I wasn’t in western Kenya long before I met my first Wanjala.
He was Francis Mamati, a smallholder farmer, unfailingly gracious, who smiled relentlessly as he lugged chairs and tables from the dark sitting room of his little house to the expansive shade of an avocado tree. With a slight breeze stirring, Francis began telling the story of his life as a farmer. He mentioned that he was born in 1957. We were the same age. I asked the date of his birth.
“I don’t know a day,” Francis said, “but I think it must be May or June.”
“Because my mother gave me a third name: Wanjala,” he said. “Wanjala is our word for hunger, for the time of year when we run low on food. The hunger season. And that is usually May and June.”