure by December 2015,” he says.
For decades, the Turkana and Pokot communities have been involved in bloodletting over boundaries, pasture, water and other national resources. The current bloody war is over the communal ownership of Kapedo; a resource rich enclave claimed by the two communities.
Uganda, which suffered its own share of communal and trans-border conflicts has managed to restore peace and order within its borders. Captain Omara told the Turkana Guardian that the UPDF has beefed up security along its border with Kenya to ensure no sparks of conflicts spill over into Karamoja.
In March 2015, during the Tarehe Sita Celebrations in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni directed the UPDF to shot to kill any Kenyan Turkana and or Pokot crossing to Uganda with weapons.
Said Museveni: “Kenya has refused to disarm its people. When we were disarming the Karimojong we told them to also do disarmament but they have not. So we shall not waste time with them. Whenever you see armed Pokot or Turkana entering Uganda we will give them horizontal arrangement,” Museveni said.
Posted in: MorotoPeacebuildingUganda
She stops briefly to catch her breath as sweat flows down her dusty face onto her bare chest. Her eyes scan the horizon, taking in details of the rough terrain she is yet to negotiate with her tired legs before she finally reaches home.
Pangs of hunger gnaw at her tiny stomach and a cold shiver runs through her anatomy albeit briefly. Regina Akai, has become inured the treacherous life of hunger, thirst and fatigue she has to endure daily to bring home a jerrican of water for family use.
She left her home at the break of dawn to walk for many kilometres to a dried up riverbank. Several women with jerricans were already there by the time she arrived. For hours they silently dug into the sand then waited for water to collect before scooping it into their containers.
The journey back home was more tedious. The blazing Turkana sun was burning the earth and its inhabitants with almost malicious fury. Although her feet had trekked through the rocky and sandy paths that weaved through the wilderness, they had never really been used to the heat. The sand, by this time of the day was like burning coals.
Regina always prayed to God before embarking on the journey that she would not meet wild animals that prowl the land and that God will spare her attacks from bandits and cattle rustlers that are known to strike with lightning speed. By now she was used to the numerous poisonous snakes that hide in the rocks and the sand.
“I have hoped and prayed that one day a miracle will happen and water will be brought to our manyattas. My prayers made me smile when I heard news from my son that plenty of water had been discovered under the earth in Turkana. Now we have water and oil. But that seems to be just that, a dream. I hope it becomes a reality in my lifetime.” She says gently as she squats to pick up her jerrican and complete her journey home.
Despite the fact that water is the most common substance on earth; it actually covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface; residents of Turkana County have never had easy access to it.
For years, Turkana, the second largest county in Kenya covering 77,000 square kilometres, was known for its encounter with drought, hunger and perennial insecurity from violence perpetrated against its people by cattle rustlers from neighbouring communities. Then suddenly, a research by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) revealed that the county sat on more water wells than any other county in Kenya.
The discovery of water came fast on the heels of that of oil from underneath the burning sand.
Regina, a residence of Nakaparaparai Village near Lodwar town is among those who were delighted by the news. Her neighbours from the small Lobei Kotaruk ward in Loima sub-County suffer similar fate. They have to fetch water from killer wells where 6-7 people have to line up from top to bottom to get the supply, it is deep and dangerous.
When UNESCO announced the discovery of two aquifers in Northern Turkana, Regina was elated. The study showed that the region is home to a reserve of 250million cubic meters of water, which is naturally replenished at the rate of about 3.4 billion meters cubic per year.
Many believed this wealth could provide the solutions to water problems not just in the drought – wrecked region in northern Kenya but for the entire country.
She still hopes that with good governance and management, the water and oil discoveries will transform Turkana from its medieval status into a civilized 21st Century economy.
The 2009 Census report showed that estimated 60% of residents in Turkana are pastoralists who have long struggled with seasonal drought. The potential for further environmental degradation in already fragile ecological condition is a concern for those living near the oil zones.
Reserves of land will be appropriate for mining activities and risks of air, soil and water pollution are significant.
The Director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Richard Kering said that they have received environmental impact assessment report to help monitor the drilling process.
Although Tullow Oil Company assures that horizontal drilling will not affect water in Lake Turkana it is feared oil exploration around the region might interfere with ecosystem.
According to Dr Alain Gachet, a French scientist and President of Radar Technologies International, Oil will naturally be found above the water and drilling could affect the water tables. Both resources are vital to transforming the livelihoods of Turkana people and joint research with oil companies could establish how one could be affected by the other.
For the economic stakeholders, there is a responsibility to ensure that the exploration and exploitation of all of the regions resources is an inclusive process, which is subject to inflexible control.
It is Regina’s prayer that soon she will be able to sleep in peace and use her energy for other homemaking chores instead of fetching water. It is her hope that soon she won’t have to risk her life in search of this life-giving commodity.
Posted in: SpecialReportWater
UN Kenya Country team during the launch of the joint programme at Sarova Stanley Hotel, Nairobi in early March. PHOTO By PATTERSON SIEMA/UNDP KENYA
BY PATTERSON SIEMA
A Joint programme to create sustained improvement in the lives of the local community in Turkana County has been unveiled by the United Nations system in Kenya.
The three-year project (2015 – 2018) will ensure the Turkana County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) is achieved, according to a UN statement.
To help realize the CIDP, the UN has projected to invest in health, agriculture, environmental management, human rights, water, sanitation and education.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, the Governor of Turkana, Mr. Josphat Nanok noted that this programme, the first of its kind provides an interesting and innovative implementation coordination model which will provide gainful lessons that will inform future partnerships especially at the local level.
Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the UN Resident Coordinator emphasized the importance of efficiency in programme work. “Recognizing the enormous development challenges facing Kenya and in particular regions such as Turkana and coupled with limited financial resources to meet these challenges, the UN family, the government and development partners must
be effective in delivery of development programmes,” she stated.
The Joint programme brings together
Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas, UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya(left) exchanges agreement documents with Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok. PHOTO:
PATTERSON SIEMA/UNDP KENYA
the County Government and the UN agencies with projects in Turkana to work together on development work.
This novel approach to development programming in Turkana serves to add value to development assistance and account for development results to all stakeholders.
The United Nations family assisted the county develop its CIDP, which
aims at making Turkana a prosperous, peaceful and just county with an
empowered community enjoying equal opportunities.
The CIDP is a comprehensive blue print that will guide the County Government and development partners’ engagement in Turkana County in order to realize the social economic transformation of its people.
The plan was developed through a consultative process to address the glaring levels of underdevelopment in the county.
Through this blue print, Turkana County Government has identified 10 sectors within which the 2013/14-2017/18 development agenda will emphasize on.
In Kenya, the vision for effective aid delivery was articulated way back in 2010 by the Government of Kenya requiring that the UN and government to put in place systems and mechanisms for “Delivering as One” (DaO).
The DaO strategy therefore requires the establishment of One Programme for development, under One Leader, with One budgetary framework and One Office. This is achieved through the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.
The UN agencies that will participate in the programme implementation are FAO, ILO, IOM, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UN HABITAT, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIDO, UNOPS, UN WOMEN, WFP and WHO.
The CIDP is a comprehensive blue print that will guide the County Government and development partners’ engagement in Turkana County in order to realize the social economic transformation of its people. The plan was developed through a consultative process to address the glaring levels of underdevelopment in the county.Through this blue print, Turkana County Government has identified 10 sectors within
will emphasize on.
Posted in: DevelopmentNews&EditorialNewsExtra
Governor Nanok drinks water while having a chat with water CEC Beatrice Askul and Water C.O
BY ROBERT KARIUKI KALOKOL, TURKANA CENTRAL
The recently commissioned Kalokol water supply project is expected to provide piped water to an estimated 15,000 people. The project worth Sh. 2 million involved the drilling of a borehole, constructing a rising main of 420 metres from the source to the tank, with 2 generators of 18 KVA.
Kalokol residents have a water demand of 300,000 litres per day with each of the 15,000 residents getting a minimum of 20 litres per day.
Residents of the water-scarce area have welcomed the project. The borehole has a yield of 18,000 litres per hour and with 16 hours of pumping then 288,000 litres of water will be supplied per day, the water will be stored in a steel tank with a capacity of 144,000 litres thus it will be filled twice a day.
Governor Josphat Nanok while commissioning the project described it as a solution to the water challenge the residents have been experiencing.
He added, “The only job left now is putting up structures along the river banks to prevent flooding.”
The borehole has a yield of 18,000 litres per hour and with 16 hours of pumping then 288,000 litres of water will be supplied per day, the water will be stored in a steel tank with a capacity of 144,000 litres thus it will be filled twice a day.
The water, irrigation and agriculture county executive Beatrice Askul urged Kalokol town residents to install water taps on the existing open pipes which will enable them to easily control the flow of water hence reducing wastage.
Kalokol ward MCA John Lochakolong said the project has come a long way and since he was put in office the residents have not had the opportunity to fully enjoy water services however he questioned about contracts being issued to outsiders.
“We thank the ministry of water and Oxfam in collaborating and making this work, the residents can access water easily right now however
I would like the county government to consider us when issuing out contracts. Contracts should be given out to Kalokol residents whenever there is a project in the region and am surprised when outsiders get the contracts, this is not fair at all,” the MCA said.
Posted in: EnergyTurkana CentralWater