George Kamau

Communications Officer, Practical Action Eastern Africa

Recommended reading:

Posts by George

  • No Waste to Waste

    Nairobi, Kenya, Nairobi
    February 21st, 2013

    I am at the Kibera DC’s grounds and all I see are men and women wearing white branded T-shirts with EEP, Practical Action and ETC logos. It is a beehive of activities. Women are busy lighting up jikos (stove) and men are preparing the truck fitted with a public address system ready for a briquette end-user promotional roadshow in Nairobi.

    As a team player, I check with the zangalewa troupe, an entertainment group using art to communicate information about the technology in a simple and clear manner. They dramatize the production process, the selling and use of the technology. The young men, disguised as old men, have a unique costume. A costume that speaks volumes of what they are about to do; educate as they entertain.

    With everything ready, the entourage starts making its way into the infamous Kibera informal settlement. The men behind the public address systems call on the locals to gather and learn about briquetting technology, an alternative eco-friendly renewable energy option for the poor in society. The route is clear with stops at various points in the settlement.

    At every point the truck would stop, our team would usher locals to come and witness the ‘magical’ cooking technology. They demonstrated to the crowds, using lit jikos, and asked them to confirm the advantages of the technology and its appropriateness to their environment. A technique I found interesting to check whether individuals in the crowds were following them was the use of members from the crowd to summarize the benefits and appropriateness of the technology. A few Tshirts, caps and fliers on the technology were given to those that demonstrated an understanding of how the technology works. Others were given a packet of briquettes to test the efficiency of the technology. Fliers on the technology with contact information of all the briquette entrepreneurs in their area were also distributed. This was to promote their business.

    According to Emmanuel Cyoy, the briquette commercialization project Officer, “the end-user promotional roadshow in Nairobi targets to create awareness among the locals on the availability, affordability and appropriateness of briquette technology as an alternative energy source for poor. The technology uses wastes from the environment to produce the renewable energy source.”
    My interaction with the entrepreneurs gave me an opportunity to have a feel of what their profits are from selling briquettes. Meet Isaiah Maobe one of the entrepreneurs. He has been in the business since the project started and acts as a mentor to upcoming briquette entrepreneurs. He says the promotional event is an opportunity to expand his market reach for briquettes. He says he chose to join other entrepreneurs on the truck to market himself as well as his business. And true to his objective, at each stop, he sold a portion of his briquettes.

    “I have not only sold a few bags of briquettes today but have orders to be delivered this week worth KES 12,000”, he explained.

    Maobe is not the only one who has benefitted from the sale of quality briquettes. Josephine Ngumba, a trained journalist, is also a beneficiary of the project. “After the numerous trainings on the production processes and business development systems, my business has tremendously improved for the better. I now produce quality briquettes that I sell mainly to institutions. I now have orders to supply more than a tonne of briquettes to a number of renown institutions including hospitals in Nairobi. Business is good. Such events have not only helped me sell more.”

    The Nairobi event follows a similar promotional event held last week in Nakuru. It was a success, thanks to the project team members and all who supported it. Special thanks go to our development partners Energy and Environment Partnership Programme with Southern and Eastern Africa, a programme funded by the governments of Finland, Austria, United Kingdom and hosted by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • From the mora geel to the Mandera Camel Milk Market

    December 3rd, 2012

    My trip up north, as I have always shared, comes with many lessons for me. This time I had a personal objective. My mission was not just to pick peculiar aspects of the Cushitic culture but to learn a word or two. The ‘classes’ were random. All my acquaintances were my teachers. They all wanted to teach me a word or two. The daring ones ensured I sang along to their satisfaction. I enjoyed their enthusiasm.

    At the Mora geel
    Among many new lexicons I managed to comfortably take home with me was the word mora geel. Mora geel is a place where camels are sheltered. It is the same place where camels are milked. It was easy to memorize since I was leading a team of videographers to document Practical Action’s innovative camel milk project in Mandera County. And in our numerous trips to capture the moods, the changes, interview locals and filming the environment in general, I noticed that a lady milking a camel’s stubby udders at sunrise is not a novelty, but a daily chore to get milk valued by their tribe for generations.

    So how do I say I want camel milk, I asked? Cano geel ayan raba said my teacher.

    To them milking of camels is not only an act of work, but an integral part of the local culture and heritage. The milking itself has its own rules. Two teats are left for the calf, while the other two are milked-out for the family. The milk is either consumed fresh or sour.

    Mandera County
    This arid region in northern Kenya, like much of the greater horn of Africa, has in recent years been hit with less predictable and more intense droughts. Many pastoralists have lost their mainstay – livestock. The changing weather condition has not only led to loss in thousands of livestock but it has also hindered cow’s milk production. However, the value of the camels has been boosted. Milk and meat from the animal now enjoys the highest prices in the market, both nationally and internationally.

    Although camels are more expensive to buy than cows, they are cheaper to keep and their milk fetches more on the market. Camel milk is said to be three times as rich in Vitamin C and is known to be rich in iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins,” according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s website.

    According to Viola Sugut, Practical Action’s project officer, “Camels produce milk all year round and produce when other livestock stop or die from dehydration. This ensures a steady income for the family. Businesses have also been established selling camel milk and other milk products like yoghurt and sweets. This has generated a lot of interest among local women and other women are looking at the Bulla women’s group and seeing that they can also just come out and participate in business,” she explained.

    The women milk traders have found their niche says Sugut. The women’s business model has proved to be successful. The hope is that camel milk will continue to empower women, feed their families and change lives in Mandera.

    See also: My Camel Milk Experience – a personal view on working with milk producers on good hygiene practice

    2 Comments » | Add your comment
  • The Singing Wells of Lebihia

    September 18th, 2012

    Every time I visit northern Kenya I learn a thing or two. Sometimes the learning is overwhelming. Most times I marvel at how rich their resilient lifestyle and culture is. I have learnt from the paradox of the complex lifestyle clothed in simplicity. Increasingly, I have developed a passion for observing nomadic pastoralists and their way of life. I am sure pastoralist way of life is full of new learning for everyone.

    From the scenic environments, the rich fauna and flora, to the rich culture and the people, the images are hard to forget. The beauty of the locals cannot be overemphasised. The hospitable, usually happy people, are hard to part with. Despite the unforgiving environmental harshness, you always want to stay longer.

    I was in Mandera in early this month. Exactly a year since I last visited the area. Unlike in my last trip to the vast region when the area was strewn with carcasses of domestic animals due to the now cyclical and prolonged droughts, the weather was friendly. It was cold, very cold as per the locals’ definitions of cold. It was their ‘winter season’ as one Alikhery Mohammed put it. I put winter in inverted commas since the temperatures were about 20-24 degrees Celsius.

    The last time I was in Mandera, I was leading a team of 10 international journalists covering the devastating drought. The visit was sponsored by The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA). We not only gave prominence to aspects that were not being highlighted by other agencies (the plight of animals and the need to secure a nucleus herd for each household in order to recoup after the drought) and media houses but also officially launched an emergency program that aimed at ensuring the locals retain a nucleus herd. As with last year the team visited Borehole 11 village in Elwak and selected sites around Mandera County. But this time, I was leading a team of consultants to film, produce and package short films on our projects in the area. The details of our mission are a subject of discussion for another time.

    One specific feature caught my attention this time. The singing wells of Lebihia village, Mandera County. It started with the organisation by the herders, their animals’ urge to quench their thirst and the musical approach the locals fulfilled their animals’ needs. From the vast fields, the animals run to the wells from all directions. In response to their shepherds’ commands, they cheer each other as they run towards the water troughs by the rehabilitated shallow wells.

    They (animals) converse in low tones as they approach the watering troughs. And with little commotion, they line up and take their positions on both sides of the troughs. Their conversations decrease as they settle to drink their fill. Others wait for their turn to drink too. All the while, the livestock owners and handlers are busy fetching clean water for their animals.

    They sing melodious songs (in local dialects) as they pick; roll-down the ropes and bucket to the shallow wells and as they pull the bucketful of water and pour onto the ever decreasing volume of water in the troughs. The rope and bucket technology is one of the appropriate technologies Practical Action has supported in the area. It is affordable and easy to maintain.

    The unified voices of the singers are inviting. And as if in agreement, the animals have learnt to – in turns – appreciate the euphonious melodies from their owners and handlers by sprinkling a few millilitres of their share of water and by twisting their tails and raising their heads in an orchestrated manner.

    Some spillage is reserved for their herders/handlers who oversee them as they drink from the troughs. Am sure some of the older animals spill some water from their mouths as a sign of their gratitude to their ancestors. The Moooo, Meeeee and HeeeeHoooo sounds surrounding the troughs is enough proof that the animals being watered are not new to the lyrics of the songs. They have learnt to honourably acknowledge the heaps of praise from their owners as they quench their thirst.

    “The songs we sing serve two main purposes. We sing to praise our animals: for their beauty, their ability to reproduce regularly and to commend them for their obedience. Additionally we sing to encourage ourselves as we fetch water for our animals,” explained Abdi Hassan, a herder.

    And when all the animals have had their share, the herders take turns to cool their systems with the remaining waters in the troughs. It was interesting to witness other owners and herders pour numerous buckets of water on the soloist as he comfortably squatted on one of the troughs as he led the rest on with the song’s lyrics to the climax. ‘It must be a very fulfilling practice,’ I thought. So, where did they learn this, I asked?

    “This aspect of our lives is historical. It’s been practised for many years. It is handed over to the next generation with each generational change,” explained Ali Noor, a local.

    And when I asked about the future of this unique practice, Noor was quick to say, ‘this is something that is at the core of our lifestyle. It will not die.’

    As I put myself to rest that night, I could vividly remember the images at the wells. I tried to find an equivalent in my culture in vain. I scribbled it on my note book and promised myself to ask my kinsmen when I go back home.

    6 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Time to act to alleviate food insecurity

    Nairobi, Kenya, Nairobi
    October 16th, 2011

    2011 Blog Action Day on 16 October – World Food Day – is, naturally, themed around food

    World Food Day gives us an opportunity to not only reflect but also to rethink how we can, in our capacities, feed the world.

    Feeding the world is one of today’s biggest challenges for many countries, especially in the greater Horn of Africa where more than 11 million people face starvation. In recent months, millions went hungry and countless malnourished children died. Many are still without food today. This was, and still is, without doubt, a major world crisis. In Kenya, nomadic pastoralists living in the fragile northern parts of the country are particularly at risk. Women, the old and children under five are worst affected.

    The region has suffered from more intense recurring drought and flooding over the years. The affected populations who have witnessed the negative effects now associated with climate change know the consequences of these natural and man-made disasters. The levels of malnutrition and famine have reached their highest percentages.

    The distressing experiences of their tales haunt those who dare spare some time to ‘feel them’. One such statement is from Kausa, a 50-year-old grandmother, we met in Elwak, northern Kenya, two months ago.

    “As a woman, it hurts to see my children cry with hunger,” she said. “It’s more painful as a mother to tell them that I don’t have any food to give them.”

    The sheer need of this situation only confirms my belief that Practical Action’s long term development work, which is reaching out to these vulnerable communities to increase their resilience to climate change and drought, is needed now more than ever.

    We know that pastoralism will be seriously affected by climate change but on the degree and locations of these impacts we are less certain. But unless we put in place adaptation to climate change, many millions of the poorest already negatively affected by food insecurity and other challenges will continue to suffer the most.

    Tackling food insecurity/hunger requires more than just increasing livestock production and farm outputs. We should all aim to produce sufficient food to supply the full nutritional requirements of the human species whilst attempting to live in harmony with the natural environment and its finite resources.

    Simple calculated steps on the choice and use of appropriate technologies can, and always will, yield good results. A vital step is to empower these vulnerable communities and groups to take control and increase their own food production. And to do this, we have to combine the best of all approaches to sustainably to improve the food security situation.

    For the pastoralists, whose mainstay is best suited for the fragile ecosystems they inhabit, it is time to put in place pro-pastoralist policies and interventions that will lead to the industry being not only profitable, but competitive, more resilient, better able to provide environmental benefits and give greater choice, innovation and value to producers for them not to rely on relief aid.

    Sustaining the above wishes will of course require huge commitment and continued effort by all stakeholders over the long haul. There are no quick fixes. But we know that we can defeat hunger by investing in: interventions that improve food production, marketing and the market systems, and their supply chains that in the long term will empower them to produce more and earn an income that can be used to cater for basic healthcare, education to ensure food security in the future.

    2 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Time to Address Energy Poverty

    September 9th, 2011

    There is an emerging stream of discourse on access to energy today.  One discourse is the failure to recognise and act on the fact that energy and development are intricately linked. It is also true that in as much as development and progress are collective responsibilities, they are also personal ones.

    These discussions emerging around the possibilities and potentials of equitable access to energy sources now, more than ever, give cause to pause and examine the assumptions that surround this, among them, that society is a homogeneous collective constituency waiting to be mobilised to take action to address the challenge with support from government with development agencies and communities as conduits and agencies to effect it. This notion is something I wish will be kept in mind in discussions about the impact of energy poverty especially among the poor in remote areas as well as those in urban informal settlements on national development policies and strategies.

    Our visit to poor rural households in Kisumu, western Kenya; Kerugoya, Central Kenya and Nairobi this week, organised by Practical Action Eastern Africa, put the discussion into focus. The delegation comprising of three Members of the European Parliament (MEP), local partners and colleagues from Practical Action UK observed the magnitude of the problem. Apart from joining women on their tough mission to collect firewood, the MEPs also had a chance to interact with energy entrepreneurs, especially women groups producing improved cook stoves in Kisumu. The reality on the ground and selected interventions being implemented in the area spoke volumes of what needs to be done by different stakeholders to address the issue at hand. Summarily, the visit underlined that fact that increased access to energy is essential for growth and human well-being.

    I hope the visit has provided the MEPs an opportunity to reflect on some of the assumptions, presumptions and misconceptions they had on the subject and its extent that is the challenge of the new era. The challenge should be presented as parts of, not separate from, the collective aim for all-inclusive long-term development.

    Make the Call – Energy for All now

    3 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Access to Energy is Essential for Development

    September 9th, 2011

    Energy is a critical development issue. Just like access to water and other basic services, access to energy is a condition for social and economic development. But as the country’s population grows and energy demand rises, the obstacles to its availability and use loom larger today than ever.

    According to the United Nations Development Programme, 1.6 billion people in the world lack access to electricity and over 2 billion people depend on biomass fuels for cooking and heating. This has been worsened by the rising demand for energy that has exploded since the beginning of the 20th century, in tandem with the world’s rising population and economic growth. Energy issues are particularly challenging for rural communities and the urban poor where high energy costs are putting a tremendous amount of pressure on families a majority of whom depend on natural resources for their livelihood. The challenge at present is to supply clean and safe energy in sufficient quantity to everyone while limiting the environmental effects.

    Our visit to selected energy actors in Kisumu, Nairobi and Mai Mahiu with a visiting delegation of three Members of Parliament from the European Parliament revealed the energy poverty levels among poor communities living in the areas.  The case stories observed made clear the fact that development targets such as the Millennium Development Goals which, though they do not explicitly include energy, are reliant upon energy for their fulfilment.

    This is not to say there is no future in attaining the goals. The reality is more needs to be done to realise the required change. Numerous initiatives have been piloted and are being scaled up by different agencies in the energy sector. Practical Action’s energy projects over the last two decades are good examples. Working with communities in rural and informal settlements in urban centres, the organisation has not only pioneered initiatives to light up villages from small micro-hydro and pico-hydro schemes in Central Kenya but also provided alternative and efficient energy saving technologies used for cooking in western Kenya. These initiatives have accentuated the fact that the poor have a legitimate right to and need for increased energy services which are affordable, healthier, more reliable and more sustainable.

    One on one learning how to make fireless cookers

    They have also highlighted the skewed distribution of energy – with the richest people consuming the largest percentage of energy supply and the poorest using the least – that must change if significant change is to be realised in the sector. Developing and implementing sound national energy development policies together with the right use of technology are areas that have been emphasised over the years. They are areas that require transparent processes that provide for equitable participation from all stakeholders.

    Make the Call – Energy for All now

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Working to Save Pastoralists’ Livelihood in Mandera

    August 23rd, 2011

    Mandera residents are among the hardest hit by the current drought. However, their plight has not been highlighted as much compared to other areas like Turkana. As a result, many pastoralist families continue to suffer.

    Able bodied men and women, who in the recent months were proud owners of healthy animals, have lost a majority if not all their animals due to the drought. The Ministry of Livestock estimates the losses to between 45-60%. The loss of their animals – the main source of their livelihoods and income – has reduced many to internally displaced persons living in makeshift camps where relief supplies are normally distributed by the government or humanitarian agencies.

    During our recent trip to the area I could not help but notice the loss of pride and the level of devastation in the eyes of these pastoralists. Their experiences are moving. It is overwhelming.  I can only imagine the explanations the men and the women give to their children when they are no longer able to provide food to them.

    “What needs to be done to secure the pastoralists’ sources of livelihood?,” asked Tom Kimani, a Kenyan journalist.

    As an organization we believe that although time is extremely short and the needs are great, efforts by all stakeholders to save the lives of many pastoralist and their generations should not stop at providing emergency aid. Relief is important but not enough. We must move beyond it to help these impoverished regions escape from extreme poverty and become more resilient to the changes in weather associated with climate change. The use of appropriate technology to address the challenge cannot be overemphasized.

    Despite the above state of affairs, all is not lost. Our mission came across healthy herds of animals at watering points in Garba Xuoley, Borehole eleven and in Mandera township thanks to one of the current emergency interventions by Practical Action in the area. The initiative, built on observations that pastoralists share some of the limited relief food supplies with their animals to save their capital asset, has so far given a number of the pastoralists a reason to smile. The organization with support from the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) and The BROOKE is not only providing the animals with supplementary feeds and concentrates but also providing them with essential animal health services to secure a nucleus of animals capable of surviving the overwhelming effects of the drought.

    A pastoralist boy holds one of their remaining sheep in Elwak

    “The animals being fed today are descendants of those animals that were secured during the 2005/06 drought period. We are not only grateful but optimistic that the animal feed and the health services will help see a number of our animals to the next rainy season,” said Fatima Mohamed whose herd has been reduced from 120 to 40.

    And although the noble initiatives are making a difference in the lives of the animals of poor pastoralists in the area it does not reach all the areas. The rations are not enough. Generosity and speed are of the essence. With your support more can be done to cushion pastoralists’ sources of livelihood.

    3 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Drought devastates pastoralists

    August 12th, 2011

    A pastoralist girl holds on to one of their family's weak animals

    The pastoralist way of life in Kenya, is in jeopardy. There is less rain and growing pressures on fewer areas of pasture and water sources.

    This means the animals that pastoralists depend on for their livelihoods have no food or water. They are either too weak to sell or are dying. Pastoralists therefore can’t get an income and can’t feed themselves or their families.

    Our drive through the vast rangelands of northern Kenya reveal s the devastating effects of the current drought to pastoralist families in these areas.

    The most affected are the most vulnerable groups including children under five, breast feeding mothers, the elderly, and people who have lost their livestock. They cannot travel to the nearest relief distribution centres. And the humanitarian agencies bringing food relief cannot reach these people in remote areas due to the poor road and communication network. They are on their own.

    But as both humanitarian and government agencies are busy fundraising and using the available resources to reach the most vulnerable, this is the right time for development organizations to put in place measures to address the current challenges in the long term. It is time to act, plan and ensure that long term development interventions are implemented effectively to bring back the pride of pastoralist families.

    Practical Action’s drought preparedness project in Turkana is a good example of what needs to be done to ensure pastoralists cope with the negative effects of drought. The project works with stakeholders in the livestock and water sectors to supply essential animal health services and safe clean water to the communities. This has helped the pastoralists ensure their livestock are healthy and have enough water and pasture in dry spells.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • People in Turkana, Kenya, need urgent help

    Nairobi, Kenya, Nairobi
    July 28th, 2011

    The current drought in Turkana County, in north western Kenya, has become a matter of life and death for children and families across the region.

    The region and the Greater Horn of Africa is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years according to the United Nations. More than 3.5 million people are already affected. The number is rising and the country’s response is not keeping pace.

    Pastoral families living in the arid and semi-arid area have lost a majority or all their livestock. Many can neither feed their families nor themselves. Many have moved to areas they hope will have just enough to save their lives. The long treks, empty stomachs and the scorching sun are taking their toll. The situation has led to an ever increasing number of children who are now so malnourished.  Children as well as adults could easily die. Some have already been reported to have died from hunger. On Monday 25th July 2011, a 27 year old man died in Turkana County. More are more likely to follow.

    The situation in Turkana and the larger northern Kenya has reached acute emergency levels. The poor pastoralist families need help immediately. Many lives are at stake.

    So what is Practical Action doing to help? We are helping build resilience to drought by:

    •  rehabilitating water structures (ponds, shallow wells, storage tanks)

    •  improving the market for stock

    •  supporting animal health services

    •  integrating traditional natural resource governance systems with formal government systems focusing on drought management

    •  improving access to information services – animal and human health, water, rangeland, vaccinations, seasonal forecasts and technology

    •  linking them to other emergency service providers

    The government, humanitarian organisations as well as well-wishers need to urgently mobilise resources and not only deliver relief quickly to save lives and end suffering but also, for the sake of the future of these populations, help communities prepare for future crises, since major droughts are becoming increasingly extreme and common with climate change. Together with local communities and governments in the region, we need to develop climate adaptation plans and development plans that aim to build resilience of these communities to withstand future emergencies.  This process needs to be backed financially through the funding of programmes to avert future crises.

    With the prediction that the next rains are very unlikely until October, we can only expect things to get worse before they get any better for the affected populations. Therefore, we need to look to the future and put years of experience and knowledge in drought mitigation to greater use to ensure that communities can build the resilience needed to avert disaster.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Climate change diaries: Kenya

    August 11th, 2009

    Hello, my name is George Kamau. In my country, Kenya, Maasai’s herdsmen and agro-pastoralists are being displaced and loosing their traditional livelihoods as global warming destroys their rangelands. It is important to realise that the damage caused by climate change is not a distant concern in Kenya – it is here now and will be the future. This is why I tell the stories of Ngotiek Sankiti and Catherine Senja as they struggle with the new climate threats.

    Ngotiek Sankiti, 51, has lived all his life in Oloika, Kajiado district – 150 kilometres south of Nairobi. A former successful pastoralist who had over 500 cattle, he is a witness of the challenges brought by changes in weather patterns across the district in recent years.

    “Before the long droughts in 2005/6, I enjoyed societal prestige because of the cattle in my boma (livestock shed). The long dry spell attacked the grass, our water sources and later had a big impact on our only source of livelihood, livestock,” he said.

    His words are echoed by Catherine Senja, a widow eking a living out of small-scale businesses by selling the famous Maasai red shukas. Senja is a victim of climate change impacts around the expansive semi-arid district.

    “When I got married, my husband and I had 500 goats and 490 cattle. However, the drying up of the reliable water points and the eventual wilting of the once green grass in the area has eaten into my herd. As we speak, I am bitter to proclaim that I only have 49 goats and 5 cows! The worst of all is zinaendelea kuisha! (The herd population decreases every month).

    To feed the remaining herds the two families have to trek for about 12 kilometres every day to the nearest hill with green grass and a fresh water source. “The cattle have to be driven for about 10 kilometres every day to Ewaso Nyiro River for water. The distance sucks life out of our remaining herd”.

    According to recent data from the Kenya Meteorological department, incidences of drought have increased fourfold in the region in the past three decades. In fact, one-third of herders living there have already been forced to abandon their pastoral way of life because of adverse climatic conditions.

    During the last drought, so many cattle, donkeys and goats were lost that 60 per cent of the families who remain as herders need external assistance to recover. Their surviving herds are too small to support them.

    What is worrying about the recent findings is that they reveal how a system of nomadic pastoralism – a system that has, over the centuries, been able to cope with unpredictable weather patterns and regular drought – is now being threatened by these conditions made more extreme by climate change.

    This is a reality for all those who, like Sankiti and Senja, have been forced out of their traditional lifestyles to settle at the Oloika settlement. Nearby are dry patches of land and bones, the last of once thriving food crops and healthy animals – victims of the worst drought in living memory.

    The families who until last year herded these animals across the district and beyond now huddle in this semi-urban settlement, their children rendered prone to malnutrition and other illnesses, but at least they are close to a reliable source of water, thanks to Practical Action working in Eastern Africa. From once self-sufficient livestock producers, they are now reduced to dependence on relief food handouts.

    ‘Our whole life has been spent moving, but we are desperate people. People who have lost our livelihood,’ says Sankiti, one of the elders at the Oloika settlement. ‘We didn’t settle here by choice, it was forced upon us.’

    Everywhere are tales of huge livestock losses. In one roadside settlement, which now depends on selling merchandise – mostly shukas, food stuffs and milk from the few remaining animals – Isaac Lepilal recounts the dark days of the drought. It is shocking. His stories reveal that the community lost more than 300 sheep and goats and 150 cattle in a single day. And while torrential rains did come to the region for the first time in more than six months, it was too late for the communities who no longer have animals to put out to pasture.

    Isinya is another sizeable community along either side of the region’s main road to Kenya-Tanzania border. Members of Isinya’s women association explained how the periods of rain have got shorter and the dry spells longer – changing the pattern of seasons on which the pastoral communities depended.

    And while there were always droughts, they said, “Decade after decade it has been getting more severe. It has only been getting more and more serious.”

    The future

    Sankiti and Senja are representatives of a group of Maasai pastoralists who have borne the brunt of global warming; representatives of the people most likely to be wiped out by devastating change in weather patterns commonly referred to as global warming.

    They are representatives of the three million pastoralists living in Kenya – part of a generation faced with the elimination of their great grand fathers’ way of life, a way of life that has sustained them for thousands of years.

    They are a section of the hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders who have already been forced to forsake their traditional culture and settle in Kajiado’s growing urban centres following consecutive droughts that have destroyed their livestock in recent years.

    They are the people destined to become the victims of world climate change. And as climate change activists, policy makers and government ministers are readying to travel to Copenhagen in December for this year’s UN Climate Conference, Sankiti and Senja will be many hundred miles away from their deliberations – thinking how to cope with the changes.

    Drought in Kenya
    A report on the current situation in Kenya

    Stop Climate Injustice
    Make the link between climate change and poverty

    Working to adapt
    Practical Action’s work to help communities adapt to climate change


    No Comments » | Add your comment