What's new on the drought

Pastoralists in the drought-hit northern and eastern part of Kenya are often caught up in conflict over resources as well as movements of livestock in search of water and pasture.

Here IRIN offers the latest information from the region and testimony from pastoralists to illustrate the challenges they cope with daily:

- Worsening drought has led to increased conflict and cattle rustling in the past three months in parts of Isiolo, Samburu, Meru west and Laikipia districts as many pastoralists move to these areas in search of pasture, water and food, say local officials. Widespread livestock migration is affecting at least 80 percent of herds.

- On 8 September, seven people, among them herders and police reservists, were killed in the Kom area along the Isiolo-Samburu border in the northwest during a livestock raid. The herders had migrated to Kom - where there is still pasture - from their traditional drought-affected grazing lands.

- In Isiolo district, more than 20 people have been killed in battles over resources in the past two months, according to local sources.

- Dozens of farming households have been displaced in Mwingi and Kitui in eastern Kenya after an influx of livestock from neighbouring pastoral districts after loss of livelihood productivities, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

- Stephen Momanyi, the District Commissioner of Tseikuru, north of Mwingi region, told IRIN: "When the herders came, they started grazing their livestock on the local farms which had withering crops. Some of the local farmers in return started stealing the herders' livestock and in retaliation the herders burned some houses. But we moved to quickly contain the situation." He added that at least one person was killed in the conflict, which temporarily displaced about 500 people.

- The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Predication and Applications Centre projects an increased likelihood of above- to near-normal rainfall in the October-December short rains season over the coastal and northeastern Kenya areas.

Conflict resolution

- Joseph Kalapata, a peace and conflict resolution campaigner, says greater effort should be made to stop the rise in conflicts over resources. "Although we have enough grazing land and water, access and sharing of the resources is being hampered by insecurity. Our animals must not die because a certain community wants to have access and control [over] resources alone by use of force."

- According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kenya, at least 112 people died in such resource-based conflict between January and May, against 68 deaths over the same period in 2010. More killings, including those associated with cross-border livestock raids, have been recorded mainly in the northwestern Turkana region.

Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN
... require better management

- Various peace initiatives are under way, says Daud Tamasot, a programme officer with Community Initiative Facilitation and Assistance (CIFA), an NGO working with pastoralist communities. CIFA is using sports activities and local elders to help spread the message of peace in the upper eastern districts of Chalbi and Marsabit.

- Gari Koro, a 70-year-old man from the Rendille community, said ongoing peace initiatives would enable free movement in search of pasture. "Even though [some of] the animals have died because of the drought, people still have some left and they have to look for pasture and water for them," he said. "Even the people need water but the water holes are drying up and few are remaining."

- Better resource management is key in minimizing conflict, officials say. "It is important that communities' capacities are built [up] to be able to manage these resources in a communal manner and prepare communities for events like drought and dwindling resources and how to act in such situations," said Umuro Roba Godana, executive director of the Pastoralist Integrated Support Programme.

Disaster risk reduction

- A consortium of aid agencies and community development initiative groups has initiated disaster risk reduction campaigns in northern Kenya in a bid to prevent and manage the impact of drought, hunger, climate change and diseases on local populations. The Partners for Resilience project launched in August in Isiolo aims to sensitize pastoralist communities to the main factors responsible for the frequent calamities in the region.

- Aid workers say increased vulnerability and exposure to recurrent and extreme consequences of disasters result from poor interventions that focus on emergency responses rather than prevention and management preparedness. The Kenya Red Cross Society, the lead agency implementing the resilience project, says the new approach is less costly and better suited to eliminating frequent demands for emergency interventions.

- Abdi Malik Roba, who is leading the four-year resilience project, says active involvement of the communities is a key factor in implementation and success of the initiative. "The identified areas, project sites, are most appropriate, [and] host different communities - Samburu, Borana, Somali, Rendille and Turkana - all from three provinces; it's an expansive area, favourable for grazing, with different sources of water, frequently hit by conflicts and a retreat for families who have lost animals to drought and cattle rustling."

- According to Paul Goldsmith, a researcher on pastoralism, communities need information communication technology (ICT) assistance to expand their sources of livelihoods. "ICT can help hundreds of school graduates and middle-level workers attain further studies through online courses and degrees. In this remote region there is no single college offering even a diploma."