Turkana County in northwest Kenya endured malicious neglect by colonial powers and now sits on the frontlines of a climate crisis, Atmos reports.

British colonizers described Turkana as “the most worthless district in Kenya,” and until oil was discovered there, “We were considered the dumb people of Kenya,” Lokichar-native Samal Methuswella, 29, told Atmos. A decade ago Tullow, the Anglo-Irish firm that said it found as much as a billion barrels of oil in the South Lokichar Basin and acquired total control of oil licensing rights in the region. Though it initially built schools, water tanks, and transport systems, Tullow then left the region without notifying local communities or continuing to maintain the infrastructure.

“If Tullow returns, we hope they will rectify what they did—dispose of waste properly,” 25-year-old Rebecca Lomilio told Atmos. “Move it much farther away from the people and the livestock, so there won’t be health problems again.” Kenya is one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries.

Renewable energy generation in the region, on the other hand, has brought economic progress. Solar-powered mini-grids enable families to replace kerosene lamps and Renewvia, the U.S.-based company that broke ground on the Nakukulas mini-grid in 2019, is training local residents to maintain the infrastructure themselves, increasing women’s employment, potentially quadrupling household incomes, and boosting school attendance — all with the aim of turning over ownership of the mini-grids to local communities in about 20 years. (Atmos