Working Lives Kenya: Chemist

WATCH: Steve Okiri has to spend his weeks working away from home

An industrial chemist, Steve Okiri has had to sacrifice time with his family to do the job that he loves.

Mr Okiri works in a desolate part of Kenya, for a company that makes its wealth from a strange crust sitting on the top of a lake in the Rift Valley. The raw material is converted into soda ash, used in detergents and pharmaceuticals and in the manufacturing of glass.

Tata Chemicals, which is based at Lake Magadi, is Africa's largest manufacturer of this self-replenishing commodity. Soda ash is one of Kenya's biggest exports.

Mr Okiri is employed to make sure the ash plant runs smoothly. He says: "My job is basically an intelligence job. We advise on the conditions to run the plant, the temperatures, the speeds, the pressures."

And he is passionate about it. "I am working in a field that I am expert in. There is that feeling you get when you accomplish something." His job pays him around $1,700 (£1,050) a month.

But, it is two hours drive from his home in Nairobi on a badly maintained road, so he spends the week at the ash plant and the weekends in town.

The consolation for missing his wife and young daughter, he says, is that the company provides facilities, and a sense of community. "Everyone you work with is someone you socialise with out there, so it takes a lot of teamwork to work here."


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