In-depth: Another Kenya - The humanitarian cost of under-development

KENYA: Drought planning urged in northeast

Watering camels (file photo): Pastoral communities are struggling with persistent drought
GARBATULLA/WAJIR SOUTH, 5 October 2009 (IRIN) - Contingency planning is needed to avoid the effects of perennial drought in the northeastern region of Kenya, says an aid official.

"Adequate funding is required to plan for impending drought and [other] programmes that will help reduce the impact anticipated during such a period," said Jane Kamau, Action Aid Kenya country director.

The vulnerable communities, Kamau said, must also be involved in preparing for drought-related crises.

She was speaking at the launch of a short-term emergency livestock purchase programme in Sericho, along the northern Garbatulla and Wajir South districts' border.

The programme, which is being carried out with the Sericho Development Initiative project at a cost of KSh1.2 million (about US$16,000), is helping some drought-affected pastoralists destock, and re-distributing the meat products to hungry families in Garbatulla and Wajir South.

At least 2,500 families have benefited, said Ibrahim Kosi, the programme coordinator.

Some 124 heads of cattle have been purchased in the first phase of the programme, which may be implemented in other parts of the region pending funding.

"It is a simple project with many benefits; livestock owners are happy, [while the] hunger-stricken [and] the poor who have lost livestock to drought are getting 4kg of meat [per week]," Kosi said.

A beneficiary from Wajir South, Fatuma Hersi, said her family had lost all their cattle in the past three months. She said her cows had died of thirst at the Hawaii watering point in Sericho, as she could not access the water wells.

Water shortages have hit Garbatulla, Isiolo, Samburu and Wajir areas.

Kamau said the impact of the current drought was the most severe in recent years and recovery would take a long time, despite expected El-Niño rains.
"[The] El-Niño rains will not be an end to [the] problems afflicting pastoralists. The weak animals will die, pasture will not be available immediately; it will [also] take long [before] milk is available," she said, adding that the agency and partners were preparing to manage the fresh crisis expected when the rains start.

''El-Niño rains will not be an end to problems afflicting pastoralists. The weak animals will die, pasture will not be available immediately; it will take long [before] milk is available''
Livestock purchasing scheme

The government, through the livestock development ministry, recently launched an emergency livestock purchasing programme aimed at helping pastoralists in northern districts earn some income before their herds succumb to the drought.

Under the programme, herders are selling their cows at KSh8,000 each (about $106), a better price compared with current livestock market prices, which have been driven down by the livestock’s poor physical condition.

However, the programme has been dogged by complaints over long waiting times at abattoirs and the exploitation of pastoralists by middlemen who buy the herds for a pittance before reselling them to the government programme. It is also not able to reach all affected pastoralists.

According to Abdi Dullo, a resident, the few remaining watering points in the region were now congested with herders coming in from neighbouring districts.

"New rules have been introduced. Each person is only allowed to take 10 animals to the well; some people wait for up to two days to get a chance," Dullo, a father of eight, said. "We need water. Things are bad; we are also attacked very often [by] wild animals."

Some of the livestock are also not able reach the markets due to insecurity along the routes as well as a lack of water, said Garissa resident, Hajir Siyat.