Kenya, Nature, Rants

Lawn Mowing in Kenya

First, there is no such thing as “lawn mowing” in Kenya (gotcha!). Second, unless you’re the the President of Kenya or the US Ambassador (they live in mansions with big lawns), there aren’t even any lawns to speak of. That’s not to say we don’t have grass. My goodness, there is grass for days and days! Forget Southern California, where strip malls and concrete effectively form one huge, 200-mile-long city; This is Kenya, bwana (“man”)! We have plenty of open space and it’s allllll grass (and sand, but that’s for another time)!

A cartoon lawn mowerI had an epiphany the other day while walking home through an empty field. It had rained a bit so there was mud all over the place. I remember thinking it was good the grass was low because it allowed me to avoid the mud. The funny thing is, I’ve never seen one lawn mower in Kenya. I don’t even think the two words “lawn mower” have entered my brain once at the same time in the last two years… The only place I’ve ever seen anyone cutting grass is in my backyard and on the college compound, and they do it by hand.

Cows grazing grassWhat I realized was that the grass gets EATEN! Cows, goats, and sheep wander around all the time in search of grass. I am so used to seeing these animals around Tala all the time that I never realized that they are essentially the lawn mowers. I now know that baby cows are adorable and I pet them. Baby goats spaz out for no apparent reason (and they hang out with sheep if there are no other goats around). Oh, and baby sheep are not as ugly as the adults. On weekends there are some cows who come munch on the grass at the primary school next to my house.

On a semi-related note, Google hired a herd of goats to come and eat all the grass at their main compound in Palo Alto. I thought it was crazy when I saw a Maasai dude walking his herd of 100 camels across Jogoo road in Nairobi, but seeing 200 goats in the Silicon Valley of CA must have been a trip!

15 Comments

    1. Ben

      Although goats don’t burn gasoline, don’t they burp and fart like cows and thus release more methane into the atmosphere??

    2. Alan Author

      Dude, good question. I remember someone on Slashdot mentioning that. Something like the methane is more harmful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (from gas-powered lawn mowers).

  1. Thaths

    Heh! The day the goats arrived on campus, there was a lot of talk in jest in our internal mailing lists about whether the goats will later end up in the menu of our cafes. :-)

  2. Chikita

    Whenever you see livestock working on the grass in Kenya, it has nothing to do with a low-carbon approach;that grass is their dear food and it so happens that at the end of the day, one stone is used two kill two birds: the livestock are fed and the grass is kept short!

  3. pointygnomehat

    Hey man. Living in Butere for a month and half now… they cut grass with pangas here, and it’s quite a sight to see!

    -Josh

  4. Lenny

    It all depends on where you visit. The lawn mowers in the shops – CMC, Nakumatt etc – are in stock because there is a market. If a campus’ management cannot plan on their lawn’s maintenance, that’s a first for me.

    1. Alan Author

      True, I’ve since seen lawn mowers in Nakumatt. I guess I was referring to the rural areas where there is much more open land.

  5. Ouch

    LoL.. this really sounds like you are having a blast in Nairobi.. there is a group of expats who get together and have social hangouts and talk about what goes on in Nairobi.. dinners, hikes,dancing, lectures, book clubs, camping or white water rafting all in the lineup.. and fear not, no membership fees, no contributions or donations ever required. join on facebook groups – nairobi expat socials

    1. Alan Author

      I’m not on Facebook, I guess I’ll have to rely on good ole fashioned social networking! If you see me wandering around Nairobi aimlessly, make sure to throw me a bone!

  6. Susan

    I live in Runda near Gigiri where the United Nation offices are. In Runda, 90% of my neighbours including myself all have lawn mowers :-)

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