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.

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