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Scouting for greener pastures

O. Hannington
900km | Edison Mwangi, a 51-year-old Kenyan entrepreneur, spent all his life on the road and is still on the lookout for new opportunities.
25.02.2016  |  Yei, South Sudan
Edison Mwangi at work in Yei, South Sudan, April 2014. (photo: The Niles | Ochan Hannington)
Edison Mwangi at work in Yei, South Sudan, April 2014. (photo: The Niles | Ochan Hannington)

> Departure: Kenya
> Arrival: Yei, South Sudan
> Distance: 900km


Edison travels around Yei digging boreholes and sharpening knives by back-pedalling his specially adapted bicycle:

“I started sharpening knives a while ago. When I make knives I take my time. I cut them, burn them, sharpen them, and get them ready for market. They cost two pounds, three pounds, five pounds.

After a while I noticed that making knives is not enough, so I started constructing wells. The first ones I made did not work very well, but practice makes perfect. There is a bad saying that experience teaches fools, but I think experience is the best teacher. What I am doing now is perfect.

There are many people digging boreholes but people wait for me because they know the quality of my work. If you are not happy with your work you cannot enjoy it. I am very happy. I prosper.

My work is creative. I go fast on my bicycle to wherever I can get money very quickly.

I can go anywhere, provided I earn a living. That’s why I came to South Sudan. I could go to the Democratic Republic of Congo. When I hear of greener pastures, I just rush there.

But where there’s war, there’s no development. We have seen the Lord’s Resistance Army commander Joseph Kony fight the president of Uganda. Kony is torturing his own people! In Mbarara or Kampala there is development, that’s because there’s no war. But because of Kony, because of the wars, many people are lagging behind.

I had to be creative. Now I am accumulating money. For about two years I have not been sending any money home. By sharpening knives, I get about 20 South Sudanese pounds (US$7). I use it for food.

I want to settle in Uganda. There are strict laws about buying land, but at least no one will burn down your hut or your house.
At first I couldn’t make enough money. Now everyone knows me and they give me good work. Next year I want to bring one of my sons to take over my job. I will leave him here while I go to see my family for a month.

My wife is a very hardworking woman. These days, wives must be creative. That’s important, in case you die – if so, what will she do? Sell her body? No, she must be creative. I miss her very much indeed. I hope that one day we will meet again.”

This article is part of:
On The Move: Experience is a solid walking stick
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