Wild animals compete with humans for scarce water resources

Ahmed Diriye had taken his goats to a stream in Mogogashe near the northern Kenyan town of Garissa and was waiting for them to drink when he was attacked by baboons.

"I killed a baboon after they tried to force me from the 'lagadera' [stream in Somali]," he said, holding out his bandaged arm. "They were thirsty and wanted water just like my goats. The well is the only one with water."

At another well, four girls abandoned their water containers after thirsty baboons attacked them. The next day, five goats were killed by the creatures while two herders sustained serious injuries following an attack by a lion.

A month after the rains were expected to start, northern Kenya is still gripped by drought conditions. Water pans, boreholes and wells have all dried up, creating problems for the pastoralist communities of the region.

"We are in the middle of a very serious crisis," said Hussein Ali from Sericho, a remote trading centre along the Isiolo and Garissa district boarder. "We are faced with the problem of water, pasture and now wild animals have worsened our situation."

Like domestic livestock, the wild animals have also been affected by scarcity of water. Local residents of Isiolo and Garissa say the situation has forced the animals to struggle for the little available water with humans.

At least 20 people, they say, have sustained injuries in the past month from animal attacks, while one pastoralist and a number of livestock have been killed by lions at wells.

Apart from protecting water wells, Ali said, local people in the affected areas had also resorted to killing the animals whenever they could catch them.

"Girls and women who were entrusted with fetching water have also been advised not to visit the wells alone," he added.

Yussuf Dogo from the Friends Of Nomads International organisation said some residents had sought water and pasture in nearby protected game reserves.

The area, which suffered a severe drought two years ago, is expected to receive some rain soon. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net), moderate amounts of rainfall are expected to alleviate the long-term dryness that has affected many areas of northern Kenya.

In a 10-16 April assessment, FEWS Net said significantly below-normal October-December rain had led to reduced crop yields, poor pasture and insufficient water resources in parts of Kenya, as well as poor soil conditions.

na/eo/mw