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Kenya’s Deaf Rugby Team Dreams Big, Wishes to Match National Team’s Success

“In Kenya, the people who are hearing are the only ones who have a rugby team, so we thought let’s copy South Africa, let’s have a deaf rugby team,” he said

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deaf rugby team
Rugby is one of Kenya's most popular sports, and the country's national team has played in the World Cup. Inspired by the national team's success, members of Kenya's deaf community launched a deaf rugby team last year. Wikimedia

Rugby is one of Kenya’s most popular sports, and the country’s national team has played in the World Cup.

Inspired by the national team’s success, members of Kenya’s deaf community launched a deaf rugby team last year. The team, which is has been training for just more than a year now, has big dreams for the future.

Every Sunday, Martin Kasuivya begins his journey to the rugby pitch with a rush of excitement in his eyes. He had played football (soccer) as a child, but had never played rugby until a year ago, when officials of the newly formed Kenya Deaf Rugby Association came to his church.

Martin was born deaf and has largely remained within the deaf community in Kenya. For this story, he speaks to VOA through a sign language interpreter.

Sunday afternoon practice

“Before, when I was growing up, there was no deaf rugby, but people like to join new things so I decided let me go with a new thing,” he said.

At the pitch about an hour’s commute from his house, Martin joins 16 other players for practice. This has become the team’s weekly Sunday afternoon routine. Maurice Okwatch formed the team and the Kenya Deaf Rugby Association to support it. Speaking through a sign language interpreter, Okwatch explains his motivation.

“In Kenya, the people who are hearing are the only ones who have a rugby team, so we thought let’s copy South Africa, let’s have a deaf rugby team,” he said.

Funding hard to find

Deaf rugby is also played in Australia, Canada and England, and the sport is represented at the Deaf Olympics, which comes up next in 2021.

The players in Nairobi haven’t played a game yet and don’t have a sponsor. They make do with what they have: one ball and mismatched secondhand uniforms. Okwatch says the team is currently self-supporting.

“When I formed this group,” he said, “I tried to look for funding but it was very difficult and the committee ourselves we decided let’s chip in, so we bought a ball as a committee.”

deaf rugby team
“In Kenya, the people who are hearing are the only ones who have a rugby team, so we thought let’s copy South Africa, let’s have a deaf rugby team,” he said. VOA

Progress and big dreams

There’s no whistle here. The team’s coach, Brennan Rashid, communicates with players through sign language. In a professional deaf rugby match, the referee waves a white flag to draw the attention of the players.

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Unlike the players, Rashid is not deaf. He says that despite a lack of playing experience, the team is getting better.

“I have seen the progress, I have seen them step by step going places with it, getting a proper understanding of the game and that is the best thing I can give,” he said. Despite the various hardships, Kasuivya and the other players have big dreams, like competing in the Deaf Olympics. Kasuivya says his goal is to win the gold. (VOA)

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Kenya Vows to Cut Emissions as Cooking with Traditional Fuels Kills More than 21,500 Each Year

The health risks were greatest in rural areas, where 90% of households use wood stoves, compared to 70% nationwide, Kenya's first household survey

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Kenya, Emissions, Fuels
A trailer drives along the main Nairobi/Mombasa highway past sacks of charcoal, used for domestic cooking in many Kenyan homes, in Kibwezi. June 20, 2014. VOA

More than 21,500 Kenyans die each year from cooking with traditional fuels like charcoal and firewood, new government data showed on Tuesday, as authorities pledged to meet a global goal of universal access to clean cooking energy by 2030. Kenya.

The health risks were greatest in rural areas, where 90% of households use wood stoves, compared to 70% nationwide, Kenya’s first household survey on energy usage in cooking by the energy ministry and the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya found.

It also found that 80% of households relied solely on either charcoal or firewood as their primary cooking fuel, with 68 billion shillings ($660 million) of charcoal consumed each year.

Kenya’s energy minister Charles Keter said the situation was “grave” and called for more focus on providing clean energy options, such as gas and electricity, to the poor.

Kenya, Emissions, Fuels
FILE -Women walk out of the forest carrying wood to use for cooking, in Tsavo East, in Kenya, June 20, 2014. VOA

“This data underlines the great exposure to harmful pollutants which account for about over 21,560 deaths annually,” he said, launching the survey at a conference on clean cooking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 3 billion people globally cook with solid fuels such as charcoal and coal on open fires or traditional stoves, producing high levels of carbon monoxide, which kills about four million people a year.

Countries have committed to ensure universal access to clean, modern energy for cooking by the year 2030 as part of 17 global development goals, but low levels of investment in the clean cooking sector are hindering progress.

The widespread use of dirty fuels also contributes to climate change and deforestation, according to energy experts.

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Government officials said Kenya has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% — where clean cooking will account for about 14% — under the Paris agreement on climate change, and it hopes to meet this target by 2028. (VOA)